My name is Nick and I’ll be your server
It’s Saturday, 1 June, 2019. All I can remember doing is waiting. I don’t mean like, “Hi. My name is Nick and I’ll be your server” waiting. (Although I hated that when I did it.) I mean waiting, like, “God, I’m sick of waiting!” waiting. We all have to wait sometimes, don’t we? In fact we wait so much that we have specific terms for different kinds of waiting: Wait your turn. Wait a minute. Wait and see. Wait with bated breath. Wait for it… Wait ‘til your father gets home! And we tell each other to wait patiently. We even hurry up and wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
And it’s not always because of others. Sometimes we have to wait on ourselves. When I write in this blog, for example, I have to wait for the words to come. And after they do, I walk away and wait for a bit. Then I come back and re-read what I wrote, with a fresh eye, before I post it.
I’m easily amused
With all this waiting, you’d think we wouldn’t mind it so much. We all know it’s inevitable. We certainly expect others to do it. But we don’t like doing it ourselves. If you don’t know me well, I’ll tell you something basic about myself. I’m pretty patient. I don’t go nuts having to wait. I’m a curious soul and I’m easily amused. I often use the time to explore. Perhaps I look around the room at the artwork and wallpaper, or I walk around the neighborhood, spying new places I might want to visit another time. I occasionally listen to other people’s conversations, albeit discretely of course. After all, I spent decades working in military intelligence. So this I know how to do. And sometimes I just sit and let my mind rest. So for me, in general, having to wait is not the worst thing that can happen. Not in general.
But a new kind of waiting has recently entered my life. I now wait to get updates on my health. This is an excruciating wait. It’s a wait that’s hard to explain to those who haven’t done it.
It’s only been a few weeks since I got that disturbing call from my doctor telling me he suspected something was wrong. That call, that one simple call on a sunny Saturday afternoon, changed everything and introduced me to a wait like I’ve never known before. Several waits in fact. First, I waited to take more blood tests. Then I waited for the doctor to call with the results. Then, I had to wait to hear from the oncologist’s office for an appointment. And I had to wait to actually see the oncologist. That started still more waiting. I had to wait with some anxiety to have a bone marrow biopsy. That done, now I am waiting to have a PET scan. It should have been done this week but the office called the afternoon before the scheduled test to inform me that my health insurance company wanted more documentation before they would approve the referral. So I will have to wait another week. And with all of this waiting, I still have to wait until June 10th to see my oncologist, to learn her prognosis.
The worst wait so far
This wait, to see my oncologist, is the worst wait so far. When I saw her a couple of weeks ago she said I have SMM, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear but it certainly wasn’t the worst news I could have received. However, she explained that she needs to order additional tests to know for certain if it’s still SMM, or if it has become malignant and is already myeloma.
How can I explain what this wait is like? You know how you go to a restaurant on a Friday night and it’s really busy and you’re starving? There are a lot of people waiting ahead of you and you don’t know when you’ll be seated. You’re getting hangry and trying to think of another place you can go where you might be able to eat sooner. You know that wait, right? Well, it’s nothing like that.
Let me see… OK, so you know when you hear that klinky-klanky sound under the hood of your car so you drop it off at the shop on the way to work? The mechanic says he’ll give you a call after he looks it over and let you know what’s up. You get a ride to work and all morning all you can think about is what the mechanic is going to tell you. Is it a major problem that’s going to cost you thousands of dollars to repair? You desperately want the phone to ring because the longer it takes, the bigger that number gets in your head. You know that wait? Well, it’s not like that either.
Waiting for the light to turn green
I’ll tell you what it’s really like. Imagine you’re in your car stopped at a red light, impatiently waiting for it to turn green. You just want to get where you need to go. But this time you also don’t want it to turn green, because you know when it does you will have to proceed into the intersection, even though a car is going to run the light in the other direction and hit you. You know this for a fact. Like, it’s really going to happen. It’s not a question of IF it will hit you but how hard it will hit you. Will it just be a fender bender? Causing some annoying but tolerable body damage? Or will it plow into you like a train, totaling your vehicle and sending you to the hospital with life-threatening injuries? Wait. Just wait. It’s coming. You can hear your engine idling. You listen to the radio to distract yourself. NPR? No. Too boring. You want to die of natural causes. Classic rock? No. Too many memories. It’s like watching your life pass before your eyes. How about country? No! You haven’t died and gone to hell just yet. So you’re counting the seconds. You keep glancing over at the other light. It’s still green. But any second it’s going to turn yellow. And then it’s going to turn to red. And then…
Yes, that’s the wait. That’s been my life for the past three weeks. One more week to go. Come on light, turn green! Err, uh, no, don’t turn green. But it has to. And I will have to proceed into the intersection. Be patient Nick. And be strong. Brace yourself for a full on collision, but hope for a fender bender.