Friday, July 30, 2004
Windows of the Soul
The oncologist’s office always has an impact me. There is such a range of experiences and emotions for everyone there. The patients in the waiting room tell a story with their eyes. Is it fear? Sadness? Worry? Pain? Hope? I wish I knew their stories.

There was a woman there with her two children. One was a toddler and the other was probably around 6. She was giving him instructions to sit nicely and wait patiently while Mommy went in to talk to the doctor. She would bring the baby because he was too small to leave in the waiting room, but she knew he could be a good boy and wait for her. He couldn’t come in because the doctor needed to tell Mommy something. You could see the worry and nervousness. Was it her? The baby? The older son? Why? Just then I said a prayer for her and for her fragile little family.

The chemo room reminded me of the television room at a fire station: a line up of recliners and a nice television set. Of course this room was a little more sterile and had an assortment of medical supply carts and IV stands and pumps. There were plenty of cheery little stuffed animals and craft items decorating the room and a selection of magazines, books, and videos. Most striking were the eyes of the patients and their family members.

One woman across the room had a look of quiet desperation mixed with pain. “Would this work and is it worth it?” she seemed to say. He daughter lovingly massaged her feet and hands while the woman peacefully dozed off. The daughter's eyes told a different story. Or was it the same?

The woman next to me had enough energy and a smile to light the room. She was in Las Vegas feeling great when suddenly she became very bloated. When they finally diagnosed her she was stage 4 ovarian cancer. She’s been in treatment since last October. She said she wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with her if the doctor didn’t keep telling her.

The man down the way kept talking to people about his involvement with his Catholic church. It seemed be the thing in his life which made him most proud. When someone would talk to him or tell him he looked familiar, he would say it must be from church. It was obvious his faith put that smile on his face and gave him the strength he needs right now.

Another woman came in after obviously crying all the way to the office. She went into a private room to lay down and get her treatment. Another woman was so afraid to make eye contact with anyone. You could see the fear over her face. She didn’t want to look at us or be seen with us because then she might be looking at herself – she’d be one of us. I know that look. I had that look my first visit to the office.

We also celebrated a graduation today. One woman with a beautiful smile, bright eyes, and a gorgeous red hat (that you can’t even attempt to wear without some attitude!) had her last treatment today. It was capped off with a photo of her proudly wearing a graduation cap and holding a diploma. If her smile could heal, we could have all left early.

“What do you have?” would start the conversation in adjoining chairs. It would be followed by stories of diagnosis, treatment, side effects, and helpful tips. It was comforting to see such solidarity. As much as our journeys are separate and distinct, we weren’t there alone. No one walks this journey alone.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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