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.

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