Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unrestricted membership

The “club” has a very varied membership. Cancer patients don’t have to have any common characteristics, but we share a bond of common experience. It’s not based on the severity or longevity of the disease so much as the fact that we’re all dealing with life-threatening circumstances. All of us know that whatever we’re doing at any given moment, if the cancer makes a demand, we need to answer; cancer suddenly becomes our highest priority, the thing we’ll drop everything else to attend to.

In most cases, this knowledge confers the warmth of shared understanding. We become more compassionate with each other because we know we’re also understood.

Not long ago, I arrived at The Cancer Center for an appointment and headed for the ninth floor. Another woman, wearing a baseball cap with little underneath it, made it to the bank of elevators just before me. I saw her push the button just as a door closed and the car left the gate. We looked at each other.

“Just missed,” I mused.

“By a hair,” she smiled wryly.

“So to speak.”

It was a private, cancer moment, and from the look on her face, I knew we’d shared something much bigger than an elevator.

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