Thursday, February 9, 2012

Experience Someone

Yesterday we made our 17th unscheduled trip in to the city. This one was to get my pre-Chemo blood work done. Since this cancer journey has begun I have been to three different CancerCare centers, a breast clinic, a plastics emergency clinic and a lymphodema clinic. I have had a mammogram, an ultrasound, a biopsy, three scans, a surgery and countless blood tests and I have learned one important thing; unless you purposefully look up and notice the people around you, you will drown in your own nasty circumstances.

When you are in the middle of an illness or medical emergency, your thoughts can easily be consumed with your own stuff; your worries, your fears, your future or lack of future. You can get tunnel vision and begin to think that you are the only person who is in the middle of a crisis, the only person with stress, anxiety and a heavy heart. You can get so wrapped up in your own situation that you become self centered, inconsiderate and hurtful to others, even others in similar situations.

I see this almost every time we head to a hospital or clinic. I can't count how many times we see people rudely plow past others, cut in front of others in line, steal parking spots and try to interrupt medical professionals while they are caring for someone else. The people with the 'Me First' mentality are locked and lost inside their own trauma, they can't see the others.

I often joke that Mr. Awesome would talk to a lamp post if he thought he could make a friend and its true. He talks to people EVERYWHERE we go, so I'm never surprised to finding him chatting away to a perfect stranger whenever I leave him alone anywhere. Such was the case when I went for one of my early scans; I came out of the procedure room after an hour or so and found him talking and laughing with a woman who was waiting for her scan.

When he saw me he stood, helped me with my coat and said good bye to his new friend. She thanked him for the conversation and said that it helped to pass the time and made her feel less anxious. As we walked to the car Mr. Awesome told me all about his new pal, her cancer journey, treatments and difficulties. She had been fighting a rare cancer for years and her battle had left her unable to work, financially strapped and all but alone, her friends had burned out long ago. Despite all this she was still optimistic and upbeat for her recovery and future.

Months have passed since that afternoon and I still think about Mr. Awesome's pal, Sheila. We've never seen her again but the lesson we learned from her is never far from our thoughts. Its vital to look up, look around and engage with the people around you because the truth is there is always someone who is sicker, sadder, more fearful, more alone. There is always an opportunity to bring a little hope and even a little humour into someone else's day.

Yesterday, someone cut us off in line for the parking lot. Then we saw an older gentleman push passed a young , tattooed and pierced guy who had recently been badly beaten. Then a young woman elbowed in front of an elderly woman at the reception counter at CancerCare and middle age man impatiently thumped on the counter at the lab when he thought it was taking too long to get to his number.

We also saw a young couple with new born twins let an pair of elderly ladies go in line ahead of them. We saw a young mom give another young mom change to use the payphone. We saw a nurse gently comfort an elderly woman as she leaned over her husband's stretcher, a young man hold a door open for a lady in a wheelchair and a man randomly walk up to a hospital volunteer and thank her for the work she was doing.

We've spent a lot of time in hospitals, clinics and waiting rooms and there is no better place to be overwhelmed with worry but there is also no better place to practice kindness, to talk to people who need a little pick me up and to experience someone else's perspective.

We all go through stuff and we all have emotions about the stuff we're going through ... but ... we all go through stuff and we all have emotions about the stuff we're going through. Look up, look around and take a minute to see someone, really see them.

If you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point.  ~Antonio Porchia

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