Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Non Sibi Sed Omnibus

I was sitting in a waiting room today at MSK. It was time for one of my periodic follow-up CT scans that I'll be dealing with, keeping an eye out for any recurrence of the deadly cells that took my left kidney just about this time last year.

I've had several, and I'm familiar with the drill now. The waiting room is an unremarkable room filled with an unremarkable cross section of people that, like me, have had their lives touched by some sort of cancer.

People from all walks of life are found in Memorial Sloan Kettering waiting rooms. Older folks, young adults, men and women. You see many stoic faces, and others with eyes moist with uncertainty or just revealed bad news. The common denominator is the cancer itself, whatever form it takes.

I believe that there never has been a better time to have to deal with cancer. MSK is a leading cancer center with top doctors and we have had many breakthroughs and are on the cusp of new advanced treatments. With all that, though, it remains a frightening and deadly disease.

Today, the waiting room had something I hadn't seen before. A very young patient, probably three or four years old, in a stroller with his parents. The child was wearing a facemask and was bald. Radiation? Chemo? It didn't matter but the sight of the stricken child was startling and heartbreaking.

I eyed the parents. They didn't seem to be as visibly down as I'd have thought. Their stoicism was intriguing and impressive. The boy himself looked fairly okay, in spite of the effects of his treatments. I took another drink from the chemical contrast that would light up in my body if the radiation from my scan detected any malignant cells.

It felt very weird to not feel the familiar pity I'd felt all my life whenever I'd seen a child fighting cancer. It occurred to me that the little boy and I, both touched by cancer, were in the same boat. We were both getting the treatment we needed.  I might have felt a twinge of self pity, but it was only fleeting. I still had more of my chemical dye to finish drinking.

Fortunately for me, my scan came back negative. A full year clear and feeling good about it.

I hope things go well for that little kid.

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