Keep Smiling

The nurse enters the room where I lay on the gurney, my mind alternating between peace and fear. It isn’t an unusual place for me since I tend to think in extremes at such moments. I shiver under my thin hospital gown.


“Word has it that you are the perfect patient,” she says with a smile.


“Me?” I ask.


She nods, covering me with a warm blanket.


“Why? "


The fact that you never stop laughing. We see a lot of patients who grumble and complain. Given your medical history, that’s remarkable.”


“I try to remain pleasant so that you guys will think I am worth saving." There is a bit of truth to the statement.


“You most definitely are,” she says as she enters my info into the computer.



I exhale. Being upbeat is as much for myself as others. What good does it do to wallow in self-pity or make demands? But it isn’t that hard. These folks are wonderful. I am a frequent visitor to this place, and they remember me. From the admissions clerk, who hugs me as she snaps on my identification bracelet to the nurse anesthetist, who whispers, “Awwww..You are back.” They surround me with kindness and assure me that I am in good hands. I am reminded that so much of medicine must be practiced from the heart. That’s when it works.


The radiologist is cool, calm and collected as he carefully explains what will happen. “It’s tricky,” he says, “but we figured out how to do it.”


I nod a little too enthusiastically and clap my hands. “Yay.”


I blush, embarrassed. Who cheers at such a time? But he, too, comments on my attitude. “Keep smiling,” he said. “It is nice to see.”


What can I say? I have always been motivated by praise. Now, I get an “A” in being sick. It is a dubious honor, of course. But there is also a boomerang affect: what you give out, comes back to you with even greater force. I really like the positive energy. I need it.


I have another CT scan. I should begin glowing in the dark at any minute. But in this room, the ceiling is like a stained glass window with trees against a cloudless sky, some whose leaves are green and others, orange or yellow. I guess the designer couldn't decide on a season. I fix my gaze on the view. It is meant to be a distraction.


I am not going to lie; the biopsy was difficult. They shoot lidocaine into the spot to numb it and then pump fentanyl into the IV. Even so, I felt every bit of it, and even jumped once, which scared everybody in the room, including me. It only took an hour or so, but it felt much longer since I was awake during the procedure. But he got a good sample of the tumor, which was the whole point. So everyone deemed it a success.


And now I wait some more. Real life isn’t like the television shows, where test results appear in an instant and life-saving treatment begins immediately. This is the hardest part of all.


A few weeks ago, my husband and I had gone shopping, and I stood waiting for him to unlock my side of the truck. It was cold out; a bit of rain fell from the sky. I shivered and then mumbled something under my breath about the risks of catching a cold. I pulled the door handle just as he hit the button, and I heard the click. It remained locked. I tried again, and so did he. This frustrating little dance went on three times until we managed to synchronize our efforts. At some point, I laughed out loud. It really looked like we were acting out a scene from “The Three Stooges” rather than a simple parking lot routine.


And yes, it is quite the metaphor. I live in a place of faith, where I know in my heart that my future has already been determined. I pray for God to give me the peace and strength I need for whatever is yet to come. But now, I also pray for the courage to truly surrender, to be still and listen. You see, while I know that He will unlock doors for me and hold my hand as I walk across the threshold into this next phase of my life, I just can’t keep my hands off of the knob. Certainly, He doesn’t need me to show him where the keys are hidden, right? I am reminded that I am not in control.


Ah, the lessons. There are so many that I am learning. In the meantime, I try to smile. Somehow, that makes me feel a little better.




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