The Mirror of Faces – Blogging Through Cancer, 2
Today I went back to the cancer floor of the building for my (hopefully) last PET scan. It’s been a long journey since day one, when I would sit in the waiting areas with my dad and think about all the what-ifs that we could be presented with. I remember that, at first, it was hard to look at and talk to other patients, because what if they looked back and I saw myself staring back at me? What if I was going to be that person who looked like they were on the verge of death from so many blasts of an artificial poison that destroyed their flesh? But in the waiting rooms of oncology units, we become one.
We are all frayed – we’ve gone through months or years of chemo, we just got a terrible diagnosis and are now waiting for our treatment plan, or maybe we’re worrying about whether our insurance will even cover the cost of just one chemo drug – maybe $15,000. We are all afraid. We are all foreigners on a seemingly moonless journey. We all have a unique story to tell. And its funny what happens to the way you see the people around you. No longer are they strangers, but they are you.
I could summarize the patients there in two ways: those who want the camaraderie, nod, smile friendly, shake your hand, and wish you good luck, and those that simply can’t bear to look you in the face, because of the fear that they will seem themselves glancing back. I’ve been both of those people. Sometimes exhaustion clouds your best judgement and all you can do is stand and walk as if in a trance to the exam room when your name is called. But I think I prefer the former.
Everyone in that waiting room is on equal footing. We have all been transformed: from a community leader, from a confident, independent, functioning member of society, to a patient who is unsure about the next step. The foundation of the future is cracked and broken, fissures open a mile wide. We are now supplicants, and there is something beautiful – yet terrifying – about that. We all need help outside of ourselves and we are forced to admit, humbly or not, that our lives have changed. Conversations happen in wearied whispers (if they happen at all) because there is a poignant sense of mortality hanging in the air – even when you’re only 23. None of us will live forever.
And I think this is why Christianity gives so much hope. To the Christian, Christianity says that there is something bigger. There is a God who is in control of all that happens, even the presentation of cancer cells in a human body. Even in the midst of suffering, God is immediately sovereign.