The cushion of silence


Waiting ... more waiting.

The cushion of silence envelops all those waiting in this room marred only by the intrusion of names called, the sound of pens on paper filling out forms, a low buzz from the vending machines. There is solace in the quiet, and as I look around I wonder about all of those who are sharing this room, seeking refuge in months-old magazines and the steady ticking of time; the hushed whisper of communication barely audible. Ronnie is knee deep into a magazine. I check the date. February, 2010. No wonder it looks faded.

What brings the others to this room? My mind wanders. I spend my waiting time trying to guess. For some, there is no question. Others aren't so clear. An older gentleman and his wife. Without the tell-tale bracelet I would have never known which was the patient. They aren't smiling nor are they talking. Is it cancer? Or some other malady? They are called back, and I'll never know. An entire family surrounds a young woman in a wheelchair with a cast that encompasses the length of her leg. Another family enters and breaks the silence. The kids bounce about and there is a fit of coughing. Happily, there is a young mom-to-be with her husband by her side. They are smiling, about to embark on a journey of their own that brings back a flood of joyous memories. Their wait will end and begin with miracles.

The waiting room is difficult for me today. Time is almost standing still. I'm ready to be done with this part of my day and to go home to normal. The normal for my family that is normal to no others and yet so many others. My name is finally called, and I begin to focus on my own reason for being here. Simple enough. Ronnie squeezes my hand. He can sense my mood without sharing a syllable. This has become routine - another normal - in so many ways. We have a balance, and he somehow knows when talking will bring me to tears and silence will provide unspoken comfort. So, true to form, he sits by my side and offers what brings me that peace: a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold and the reassurance of knowing that he's beside me.

A stent replacement is no longer considered a battle. It's just a part of the journey. The list of what ifs that have forced me to sign on the bottom line barely make us blink. There is much more in the balance than what now seems like the improbable possibilities of a procedure like this. But for some reason I'm overly emotional. Will speaking my fears make them come true? Will whispering my hopes convince the world to share my optimism?

Somewhere, someday I'll discover why my mind doesn't always let me talk in a waiting room, even when I know that just writing the words or speaking them aloud won't change anything. Until then I will be thankful for that squeeze of the hand and be content with the quiet comfort of togetherness and the cushion of silence.

Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition.



Yes Suzanne Lindley. We wait with you and you wait with us. That was beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
- Posted by Jennifer Weir 1/17/12 5:21 PM

Many of us log hour after hour in various waiting rooms. I can't count the times that Mark and I have sat together, sometimes hopeful and waiting. Other times we have been fearful and waiting. I usually bring a book to read while Mark listens to music. I'm always grateful we have each other!
- Posted by Rachel Spague 1/17/12 5:24 PM

This is a wonderful article! I can relate with 30 yrs of waiting in the waiting room dealing with my renal cell carcinoma, and all of it's metastasis! Thank you so much!
- Posted by Christie Gage 1/17/12 6:16 PM

Well said. I've sat in the waiting room as a survivor of breast cancer. I've had my sweet husband smile at me trying to get me to smile back. I've sat in the waiting room with my sweet husband as we waited for news that his battle with pancreatic cancer could no longer be fought. I've made myself smile trying to get him to smile back. Under both scenarios, I've wanted to be anywhere but in a doctors waiting room.
- Posted by Deane Schwitzer 1/17/12 7:10 PM

I too have sat in countless waiting rooms with my Dad. The cancer center being one of them. I have wondered why
isn't there any kind of music played? You feel the doom just sitting there waiting. There ought to be up beat music playing, not news, something that may make someone smile or bring back a memory, or get their foot tapping. There definately needs to be some sort of distraction so people don't sit there nervously, thinking of what is going to happen that day or what kind of news they will be getting from the doctors. I think some sort of customer service should be looked into.
- Posted by Donna DuVal 1/18/12 8:16 AM

This is very beautiful, and the comfort that silence can sometimes be sounds attractive. During 5 years of sitting in waiting rooms in Britain with my partner, Sarah, we've both been continuously enraged by the inane daytime television most of them insist on having on. Sometimes we've had to go from a sequence of antiques and home decoration shows, straight into serious conversations with doctors about cancer, results and treatments. Disorientating and disrespectful.
- Posted by Ronnie Hughes 1/18/12 1:24 PM

Very well put. I can't begin to count the number of times as I sat in the waiting room for my turn to be called back for my chemo session, that I wished for nothing else but quiet time to reflect and most of all just to relax. I was blessed with parents who not knowing how I was feeling or dealing with what I was facing each time, would wait for me to start a conversation. I know it is within our nature to help another when times are tough, but silence is very golden.
- Posted by Paul Vogelzang 1/19/12 11:54 AM


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