Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reflections from the Waiting Room

Waiting. That's something that I have done a lot of in recent years. You have to get used to waiting when you have cancer. It's just part of the experience.

Today is a good example. Because of the closure of the Gardner Expressway due to sheets of ice, some the size of doors, flying off of the CN Tower onto the freeway (sounds too bizarre to be true, doesn't it?), it took my wife and I took almost twice as long to travel the 45 minutes trip to my weekly transplant clinic appointment in downtown Toronto. Thousands of commuters clogged the secondary streets, looking for alternative routes to work. And so we waited and waited and waited as we slowly snaked our way through streets that were never intended for such a volume of traffic.

We arrived at the hospital at 9:00 am. Time to get my blood tests taken. I sign my name on a list and wait. Only ten minutes this time. Not bad. Last week, it took fifty minutes for the same three minute procedure.

I proceed to the clinic, register that I am there and find a seat in the waiting room. Never has a room been more appropriately named.

It is about ¾ full. Pretty normal volume for a Tuesday. I recognize a few of the faces, especially of those who had there stem cell transplant at about the same time as I did. We are a patient lot. Maybe that is why they call us cancer "patients"?

It's 9:15. I don't expect to see the doctor until after 11:00, even though my appointment is for 10:00. We have to wait for the results of my blood work and the lab never seems to be in a hurry. Then after my appointment, I typically have to wait another hour or so until we receive the chemistry results from my blood. The doctors want to be sure that I haven't contracted another ordinarily harmless virus that wouldn't harm the average Joe but that could prove disastrous for someone who is immunosuppressed like me.

And so I wait. Every Tuesday. For hours. In hopes that nothing happens. Weird, eh?
I listen to my iPod which my kids gave me for my birthday. I write blogs like this one. I try to read. But for some reason, I haven't found this place to be a great place to read. I have no idea why.

But usually, I just sit, my mind numbed by the sheer mundanity of it all.

I look around at the others in the room. A menagerie from the wide spectrum that makes up the population of this part of Canada (which is one of the reasons why I love living here). Rich, poor, black, oriental, south Asian, Caucasian, male, female. All are equal here. I see one man reading "The God Delusion." A few have their noses buried in the morning newspaper. My wife is working on a crossword puzzle. Three are hooked up to intravenous drips, probably getting a potassium infusion. A couple of others are nodding off in their chairs. Most, however, are like me; just sitting here, occasionally chatting with the person next to them but usually just patiently waiting with barely a flicker of emotion touching their stony faces.

But this is not a place of despair. These are people who have been given a second chance. Week by week, I can see improvements in many of them. Like me, they have lost that gaunt look that we had when we left the hospital. We've put on a few kilograms. We are gradually re-entering the land of the living, some more slowly and tentatively than others. Few are back at work like I am. When I underwent my transplant, I was told not to expect to go to work for six months or more. It's only been seven weeks since I came home and I've already been back to work for four days a week for three of them (and if I didn't have this clinic appointment each week, it would probably be five days). Some respect me for this. Others think that I am crazy. I see it as God's work of grace in giving me my heart's desire. How many people do you know who have been blessed with the privilege of doing what they absolutely love to do?

10:00. The receptionist calls my name. Wow! On time. Now to Room 1 to wait for the doctor.

10:20. The doctor arrives. The blood tests look fine. We decide to drop one of my medications that may be bringing down my platelet count. Now back to the waiting room to wait for the chemistry results before we can head home. We're ahead of schedule today. We might actually get home before 1:00! I won't hold my breath though.

I decide to try to read. I have brought along David J. Hesselgrave's latest book, "Paradigms in Conflicts: 10 Key Questions in Missions Today." I've only perused it to this point.

11:05. I hear my name called again. My appointment has been set for next week. I am done. Flee before they change their mind and want to run another test!

Amazing! Ironic! The one week that I decide to write about waiting is the week that I wait the least. The only thing that I have to wait for now is for my wife to go and get the car. I still don't have the strength to walk to the parking garage down the road from the hospital.

The Scripture says in Isaiah 40:31 that those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. It seems to me that waiting is a learned skill. Perhaps that is why God refuses to limit Himself to our agendas, schedules and expectations. Perhaps that is why He keeps us waiting for Him. He knows that as we allow Him to work in our lives, we will be restored and brought back to health.

Just like my waiting at the transplant clinic every Tuesday. I may not like it the wait every week. But it is a necessary part of my healing.

And so I wait.

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