Posted by MK | Filed under Books
The following is excerpted from my book, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God:
There is nowhere on Earth like a hospital waiting room. Most people have been in one at one time or another—waiting because your appendix is bursting, waiting because your kid has a gash that needs to be sewn up, waiting because a friend has been in surgery and you are holding vigil for her recovery. You wait. You wait alongside the smell of stale coffee, of Maury Povich on the hanging television with the “Do not change channel” sign on it, of the pacing, bleary-eyed occupants clamoring for a doctor’s update.
We spent plenty of time in the waiting room. Though Joshua spent more than his share of time in a hospital bed, we also got to spend a lot of time at home. After the initial two or three weeks in the hospital, we were allowed to do his chemotherapy on an outpatient basis. But there were caveats to that freedom.
One of the unfortunate aspects of chemotherapy—along with the nausea, hair loss, and general awful feelings—is that chemo is an indiscriminate killer. The medicine attacks good cells as well as bad. And the intense regimen of medicine left Joshua susceptible to disease because along with fighting the cancerous cells, it broke down his fighter white blood cells, too. So wherever we went, we armed ourselves with two things: Purell, for excessive washing of hands in an effort to keep away germs, and a thermometer. We had the thermometer under the strict instructions that if Joshua ever got a fever that reached 100.5, we were immediately to come to the emergency room because of his low tolerance for disease. A fever could signal an infection, and because Joshua didn’t have the strength to fight infection, it could be really dangerous. So we spent a lot of nights rushing to the hospital, only to sit for a few hours in the waiting room.
In the waiting room you sit alongside people of every race, culture, and economic background. You wait there together. This place—though full of grief, hardship, and anxiety— might be the closest place on Earth to the kingdom of God. In the waiting room all the things that separate people from one another tend to drift away. Somehow, in that small, glass-enclosed space, you don’t seem so different from people of different nationalities. Or different social circles. Or different styles of dress. Or different languages. You hold one thing in common with everyone in that room—pain.
The pain takes different forms. For some it’s actual physi- cal pain. For others it’s the emotional pain of watching some- one close to them suffer. But pain unifies every black, white, brown, or otherwise colored person in that room. Indeed, pain is the common denominator of all humanity.
Regardless of where you come from, how insulated your lifestyle, how stable your finances, or how healthy your habits, you will have a moment in the waiting room. And in that moment none of that other stuff seems to matter very much. Everyone hurts in one way or another. The question is what you do with that pain…