For five years, I visit the hematologist bi-weekly to have my blood monitored, receive a shot, and occasionally get an infusion or transfusion. I have listened to dozens of heart breaking and heart lifting stories.
There is no way anyone can spend a morning sitting between two cancer patients and not be changed. This week, I sat between Linda and Stella talking about peaches.
Linda has lung cancer, she in her 60s, pale, sweet and wears a wig to hide her bald spots after radiation. She’s had several operations and part of her lung removes. She shared a peach cobbler recipe with me I will try.
Stella, tall, 50ish, and very southern has colon cancer that spead to her lungs. She has a bright red, peeling nose caused by chemotherapy burns. Stella grew up on a peach farm.
Conversations begin with small talk but eventually move to “How are you feeling?” I easily have empathy for their anemia exhaustion but I have difficulty imagining the nausea, pain, digestive problems, and cognitive difficulties not to mention the fear of dying and leaving loved ones.
I love listening to their stories about pets, children, grand-children, and especially about their childhood. They seem to have a special focus about life.
I make it a point to touch their arms or hold their hand to let them know I care. Volumes can be said with a touch or hug.
The Chemo Room
If you haven’t been in a cancer treatment rooms are similar. One area is the lab where you first go to get blood taken. The next area is a large open room with ten to twenty lounge chairs alining the walls with IV poles attached.
I treasure these Tuesday mornings. It is easy to learn not to feel sorry for yourself when you are surrounded by dying folks and usually the healthiest patient in the room.
The patients are usually senior citizens with occasional younger adults and an occasional teen all at different stages of hair loss or wearing wigs. The nonverbal communication in the room is deafening.
The nurses are amazing–kind, patient, loving, caring , giving, hand holding, hugging. Each has an obvious calling to this scary world. They spend their days addressing side effects, suggested remedies, reminding people of the odds of beating the cancer with comments about hair growing back. I often think what it is like to get to know these people and often lose them in a few months.
Many of the nurses have become my dear friends. This week I shared the recent loss of our nephew with two and we cried and hugged. They promised to pray for my grieving sister-in-law and I know they will.
Doctor Mainwaring is the kindest doctor I have ever met. He listens, really listens and takes all the time needed to explain things. He often draws blood cell illustrations on the paper covering the exam bed for me.
I see the doc once a month, when we discuss my blood and the latest books we’ve read and his frustration with insurance red tape. On my other visits, I catch glimpses of him in and out of examination rooms down the hall. I often observe him on his knees in front of wheel chair holding the hand of an elderly patient. He hugs everyone. He is avid rose gardener and each of his patients goes home with a lovely rose or two when in in season.
In five years you’d think I would become used to the treatment room. But each time I walk inside my heart drops. I immediately begin praying for patients in obvious distress or pain and for guidance on who I should sit next to that day. When I drive in the parking lot I begin praying to battle the emotional toil with the light and love of Jesus.
Most visits are a little over an hour but on infusion days I park it for six to eight hours. I look forward to seeing who God places me with in expectation of ministering. I’m often to surprised to find I am the one receiving the ministering.
Numbering Our Days
The name of my business is “Heart of Wisdom” from Psalms 90:12.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Other versions say “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” and “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.”
Life comes into a new focus when you have an idea of the time, the manner, and circumstances in which our life will close here on earth.
Cancer patients learned the lesson on number their days. It is a blessing in a way.
You don’t have to be a cancer patient to know life is short “like the grass which growth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and growth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth” (v.5-6). Or as that of the leaf: “we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
Our life is but a mist, which appears for a little time and then vanishes away and you don’t see it (James 4:14).
I look forward to Tuesdays. I share, pray, laugh, and cry with my new friends and pray God’s love in me splashes onto them.
If you have any words of wisdom how I can help please share in the comments!