Wednesday, October 3, 2012

For Some, The Waiting Really Isn't the Hardest Part

Please Touch Museum exhibit
Philadelphia, PA

There are two kinds of persons you encounter in the waiting room of your doctor's office.

1. The person who brings their own reading material, who doesn't make eye contact or say one damn word, who wants their appointment to be over with as soon as possible. (A hint if you encounter me in such a situation: this is me.)

2. The person who enters the waiting room as if it were a stage, ready to perform his or her killer health-related monologue complete with graphic, detailed descriptions of every medical procedure undergone since 1987. This person is on a first-name basis with the doctors' staff.

We had our appointment Monday morning with the surgeon to get the results of The Husband's biopsy.

Take a guess which individual sat next to us while we waited to receive a likely cancer diagnosis.

We were early for our 9:45 appointment. Our new friend, who shuffled into the doorway with a walker and very short of breath, was also early.

By more than three hours. (His appointment was at 1:00.)

Which left him ample time to regale us with his medical history.

He wasted no time in doing so.

"I haven't been here in, oh ... 'bout 10 years, which was when Dr. C. took out a piece of my brain here," he cheerfully informed us, tapping the side of his head. "Sawed off my skull, right in half. Can you see my scar?"

"Um, no, not really," said The Husband.

"I know. He did a good job, didn't he?"

"Mmm-hmm, yes."

"And then, I had a tumor in my neck --"

I watched The Husband and hoped he wouldn't faint. The Husband's neck happened to contain a quarter-sized tumor. Actually, two of them - which happened to be the very reason we were waiting to consult with Dr. C. and listening to this in the first place.

"-- he cut it out and I held that tumor right here, RIGHT HERE in the palm of my hand."

The guy tapped his palm, extending it toward us. I shrunk back, as if I expected to see a tumor materialize, like Edgar Allan Poe's Tell-Tale Heart.

That was it, I decided. The Husband was surely going to faint.  Then what?

I looked around the waiting room, silently imploring the readers of Entertainment Weekly and the guy across from me who looked eerily like my paternal grandfather for help. No dice. They looked like they'd already heard this routine before. My guess was that this was our initiation into a fraternity that consisted of people with at least 30 years on us.

The Husband turned to me. "You going to be writing later this afternoon? I want to make sure you're getting all this down."

I smiled. "You know it."

"Good. I don't want you to miss a single word."

"You Catholic?" the guy said, switching topics.

"No," The Husband answered. I restrained myself from adding that we are apparently the only two non-Catholics in all of Pittsburgh.

The guy segued into a convoluted monologue involving a physician (not Dr. C.) and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (where, coincidentally, I once did an alumni event for work).This really did have something to do with his medical history, but I'll be damned if I knew what it was.

As is my nature, I was looking for some meaning in all this, my motto being that there are no coincidences; we meet who we are supposed to meet in this life, even if ever so briefly. So, what then, pray tell, was the meaning for us in this?

Just as I was thinking that this whole exchange had some deeper spiritual meaning (we should convert, or at least start going back to some sort of church), we had jet-setted to the West Coast.

"...when I lived in Malibu and guess who I saw cleaning out her garage? Farrah Fawcett!"

"That right? How about that?" The Husband said.

Farrah was a cancer patient, I thought. Not to mention the fact that she's DEAD. I know we're novices at this, but I would think that speaking of dead cancer patients in the waiting room - especially when one is waiting to get the actual confirmation of the diagnosis itself - might not be in polite form.

Judging from the nostalgic smile on the gentleman's face, he wasn't remembering Farrah in her cancer patient days. Besides, by now we were walking down the Malibu block of garage sales, meeting Barbra Streisand. (As if Babs is the garage sale type.)

By the time we'd hit the home of the Marx Brothers, Dr. C. was mercifully calling us back into his office. "And how are you today?" he asked.

"I've been better," I grumbled, uncharacteristically.

"Why's that?"

("Oh, you know, maybe because we're here to get a cancer diagnosis in the first place with the bonus of the anatomical dissection lesson in the waiting room," I wanted to say.)

"Oh, nothing," I really said, smiling, nodding to the hallway leading to the waiting room.

Dr. C. grinned. "I see you've met Mr. [I kind of forget his name. I had other things on my mind.]. He's quite a character."

"Yes, I got that impression."

It had been a week since The Husband had the tumor in his neck biopsied to see if he had thyroid cancer (which, as we expected, Dr. C. confirmed that he does). During that time we got lots of messages from people asking how we were "holding up" during the week-long wait.

Those seven days didn't bother us - at least not me. Those 20 minutes or so in the waiting room, however ... now those were downright excruciating and seemed to last a week (and then some).

I still can't figure out what the point of that waiting room encounter was. The Husband thinks he was sent to somehow to take his mind off of things, although I don't know.

Maybe it was to reassure us that Dr. C. knows his thyroid cancers and tumors like - well, like the back (or the palm) of his hand.

Maybe some people simply take comfort from reaching out and talking with others.

Maybe some people sense that others are scared to death and try, in whatever crazy way they have, to try and make them feel better.

Maybe there really wasn't any meaning to our waiting room encounter.

Or maybe it was simply to remember to laugh during what promises to be a crazy ride.

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Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Your post reminded me of Kristina and Adam sitting in the waiting room - and the woman she befriended. Sending lots of love Melissa! There are no cliche words or phrases that I can just plain sucks! So I'm sending hugs and hugs and hugs

Melissa Sarno said...

I always look for meanings in these kinds of encounters- maybe it will be easier to know later, or maybe there isn't one at all. Sending love your way.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm one of those who brings her own reading material...same thing on an airplane. I do also believe there's a purpose of some kind in every encounter like this one...and like Melissa said, maybe you'll find it down the road.
I'm sending hugs and well wishes and prayers your way all the same and will continue to do so.

Trish said...

First, I am so sorry to hear about the positive diagnosis. I'll be sending thoughts and prayers your way.

Second, bless your heart. Despite being fairly chatty online, I'm extremely reticent in person, especially in waiting room situations. Or on the airplane. Or...really, why do people feel they need to fill every minute with talking? Hope your next visit is a little more peaceful.