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It takes patience

Updated on June 20, 2015

Patience amid cancer

Waiting had become a huge part of our lives. We were now ruled by doctors, chemo nurses, lab technicians, and pharmacists. And for each of these, we had to wait. We waited at doctors’ offices, we waited in line at the pharmacy for meds, we waited passively for hours as Sandra got her chemotherapy treatments, we waited in examination rooms for doctors to show up, we waited, and waited. With the waiting came patience—patience is a virtue, I’m told.

Cancer. There is no quick cure, no magic pills, no miracle potions that are going to make a cancer patient healthy overnight—if ever healthy again. There is just hope, tenacity, patience—and if one is lucky, good doctors. There are chemotherapy drugs with their side effects that cause listlessness and misery. These drugs might make you better, but then again, they might not. Often, even good news rarely makes a difference. “Sandra, your numbers are looking good this week”, so we’re only going to give you four shots to take home instead of the usual six.” But the pain still exists, there are the aches, the constipation, the diarrhea, the hives, the nausea, and always the fatigue—and yes the boredom. The boredom you learn to live with.

You can no longer do the things you once did. You can no longer work the way you once did. You can’t exercise. You can’t have sex. You can’t enjoy that glass of wine. But you accept all this for what it is— the opportunity to still be alive. The opportunity to still be with your child and see her ballet performances, to see her mature, to see her grow up; the opportunity to talk to your husband and grow closer each day. You understand that life changes—often in ways that don’t always seem fair, but there is little you can do about that—so you don’t obsess about it. So you lay down and watch the birds nibble and pick at the berries and seeds in the feeder outside the window.

According to Webster's, the word patient means 1) Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness. 2) One who receives medical attention, care, or treatment. So, while Sandra was receiving treatment as a patient she was also enduring the pain with calmness—it seemed to be her trademark.

Patience has now become the moving force in my life, however contradictory that may sound. I can now sit and think, and I rarely get bored, except at work. My patience has switched from an anxiousness to get to work, feeling guilty if not there, to having very little patience at work. I now have the patience to be still, to read and study, to watch and observe, to write and photograph. I now realize that life offers so much, and I kind of feel sorry for those stuck in a pattern of thinking that life is work, and work is life. The days are much too short. There is so much to do; but as my hair gets grayer and my daughter gets older, I wonder how much energy I have left to pursue all that I desire. That maybe I’m too old to start something new—that I don’t have the money or the energy to change from a profession that has been good to me for many years—but no longer is, to something brand new, that I haven’t yet developed the skills for. Maybe a new job—but does anybody really want me anyway? Do they care what I’ve been through the last nine years? Probably not. But patience has brought me the ability to see things differently, to understand that life changing events bring with them opportunity. So I wake up each morning with hope and the realization that life is good—no matter how bad it seems at times. I’m patient now—and it serves me well.

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