Finishing Radiation: Waiting Room Story #1

The bell I rung signaling completion of my radiation was near the short hallway where patients enter from the waiting room and move into the space branching out to various radiation treatment rooms. Just as I had finished ringing the bell and was moving toward the hallway to exit, one of the therapists had called in a Latino gentleman who appeared to be in his 60s. He walked with a cane, his skin bearing a slightly yellow hue that suggested to me perhaps his cancer was in his liver. Despite his slow ambulation, his smile was quick and generous.

“Did you finish today?” He beamed on my behalf in anticipation of my response.

“I did!”

I saw his shoulders relax with a sense of relief for me.

“Oh congratulations!”

“Thank you,” I exhaled, “Thanks so much.”

We held eye contact and nodded at each other with the unspoken understanding of how it feels to be the ones reporting daily to the grey basement of a cancer center in the middle of a city that’s all hustle and bustle, aggression and business, ambition and indifference. We were showing up just to survive.

I suddenly wanted to gently hug him to thank him for seeing me, for celebrating with me despite being in the thick of his own battles. “I really wish you all the best,” he said. I’d heard so many people say that to me over the past four months, and I knew each person to be entirely sincere. But from him, it meant something different. He knew how the hopes for the best were embedded in all sorts of uncertainty, all sorts of suffering, all sorts of sorrow, and yet the hope for all the best that life could offer – even in this case – remained deep and true. All the best love, all the best joys, all the best meaning, all the best of what really mattered.

“I really wish you all the best too.”

I wish I’d hugged him. God I wish him all the best.

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