Steeped in Tradition: The Gingerbread House
Pleasant Diversion

Carry It With Me


Yesterday, I had another 6-month check-up appointment with my oncologist.  Everything is still looking good!  No signs of anything amiss; no concerns; no reason to even have scans any more.  This is very good news!  Happy day!

Here in Kalamazoo, we have a local cancer center for all cancer patients (adults, that is; the kids have their own space somewhere else) and their doctors.  It's a one-stop-shopping kind of place: oncology offices, chemo infusions, radiation, lab work, support groups and classes, fitness center -- all in once place.  "They" (the folks who initially envisioned this space -- and the folks who run it now) have carefully crafted a patient-centered place where there really is a welcoming and hopeful atmosphere.  I mean, cancer is creepy.  Everything about it is just awful.  But the cancer center here in Kalamazoo tries to create an environment of comfort and support.  The décor is homey and comfortable -- yesterday there was a fire roaring in the fireplace of the main waiting room, a volunteer was playing lovely Christmas music on a grand piano, and patients were gathered around a couple of tables working on jigsaw puzzles.  Not your typical medical waiting room, certainly!  All of the staff (from reception and scheduling to lab techs to the nurses and doctors) are friendly and upbeat.  They really do make an effort to bring comfort and a little "normality" to an uncertain and overwhelming situation.

The waiting patients have a different attitude than you find at most medical offices, too.  There is a lot of direct eye contact, smiles, offers to give up a chair or help with a coat.  Strangers - sharing that unwelcome bond of cancer - offer advice and encouragement and hope.  And all of this in the context of waiting . . . and waiting. . . and waiting. . . sometimes for hours.  No one ever seems short of patience or demanding.  I think we're all hyper-aware that important work is going on in that place -- and that we can't expect to stay on schedule.  We're all in the same boat, actually.  Cancer upended our plans anyway. . . so, what's a few hours in a waiting room with others similarly upended?

So why am I going on about this?  Well.  Let's just say it was probably the best way to start off the holiday season for me.  Surrounded by hope and patience and grace.  I want to carry the feeling I got in the waiting room of the cancer center yesterday. . . with me all season long!