***Click Here to Listen to Loren Read This Blog Post***
Cancer involves a lot of waiting. Waiting for test results. Waiting for treatments. Waiting in offices. Waiting for certain therapies to end.
I’m waiting for the end of my first round of radiation and chemotherapy.
Everyday, for the last 5 weeks, I’ve visited a radiation therapy treatment center. At first, it was just me and Susie or one of the kids in the waiting room. As time passed, it got more crowded. There was the lady with the pretty hats and the bright smile. The husband and wife who always look so happy and upbeat—-and despite his artificial voice box, he always seemed to be ready to chat. In the beginning, they were just that: the hat lady, the man with the voice box. But soon each of their personalities began to emerge.
The voice box man became Walter, a retired aerospace attorney with successful, grown children, who loved singing in his church choir. I learned that for the past 20 years he’s been fighting cancer as it roamed around his body. Not sure when it stole his voice. The point here is that he’s one of the happiest men I have ever encountered. He and his wife, Louise, go through this struggle without giving in or giving up.
The hat lady? Turns out she’s a neighbor. And the people who drive her? A different woman each day. These women are an accumulation of a lifetime of friends from her gym. They seem to make the daily outing an adventure rather than a chore. And, if the treatment is wearing on her, her bright disposition never lets on.
My waiting room friends are no different from the tens of thousands of San Diegans struggling with illness everyday. Sadly, too often we become identified as the hat lady or the voice box man because the disease has become what defines us. What I’ve discovered is what’s under the hat and behind the voice box; the family man with a love of music and the 84 year old who can’t wait to get back to her spin class with her friends. And, while I hate cancer, I’m so happy that it has given me a chance to learn from its’ survivors.