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Making Progress

I brought along my own beauty magazine this time. I am not sure if I just wanted to torture myself with images of lovely young women with their flowing locks of hair as my own continues to fall out in clumps or if it has just become my waiting room routine. But this time was different. As I sat down and began to browse the pages, another patient immediately began to chat with me. She was warm and friendly, with lovely blue eyes, the kind of person you somehow feel that you have known for years. I am always amazed when such moments present themselves. Kismet. Nice word.

“Our doctor is great,” she commented.

“I hope so. I have only seen him once, but I was impressed.”

“Well, I can vouch for him,” she said, “He is a skilled surgeon and a very compassionate man. I’ve been coming here for six years.”

“Really?” I asked, not knowing how to proceed with the obvious questions, my curiosity piqued.

“I’m here for my six month check-up. I have presented no evidence of disease for five years now.”

I smiled. “How wonderful. I can only hope for such an outcome.”

“Then, I will pray for you so that you will.”

And in that moment, the two of us shared a connection, a sisterhood that nobody ever wants to join. Women who share this scary diagnosis understand each other. But she was a success story, and it was important to her that she pass along that hope.

I was soon called by the nurse and ushered into an exam room. I was pleased to see that the doctor was as kind and welcoming as he had been on my first visit. And this time he commented on how well I looked and how my tummy had decreased in size. I marveled that he remembered, considering there had been a five week gap since that initial consultation. I felt important. He performed the exam. It hurt less this time. And he measured the alien. “Down thirty percent, he announced. That’s wonderful. Chemo is working.”

I cheered, a little more enthusiastically than necessary, but this was good news, the first I had received since I had been given the verdict seven weeks earlier.

We discussed my care plan. “If your progress continues at this rate, we can move the surgery up by six weeks.” He ordered a CT scan in a month and a return visit soon after.

I swallowed hard. Was it possible? Could I begin to even imagine that I might reclaim my life?

And then, he took my hand in his. “Shall we pray again?” he asked.

I nodded. There was great comfort in his words as he made an eloquent plea to God to guide him as he cared for me, asking for my healing in mind, body, and spirit. I felt a peace wash over me. If I needed a sign that I had placed my wellbeing in capable hands, I had gotten it.

And that’s really what I am learning as I travel this treacherous road. Just when I wonder what uncertainty lies around the bend, God sends me a reminder that I am not alone. I have received beautiful cards and letters, socks from another cancer survivor, phone calls from those who just want to check on me, and overwhelming support. Friends come to visit, bringing me food to nourish my body. We sit and chat and laugh. The kindness of the nursing staff, who greet me with a smile and a hug when I show up for treatment is comforting. I feel uplifted and supported in ways I never thought possible. It is quite beautiful. There is great joy in that, and I try to remember to embrace each moment from a place of gratitude. For all that I have witnessed in the past six weeks, I am truly grateful.

And perhaps someday, I will be able to reassure some other patient as I sit in the waiting room of this special doctor’s office, celebrating my remission. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

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