The Best Medicine

I sat alone in a small sterile room for 75 minutes yesterday waiting to see a doctor. I had already taken my top off and was wearing the white robe with the pink collar they give to all the breast cancer patients.

At some point I gave up on the straight chair and decided to catch a little nap on the examining table. As I laid with my back against the crinkly paper, I started to get mad.

My appointment was supposed to start an hour ago! If they are this understaffed then they just need to buck up and spend the money to hire more people. I should have gone to that hospital across town. I bet they take better care of their patients.

Then all of a sudden, I started listening to myself. I could feel my entire joyful mood descend rapidly all because of a silly backup at the doctor’s office. The angry words I was reciting to myself were literally transforming my emotions.

So I stopped.

Right then and there I told myself I would not care about this delay. I had nothing pressing to get to. My friends were all entertaining each other in the waiting room. What a blessing in itself to have friends who would drive all the way to Columbus with me to sit in a cancer center for two hours.

I extended my legs a little farther on that examining table and decided to pretend that instead of waiting for a doctor I was waiting for a massage therapist. My breathing slowed, my heart settled and my mind clicked back into a place of peace and gratitude.

And that was when the doctor walked in. Actually it was a Physician’s Assistant. It turns out that the doctor was so busy that they had indeed called in back-up.

The first thing she said to me was, “I am sooo sorry about your wait.”

“No problem,” I told her. “I was pretending I was waiting for a massage.”

I sat up and she started firing questions. How are you feeling? Are you sleeping at night? Any pains? Hot flashes? How are you handling the Tamoxifen? (That’s my anti-cancer drug.)

“I’m fine.”

“Okay, but how about headaches. Are you having headaches?”

“No. I feel fine.”

“Does your back hurt? Swollen ankles?”

“No. Really. I’m fine. I have side-effects from the Tamoxifen, but so does everyone else. It’s nothing I can’t handle. Life is good.”

Then she turned and looked at me. I mean really looked at me.

Hesitantly, she started to speak. “Every single patient I have seen today has had a looong list of things they’ve needed to talk about. I just feel like I’m sort of…” She stopped.

“Cheating me out of my time with you?” I finished.

“Yes!” she said and we both started laughing.

“I don’t need the time they do. I’m here, but I don’t have cancer anymore. So yeah, I’d say life is pretty good.”

Then this woman, who was willing to take all the time I needed to make sure I left there feeling cared about, left the room with a big smile on her face.

I think about how that interaction might have gone if she had walked into the room while I was still stewing about my wait time. I might have said something that ruined her day. Or at least added negativity to her already stressful job. Instead, I made her smile. And it felt awesome.

If the world feels a little cold or sterile today, might I suggest you make it your goal to make one person smile today?

I promise you, it’s good medicine.

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