(Watching the eclipse from the roof of the hospital parking garage.)
So here I am again…in the cancer clinic waiting room… How many times have I been here? There’s no counting. Maybe 200?…Two hours at a time, sometimes four. Over the course of the last 2 years, I have seen the same people come in alongside of me, time and time again, day after day, week after week. Then there have been those who have moved on, either through completion of treatment…or death.
The chemo infusion clinic waiting room…truly a convergence of all people. Everyone in here, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or race–we are all on the same playing field. It no longer matters who you are or what you did prior to walking into this room – life interrupted, sitting in the same room, fighting the same battle. We are all here for one reason. Humbled by the sickness or disease that has placed us here.
I am the youngest patient in here by far. Sometimes I see others around me that seem somewhat close to my age, but it always turns out that they are here with their parent or grandparent….sitting with them during their treatments. I always take assessment of the room. It is incredibly interesting to see who walks in each time. To wonder about their story. What brought them to this point? How long have they been coming here? How are they holding up in between? There’s an older caucasian man in the corner, quite ragged looking and alone. A pregnant woman with her son. She wears the patient arm band. A lady next to me in a wheelchair. An elderly couple in the corner, the wife seemingly the patient, bearing compression socks for her swelling legs. A young boy and his dad playing UNO, accompanying his grandma. A middle eastern man and his son, no words currently exchanged. The list goes on.
You enter this room. This time-warp. This social status equalizer. A black hole from the world from whence you came. They hand you a pager number, your new identity for the day. You wait. So much waiting when you’re sick. So much waiting when your life is not in your control. Was it ever in our control? They call the pager numbers. One by one. Call them out like you’ve won the lottery–but you haven’t. You’re just the next one required to submit yourself to whatever physical torture (chemotherapy or medications) you’re in for that day. Hooked up to a line, much like handcuffs. Handcuffs you willingly submit to. Handcuffs you’re hoping will in some odd way actually release to you your freedom.
Freedom. To realize that you need freedom is to realize you are captive. That day…we all came from different places. No two of us were the same, but we were all there for the same reason. To get well. To be freed of the shackles of cancer that both figuratively and literally had us chained. None of us would have volunteered to be here if we weren’t acutely aware of our need. Of our captivity. Acutely aware that we have no power to release ourselves from the chain of cancer without help. All desperate for the cure of our illness. Our lives indefinitely and painfully suspended. Converging in the same place, hoping that cure is what we find.
Such a confluence of humanity. Of the fall…the dire nature of this world. Crashing around us. Seen in the eyes of every individual in that room….whether patient or family member, deeply affected by the lack of control to heal….to free. Faced with their lack of control. Their doom if something doesn’t change. Jesus is that change. He is the only cure.
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
My number must be called soon. More patients checking in. One day it happened: one who is younger than me. He still has hair. Likely a newly placed port. He’s nervous….a newbie to the system of wait. Then another, near my age. Bald, vulnerable, yet calm. Not new to this. You can get used to anything. And that is the most concerning….when you stop searching and hoping for your freedom.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
True freedom is found in the discovery of what freedom really is. Letting go. Letting go of the futile attempt to preserve or even elongate our life. Through the death of Christ….the death of ourselves….we become free!