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Waiting patiently

In The Breast I Can Be: Finding Purpose in Breast Cancer

Jo Lee Ferguson

By Jo Lee Ferguson
Aug. 24, 2017 at 10:18 p.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2017 at 10:19 p.m.


Wait patiently.

I remember that my oldest son, Elijah, now 8, was about 3 or 4 years old when we had our first conversation about waiting patiently. He’s always been intelligent beyond his years, so when I said something rather stupid to a child that age, like wait patiently, he asked what that meant.

Hmmm.... I remember being stumped. I wasn’t sure how to explain that idea to him. After thinking about it, I told him it means to wait quietly. Whatever you’ve asked for or whatever you’re wanting to do - stand or sit here quietly, without asking over and over, until it happens or until you receive what you requested.

Over the years I’ve adjusted the definition of waiting patiently to waiting quietly and with a smile. It’s about action and attitude.

I’ve thought about that a lot lately.

Anyone – and I’m guessing that’s all of us – who has ever sat in a doctor’s office understands the frustration of waiting. Add in some extra appointments to deal with whatever medical issues we’re having and the frustration grows. Actually, we probably spend much of our life waiting …. Waiting for an oil change, waiting for an email response to a question to your child’s teacher, waiting for important phone calls, waiting for test results, even waiting on a child to do what he or she is told.

It occurred to me recently, though, as I sat waiting for a medical appointment, that there’s much more to the idea of waiting patiently. It is, as usual, about so much more than me. I thought about the times I’ve made a doctor linger in an appointment to answer my endless questions, to talk with me about any – possibly  irrational - fears I’ve had. Who is practicing waiting patiently because of me?

On the flipside, what’s happening that I can’t see, that’s made it necessary for me to wait? What’s going on with the other person or thing that for which I’m waiting? Is the doctor delivering bad news to the patient ahead of me? Is it taking longer than expected for me to receive my medications or treatments because the medical staff are taking care of sicker patients first, because they’re trying to help more patients than they can shake a stick at? Are my important phone calls not being returned as quickly as I want because someone else has an ACTUAL emergency? Are the things or people for which I’m waiting actually doing this to me on purpose, out of meanness or neglect? I don’t believe so.

As I thought about those possibilities, I realized the act of waiting patiently, quietly and with a smile, is really an act of love for other people. It’s also an act of trust, in people and in God, which is a really difficult thing these days. It’s about training ourselves to slow down and put others before ourselves, before things that might be a priority to us, but that perhaps aren’t THE priority for everyone in that moment.

I was just talking about this idea, of waiting patiently, to a friend who came to see me Thursday during chemotherapy at Good Shepherd’s Infusion Therapy Center. Not too long after my friend left, I had a scary reaction to the drugs, one I didn’t have during my first treatment. My heart was racing and pounding so hard it hurt. My head was aching, and I was struggling to breathe deeply. My face, neck and chest were flushed and hot.

When I realized something was going wrong I asked my mom to get the nurse.  The nurse, Jennifer Taylor, responded quickly. She was joined by another staff member, Shirley Smith, and another nurse, Diane Teegardin. I was already nearing panic, though, when the phrase “wait patiently” passed quickly through my mind. I began to focus on breathing while they worked quickly and professionally, with kindness, to address the situation. Teegardin had previously had a similar experience during treatment herself and was able to assure me it would be OK. The episode ended quickly, and Taylor waited patiently with me when I asked her to hang around to make sure everything would be OK when she restarted the chemotherapy. Now, I see a new, useful application of the idea of waiting patiently: Don’t panic, because there was nothing I could do then except trust and wait, with a good attitude.

So, I have four treatments left, and months of other treatments after that, and I’m sure, lots of opportunities to practice waiting patiently, quietly and with a smile.

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