Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Elephant In The Waiting Room

When you have a medical condition, you spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. I have yet to visit one that was a fun place. I used to consider them merely boring. Maybe annoying if the TV is tuned to the wrong channel. But now, they are places of dread.

My next visit to a waiting room isn't for another month. Between now and then, I have a lot to get done. There's a show to help put on and a CD project to finish, all by the end of August. So, I won't be bored. At least I'll have things to occupy my attention.

Because, in reality, I'm spending every moment for the next month in the waiting room. My waiting room follows me wherever I go. It's always there. And there's an elephant in it that I'm trying to ignore. Not the obvious one, cancer. That's one nobody can ignore. It tramples all over everything, and it's all we can do to minimize the damage. But that's not the elephant I'm talking about.

In case you're not familiar with the expression, "the elephant in the room" is a subject that's obvious to everyone, but one that nobody wants to talk about. Cancer is a huge example of that. Even though it's taken over my life, I don't want it to be the subject of every conversation. So it's the elephant in the room. It's just that my room for the next month is a waiting room. And there's another subject besides cancer that I'm trying not to let occupy my thoughts 24/7. Another elephant.

How many elephants can you fit in a room? When you have cancer, maybe two. An adult elephant - cancer itself, and a baby elephant - whatever your next immediate concern is. My baby elephant in this waiting room where I spend all of my time is my next blood test. My next PSA number. That number will tell me everything.

As I sit in this waiting room, I try to ignore the baby elephant that keeps crashing into my field of vision. I wish its mother, cancer, would keep it out of my sight. But the cancer elephant doesn't care about me. She wants to trample me. It's just a matter of time before she does, because there's no escape from this waiting room. I'll always be waiting for my next test.

My hope is that, just over a month from now, the baby elephant will leave the room. My PSA will have gone back down, and the crisis will have been averted. I'll get a little break from the waiting room for a while.

But if not, if my number is up again, then the baby elephant grows into an adult overnight. When it matures, it will force me to make treatment decisions that I don't want to have to make.

That's why I'm glad I'll be able to keep busy for the next month. It helps to have deadlines. Deadlines have always had a great way of focusing my mind. I perform best under a deadline. I need them. Thanks to them, I won't have to pay so much attention to the elephant.

Fatigue and my emotional state still slow me down. That makes it harder to get the work done and harder to do fun things, but I have to power through. No choice. If I surrender to the things that try to hold me back, it's like I'm giving up. I'm not going to let cancer or treatment keep me from doing as much as I can. I'm not going to let the elephant trample me. Not yet.

I know I have to recognize my limits. I know I have to pace myself. From time to time, I push it too far and realize that I forgot about the elephant. That happened this week. But that's not going to stop me from doing some things that I have planned. It may be hard for me to do some things now, but it may be even harder later. So I want to do what I can while I can.

My wife and I have plans that will take the next year to complete, at least. Things we intend to do to enter our next phase of life. God willing, I'll tell you all about them when the time comes. We're hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. We're not ignoring the elephant in our waiting room.

But as we all know, while we plan, God laughs. As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while we're making other plans." After the last year, nobody knows that better than me. And I've learned my lesson when it comes to listening to God rather than my own ideas. If he's leading me the way I think he is, the next year or so will be full of changes and opportunities.

Until then, I'm stuck in this waiting room anticipating my next test, and trying to ignore the elephants in the room. Like I did the last time I was in an actual waiting room, I'll "check in" every few days to let you all know where I'm at. The support that comes from that is vital in this waiting room. I just wish I could change the TV channel. #waroncancer


  1. It sounds like you are having a hard time accepting the fact that you have elephants - big and little - in your life. Fighting them will drain you of the mental energy you need to function in life. You might try accepting that you have a chronic condition like diabetes or MS and treat it as such. Don't forget that cancer is a word, not a sentence. May God be your guide on your journey.

    1. The Elephant In The Room is, by definition, a subject that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about. I can't let cancer become my whole focus, or worry about my next number consume me. So I try to ignore them and focus on more positive things. I'm not fighting them, just trying not to let them take over my life.