Patients and Patience

I found myself unable to finish my 31 days of Unexpected Blessings in October, but I’ve enjoyed writing about the blessings that came from caring for a child with cancer (even though no one would choose that journey) and so want to finish the series.

An unwanted, but invaluable lesson

An unwanted, but invaluable lesson

 

I’m a “plan it” kind of girl.  I drive my husband crazy (my words, not his) by waking up on a weekend and blurting, “What’s the plan for today?”  My theory, with life, has been that I need to have it planned, I need to coordinate and organize and know what’s next.  Surprises are great – when they’re super fun.  Otherwise, you can have them: I like to know what’s up.  I worried my way through high school because I did not know what I career I would pursue, nor who I might possibly marry.  I worried about having children – after all, everyone knows you can’t plan your kids, so what if I couldn’t handle whatever came with having children?

I’m sure my God has a sense of humor, because He gifted me with three children, all extremely different from each other and none of them like myself.  Every moment of being a mommy has been about me learning and growing (every mom reading this is smiling at this, right?  Well, you are if your child isn’t throwing a temper tantrum or drawing on the walls).

But having a child with cancer?  Have the treatment protocol last for three and a half years?  Going to chemotherapy daily, twice a week, weekly, monthly, etc for three and a half years?  Well.  Okay.  I actually could plan that.  I could make the appointments and keep them, and boy let me tell you I did.  We drove icy roads, I inserted needles into my son’s port, I ground up medicine and administered stuff I couldn’t touch in order to follow the treatment protocol to the letter and the minute.  That I could plan.

But a caregiver cannot plan sudden fevers that require hospitalization until the source is found.  An emergency check-in to a strange hospital (because you were on a trip) might mean that you’ll be there for a night, or it might mean that you’ll be there for several weeks (we experienced both).  A four-year-old telling you that he might need to go to the hospital sends your world into a tail-spin, because it turned out that he was always right – and it usually meant a long stay.  We learned that when the nurse told us “we could check out of the hospital now” actually meant that at some point today the process would be begun and if we were lucky, we’d be home that evening.  If not, maybe tomorrow, whenever all the overseeing medical teams reached agreement.  But at least our boy was better.  The check out process kept us waiting for hours on end, but then, so did getting medication from the pharmacy.  Lo and behold, pharmacies aren’t used to sending home the kind of poisonous arsenal given to our boy and it often took a string of follow-up phone calls and a fight (or two) with insurance agents and long lines at the pharmacy to get the meds.  Waiting for a blood transfusion, watching our boy get weaker and weaker while waiting, was excruciating.  The process of chemotherapy was a blood draw first, waiting for certain results before chemo injections, then waiting for more blood draw results.  Sometimes, chemotherapy took an entire 12 hour day with that cycle.

I could not plan beyond a moment.

I could not control anything of importance.

I could not organize enough.

I could not hurry any process, including that of healing my boy.

And, in that three and a half years of waiting, and in the five years after that, waiting to see if he would “hold his remission”.  I learned patience.

I learned to spend those extra hours waiting for checkout in games with my boy.  I learned to stay packed and ready for emergencies and to just take them as they came.  Worry didn’t prepare me any better for anything.  I learned to chat with the pharmacists while waiting for insurance agents and to talk with the people in line who had their own burdens to share.  I learned to read books while waiting and to catch naps while my son was under anesthesia (OK, who am I kidding, I never mastered actually sleeping, but I would lie down).  I learned to not focus on the blood results because I couldn’t do anything about them anyway, and instead cuddled on the bed and watched Dora the Explorer.  I learned that I couldn’t hurry sickness or disease, nor could I completely control health (no matter how careful with diet we were) and I learned that no amount of organization keeps your child from cancer.

I learned that the ONLY thing I could do, was CHOOSE every single moment, of every single hour, of every single day through those long years of treatment to let my son be in God’s hands.  I never quit doing my best, because that’s who I am.  But God is the One who controls whether or not my boy lives or dies, it’s God who will watch the blood counts and it’s His eternal plan (the one I don’t understand) that will dictate what happens.

Caring for my precious little patient taught me patience in an amazing way.  It’s not a lesson plan I would ever formulate (this is a teacher speaking), but it’s a focus change in my life that is so huge that I just had to share.

I learned that the ONLY thing I could do, was CHOOSE ,every single day through those long years of treatment, to let… Click To Tweet

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  • great post carol! i wish every patient could read this and learn how to wait patiently and pleasantly like you had to learn to do. it makes life for everyone nearby so much more pleasant…especially when so much of the waiting is out of the control of any one individual.

    i am a nurse and it often seemed that some patients’ families thought if they were unpleasant and miserable, that the waiting would be shorter! ugh! or if they blamed the wait on the nurses/staff and treated them miserably, that somehow that would make the time pass faster! double ugh!

    i never go to a doctor’s office without a book to read or a craft project. there are always things that happen that cause us to have to wait. like you, i get crabby if i don’t have something to keep my mind occupied while i wait:) it only makes sense.

    visiting with people while we wait also makes the time pass. i have had many interesting conversations in waiting rooms…especially with groups of people from different ethnic backgrounds. so interesting:)

    you have many great recommendations. of course the main one is putting the person you love into GOD’s hands…over and over!
    martha brady recently posted…THE GOOD SHEPHERD PREPARES A TABLE FOR ME…My Profile