Cancer is unfair, indiscriminate and arbitrary. It strikes with a thorough disregard of convenience. Cancer laughs in the face of your resources both human and monetary and dares you to make plans… to factor it into your life. It demands that attention be paid.
The disease cares not of your current station in life. How much money you have in the bank. How strong your support system. How good your insurance. Or how cute your current Facebook staus. Cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Which makes for an often difficult ride… and some very interesting waiting rooms.
You see, the waiting rooms at USC are large, there are a lot of patients waiting to see a lot of Doctors. And some of those patients are… well, crazy. Maybe they were perfectly normal before cancer latched onto them. Maybe a few years in the system wore them down, or maybe all the chemo broke down their inhibitions. Or maybe, just maybe? They were nuts to begin with.
A guy bellowed out as if he were God. That is if God were sixty and wore a dirty NASCAR t-shirt and carried a home-made walking stick. It took me a minute to realize he was “doing” an old Bill Cosby routine. Unprompted, for all of us in the waiting room, at a volume just below that of a jet engine. He was mad when we didn’t clap and promptly refused to do any of his “A” material.
The next day while waiting for radiation a dude reached under his shirt, pulled out a plastic drain and asked all within hearing distance if the fluid contained inside looked like bloody puss, or just blood. When nobody responded he asked for a show of hands on the blood to puss ratio.
A woman brought her whole family to her appointment. I mean, husband, kids, mother, sister… there were ten of them. And they brought a picnic lunch which they broke out on the carpet in the middle of the room. They were told that eating in the waiting room was fine, but the use of a George Foreman grill was going to break several health code violations.
The bald woman in full camouflage gear somehow found it necessary to fill out paperwork in the waiting room. She does it out loud. Reading every question and her subsequent answer… “Weight? None of their business! Last bowel movement? Yesterday!” Her weight was a state secret, but her last crap was apparently a cause for public celebration.
There are a lot of loud cell phone talkers. People sitting in quiet waiting rooms, screaming into their phones horribly personal information… “No, I am not going to tell the Doctor. Why? Because I don’t think a leaky penis has anything to do with my lung cancer.”
So, together we wait our turns. The loud talkers and the quiet readers, the cool kids and the geeks, the sane and the… slightly less so. We wait together side by side, because we realize these waiting rooms are the great equalizer. In here nothing else matters.
In here we are simply the sick and the sicker. And maybe a little God is not a bad thing to find in your waiting room. Even if he is wearing a dirty NASCAR shirt.