We overslept…every one of us. Consequently there was much rushing around, random barking of orders, whining of children (because no one likes to be barked at), and a mad dash out the door, backpacks and lunch bags dragging haphazardly behind.
On the way out the door I happened to glance down at my bare toes…my disgusting, chipped-polished, neglected, bare toes. I sighed in complete frustration. “How do those moms do it…the ones with hair and make-up in place, manis and pedis freshly done, children fashionably dressed and coiffed, and arriving everywhere in time?” (As if those moms exist outside my imagination, right? Someone, please tell me I’m right.) I threw some nail polish in my all-purpose purse and headed out the door.
An hour-and-a-half later, both kids had made it to the right school with the proper backpacks and lunches. Milk had been purchased and dropped off in the fridge at home. And I had managed to apply a fresh coat of toenail polish in the parking lot of my first appointment (after I parked). Whew! I had made it!
I glanced around the waiting room for a seat and pulled out my phone, thankful for a few minutes of calm to check my e-mail and Facebook before my name was called.
“You can sit here,” a sweet voice caught me off guard. There were plenty of available seats, so the offer took me by surprise. I smiled, thanked her, and, trying to follow social protocol, took the next seat over.
“Are you here for treatment?” came the sweet voice again. That was the first moment I had truly thought about where I was. Of course I knew where I was…my oncologist’s office. The appointment had been on my calendar for months.
I smiled at her. “I had treatment a year and a half ago. I’m here for a follow up.”
“Good for you!” she gushed. I looked up at a tired, ashen, 80-something face, and that’s when I first noticed it…the smile. That weak and weary, yet determined, I’m-going-to-get-through-this-and-be-a-survivor smile. If you’ve had cancer, or known someone who has, you (hopefully) know that smile.
My beautiful, new friend, Sarah, told me about the mass in her side. Doctors had removed part of her kidney and her adrenal glands. Her husband had lung cancer. He was on oxygen now, “but he’s doing good.” Her cancer had returned and she was undergoing radiation treatments. If her radiation doesn’t work this time, “it’s just up to God” she said. “He’s big enough. He can do anything.”
Sarah and her husband had to sell their home and move into something smaller and more manageable. She was never able to have children, but her step-daughter drove her an hour one-way for treatments. They were “holding onto God because He always comes through.”
This woman had a laundry list a mile long of things she could be griping about (the least of which was toenail polish!), and yet she chose to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and bring a little encouragement.
Only a year and a half ago, I had been just like Sarah…waiting for another round of radiation in my sweatpants and T-shirt. I was tired. I was weak. I was working hard to get through my days.
When I completed my treatments, a fellow-survivor told me “This gives you a whole new perspective. You’ll never sweat the small stuff again.” It’s true…cancer changes you like nothing else will. But my friend had no way of knowing how deep my Type-A Personality runs. Not even two years out, and I’m already “sweatin’ the small stuff.”
The all-too-familiar voice came over the loud-speaker, “Sarah Brown to the treatment room.” Sarah leaned over and gave me a hug. “Congratulations,” she said, “and take care.”
As Sarah shuttled off to the back for treatment, I realized she had taught me two invaluable lessons:
1. Focus on the positive. An old song puts it this way: “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Philippians 4:8 says to “think on these things: whatever is…lovely, admirable…excellent, praiseworthy…” Sarah could have easily grumbled about her own health, her husband’s health, or any other trial she had faced in her long life. Instead, she celebrated with me in a victory that had faded for me among the busyness of daily schedules and routines.
2. Take the time to show a little kindness and give a little encouragement. If Sarah hadn’t gone out of her way to offer a seat and strike up a conversation, I would have been content to keep my nose glued to my phone. I would have missed the opportunity to meet a warrior named Sarah who turned my whole day around.
What if we each took time today to focus on, and thank God for, our many blessings? What if we found someone to be a Sarah to? And what if it’s just what they need today?
Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.