The Cancer Centre Waiting Room is a strange place. We gather there, wishing we didn’t have the one thing we know we share. Strangers, tied together by a life-changing diagnosis.
Some people come alone, some in groups of two or three. In the early days, I often brought what my oncologist called my “entourage”. I needed friends to help me listen, to help me remember to ask the questions I had prepared, to help me by taking notes. Appointments are often strange – a large amount of unfamiliar information in a high stakes situation – and the brain can be overwhelmed.
After one appointment, I felt discouraged, disappointed, and sad. As we walked out, my friend said something like, “Well, that was good news!” Surprised, I asked her to tell me what she had heard, because clearly I had missed something! I had fixated on one little phrase early on and frankly did not process many more details after that. Appointments can be like that. We’re not at our best. When my friend helped me to understand what she had heard, I realized that I had also heard most of the little bits she mentioned, but my poor brain was not able to hold it all together and make sense of it. I am thankful for friends!
In the waiting room we sit, and generally avoid eye contact. Occasionally I’ve had good conversations with fellow patients, but generally not. We’re typically in our own little worlds.
Except for the big black lab. He volunteers as a therapy dog one afternoon a week, and he is a magnet for affection and interaction. I love watching how the room changes when he walks in. Faces light up! People excitedly wait for their turn to give him some love. They talk. They smile. They laugh. They look younger, healthier, happy. Amazing the difference this sweet bundle of fur can make – it’s a thing of beauty, really.