A Reluctant Member

13 Sep

Today was good. I managed to work all day, although I was pretty tired at the end of the day. It felt good to do something “normal.” I feel like I’m beginning the turn from yucky to better days for this cycle and anticipate each day getting better than the one before. :)

Source: thinkstockphotos.com

It’s not a club that I ever wanted to join, this Cancer Patient Club. The other members are nice and all, but I really don’t want to hang out with them. Not like this, anyway.

This isn’t like most clubs or organizations that people choose to join. We’re all here against our will, almost by default. Once you are diagnosed with some form of cancer, you instantly become a member of the club – no questions asked. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, how much or little money you have, or if you are white, black, or purple. The club doesn’t care. Sadly, all are welcome and the membership lasts a lifetime. Even if you are blessed enough to be cured or have your cancer go into remission, you will always be a part of the club. Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient.

I sit here each Monday morning waiting for labs to be drawn. Not everyone in the waiting area is a member of the club. Many have been brought by a spouse, child, friend, or a caregiver. Some are just alone.

It’s easy to spot the members, though. They smile gently at me, as if to say “Welcome. I’m sorry that you are here.” Some of them walk a little more slowly than they should. Some have lost their hair. Others wear a faint smile in the midst of their obvious discomfort. They are almost all kind and humble. And there’s almost always an air of gratitude about them, a sense that they are happy to be here today or at least happy to have another day, another chance to fight the beast.

The faces are familiar. Not because I know them or have seen them so many times, although I have seen a few on repeated visits. They are familiar in the sense that we are now similar people, walking a shared path, hoping for the same outcome – a cure, remission, miraculous healing.

I’m a little younger than many in here. Most days, I think I look pretty good – dressed for work, don’t yet look too frail or sickly – but they instantly recognize me for what I am. They know the look. The look of a freshness, a newbie. The one who is still fighting to not be a part of this club. The one who hasn’t completely accepted that cancer is a part of her new normal.

Maybe it’s the dear-in-the-headlights feeling I still have each time I walk in there. That look of “what in the world am I doing here??” Maybe it’s the way my eyes constantly roam the room taking in every aspect of it or the constant swinging of my crossed leg as I try to convince myself that I’m not as tired as I feel – that I’m not as tired as they look. No matter. They recognize me…because they used to be me.

They extend a hand of conversation to me in snippets. “I felt pretty good this weekend, but today’s a rough one,” says one older gentleman. He sits slightly hunched over, as if sitting up straight requires too much effort – effort that he can’t afford to spare today. A middle-aged woman comments that “it’s good to get in here early and get this over with before it gets too crowded.” I respond, but only minimally. I’m not sure I can handle their stories yet. I’m not sure I’m ready to hear about their successes and failures at battling this disease. So I keep my distance, politely interacting with a smile or short sentence when needed.

Engaging in conversation means that I have become one them. But I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t want to walk slowly and sit carefully. I don’t want to look pale and frail. I don’t want to have that hollow, slightly bruised look around my eyes. I don’t want to wear the focused, yet distant look of nausea – that look you get when you are trying not to breath or see or sense anything, anything at all, that might make you sick.

But the truth is that I am like them. Thankfully, I don’t expect my treatment to take me down some of the very long, incredibly hard roads they are walking, but I’m just like them. And thankfully, I’m still at a point where I can take myself for labs, and go to work most days in between treatments. I don’t have to have someone to drive me, but when I want someone, he’s there. I am so lucky, and so blessed.

No, I don’t want to be a member of this club. But I am. And will accept this membership for now and look forward with BELIEF and HOPE to the day when I can trade in my membership card for one that says “Cancer Survivor!”

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12 Responses to “A Reluctant Member”

  1. Cindy E September 13, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    You are awesome!!! You hit it exactly on target….from one who goes in and out of that waiting room multiple times a day. The difference is I am gladly not in your/or their shoes. I would like to also say that I look forward to these daily reminders from you…although I know it is your way of dealing with things you are being a witness that no matter how good or bad you feel you are trusting in the Lord to guide you and see you through. I love you!!

    • rachturner September 13, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Thank you for reading and encouraging! Love you LOTS!!

  2. Gayle Carter September 13, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    You write so well…makes me feel as though I am sitting in that room with you. As a member of that club, you have the opportunity to share with your BELIEF and HOPE with them. You may be just the sweet, kind messenger that they need that day. You are refreshing and as you share with them, you will be refreshed. As you pour out, God will pour in anew.

  3. Patty September 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Wow! Amazingly powerful writing! I cried… I smiled… I sat in that room with you… Wow. You are such an inspiration. God is working through you right now in ways you probably dont see. I can picture you in that waiting room flashing a smile at someone and making their day. Daddy used to say that even on the toughest days a Smile was the best medicine. Please know that I am praying for you every step of the way. Love you! Stay strong my friend!

    • rachturner September 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      Patty – YOU make me smile. :)

  4. Kathy September 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    The next time you’re in a waiting room and feel like you aren’t ready to interact with anyone…say a heartfelt prayer. Tell God you need him to point you in the direction of the person or people you’re supposed to connect with. I know God already has those people hand-picked just for you.

    I’ve had to say this prayer more times than I can count over the past few months and then wait and listen. It works! God is always faithful to reveal someone to me who turns out to be a “blessing in disquise”. Even (or I should say especially) when I didn’t really think I needed it. You will be granted these real blessings also. This much I know! After all, we’re not the ones in real control here! God just lets us go ahead and think we are until we’re ready to relinquish it all back to Him. I couldn’t be more proud of you and the inspiration you are to others…now you must also let others be an inspiration to you! I love you much!

    • rachturner September 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

      I love it when you comment because your thoughts come straight from your heart. I can let people be an inspiration to me, but it’s going to have to be from a distance. Smells are getting to me lately and I noticed the other day someone in the waiting room smelled a little, um, less than pleasant, and I thought I was going to get sick! ha ha Not good at all.

      Love you!!

      • Kathy September 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

        I understand that all too well. Certain perfumes and I literally have to leave a room (quickly) or be sick.

        Is it all smells or do you have some favorites that you can still enjoy?

    • rachturner September 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

      It’s not all smells, just some. Stinky people for one. :) I can’t think of specific others. After the first treatment, it was cinnamon rolls. Barry fixed some and I thought I was going to be sick. Scared me silly to think cinnamon rolls might make me sick forever – but it passed. ha ha

  5. Jennifer September 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Rach – I have been thinking about this post since you put it up. The gift that you have for telling a story is very powerful. You have probably written in this particular blog what so many other cancer patients feel – that they do not want to be part of the club either but what a powerful analogy. I have a dear friend at work and she is going to print it out and give it to any of her friends that go through this in the future. I think about your posts all day. It is an insight that even as your sister I would not get in a conversation with you and for that I am grateful for your sharing. Love you like only a sister can! Jenn

    • rachturner September 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

      That is so great what your friend is doing! I am touched. Being open and transparent does not come easily for me, but for some reason, when I put it into words “on paper” it is much easier to share my thoughts and feelings. I’m glad you are getting this insight into my soul. :) Pinterest is doing the same thing for me with you! ha ha

      LOVE YOU more than you know.

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