Here I was again.
Waiting in a room where anyone present knows why some one is there. A cancerous thread bound us to this healing place. Just over a year ago, I frequented this room every single day of the week. Today’s afternoon visit was about making sure I was still recovering and showing no new cancer signs. It was my first four-month check up. Last year, I visited my oncologist once every three months. Now, I’m in year two of my recovery plan.
No one in the waiting room knew that though. To them, I was just another patient tied to cancer in some way.
It is a strange phenomenon to walk into a place where everyone there knows something has happened to you. Cancer has a way of stripping away one’s self protection. Masks are removed. Performances are altered. Words are genuine, raw, and unpretentious.
“How are you doing?” is said with sincerity.
“Are you feeling well?” is asked with genuine interest.
The waiting room was quiet yesterday, though. Two new patients recently diagnosed with cancer were coming to grips with its reality. Another patient sat with her husband dealing with the after effects of a recent dose of radiation. Tenderly, the woman’s husband stroked her hand as she wearily leaned against him. No one could hide in that room.
How often do we hide from others what’s really going on with us?
Why do we keep things to ourselves?
Why does it take something like cancer or another crisis to cause us to drop our masks and say that we’re in a life or death situation and we desperately need the love, care and support of others?
There is no shame in sharing in the realities of life.
Do we think that others have no time to listen?
Do we think that others wouldn’t care?
Do we think that others would judge us?
Do we think that our challenges are not of great merit?
Do we think we should be able to handle it by ourselves?
Do we think we have to hide in shame and embarrassment?
What cancer has taught me is that there is a tremendous community of love, blessing and strength in sharing about one’s struggles. It doesn’t have to be a large community. A small, intimate group may be more appropriate and needful in mending the intimate, raw and open wounds of a painful situation.
You see, when I walk into an oncology clinic, everyone knows that when I sit down in the waiting room I’m there because cancer invaded my life at some time. I can’t hide it. And because I cannot hide it, it allows me a freedom to speak with, to listen with, to understand, to identify with, and to embrace my fellow cancer journeyers.
I think that’s what my God wants me to do all the time with everyone else. We are all fellow journey folk. Our situations and issues may be different. But everyone offers me an opportunity to show compassion. He offers me an opportunity to be with some one on their journey.
Some journey with depression.
Some walk with disease.
Some travel with inadequacies.
Some trudge with loneliness.
Some wallow in despair.
Some run with performance-driven issues.
Some move with monotony.
Some plod with anxieties.
Some tread with betrayal.
Some wander with addiction.
Some don’t feel able to move at all.
Everyone has something going on. Every one.
Not everyone has a waiting room like me, where once you enter you’re identified with something. However, there are other types of rooms all over the world, that once you enter, you’re known as working through something…like alcohol, like drugs, like depression, like marriage issues, like addiction, like …. Such places can be the safest, most secure and most challenging rooms on the planet. People are there to work things through without their masks, without their self protection routines, and without their peer-perfect performances; all without shame.
We all need rooms like that.
We all need rooms without shame.
For there is no shame in seeking help, strength and healing to live and to live well
Sitting in an oncology waiting room has helped me see that. I am in a safe place where I cannot hide what has happened to me.
None of us should ever have to hide anyway. Why should we hide from what we most need?
Photo by artojanovic of Flickr