I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite ways to pass the time is to sit in the waiting room and listen to the “cancer journeys” of those around me and to share my own journey with others.  I’d like to introduce you to a few of the people I’ve met recently.  And while I don’t know their names, I’d like to share their stories with you.

Two Women, Two Stories:  Sitting across from me in the waiting room were two women, both in their 50’s.  I could tell by their actions and their conversations that one was the patient and the other was there for support, but listening as they talked back and forth I couldn’t tell who was supporting who.  We started talking and I was surprised by their story.  The first woman was the one with the diagnosis of CLL (my diagnosis).  The second woman was there for support, but also had a cancer diagnosis of her own and was followed at a different hospital.  We talked about our diagnosis, treatments and where we were in our own cancer journeys.  But then, the second woman, the one who was there for support began to talk of her husband.  He also had a diagnosis of CLL and had died two years earlier.  She began to share her husband’s story of CLL and how he had been involved in some clinical trials before he died.  While I was unaware of these drugs and trials, she was able to share that these trials are showing good results in CLL patients.  

It is rare that I get to meet the men and women who have gone before me and “try out” treatments that have made a difference and will make a difference to my own cancer journey.  I sat before this woman with tears in my eyes and said “thank you”.  She was encouraged by words but I was the one who walked away humbled by our conversation.

Grandfather: As I was in conversation with a few others around me, I turned to the well dressed man at the end of the row and asked about his diagnosis.  He said that he had been diagnosed before I was born.  He began his story with his diagnosis, 37 years ago.  On the day of his diagnosis, his doctor told him that he had 1-2 years to live.  He looked at his doctor and said “Get out of the room. That’s not true.” With tears in his eyes and the raw emotion as if he was reliving that day, he said that at the time, he had 5 children at home, the youngest just a year old.  Now, 37 years later his children are all grown and he has many grandchildren.

Just before hearing this man’s journey, Nathan had been up in the waiting room with us eating his lunch and providing much joy for those around him.  It was important for me to listen to this man’s story of determination and courage in light of where I am in my own journey and family life.  I cried as I said thank you.

These are just three people that I’ve met along the way.  I have shared their stories with as much accuracy as I can remember.  I have been touched by their stories and humbled our brief meetings.  I am learning again that cancer takes no exception of age, race, religion, status, money or lifestyle.  As we share our stories, I realize that we are more alike in the way that cancer impacts our lives and that we have a lot to learn from each other.  

As I share my story, here on this website, with you face to face and wherever I happen to be when I strike up a conversation, I know that my cancer journey is not “all about me”.  I have a lot to learn from listening to your stories too. And so, with that, I look forward to our next conversation.