Cancer can be the ultimate waiting room. We wait for a diagnosis and then to learn more about our diagnosis. We wait for test results. Then we are in the ultimate waiting room after treatment, waiting to find out if our cancer will return and if we will ultimately survive our cancer. We wait for years wondering if we are safe, if we have beaten cancer.
The woman sat across from me, emotionally lost, either as a result of a broken romance, life changes from a serious illness, or maybe a demanding employer. In my time, I’ve seen a lot. Even though my shinning armor had rusted, I reached back into my days of dreamlike knighthood and reached out.
“Huh? I’m sorry?”
“I asked if you were ok? You seem concerned.”
“Oh,” collecting herself. “My bossed called. Asked if my cancer treatment would impact my brain and thought process.”
“God,” I said horrifyingly. “I am so sorry.”
“I am only on my second treatment. I have breast cancer, not brain cancer. I never experienced anything like this before. Have you?”
“Ah,” chuckling nervously. “Ah,” pausing again, “Three weeks ago, a supervisor called the sister of a deceased employee three hours after the funeral and demanded when she would ship the company laptop to Information Technology.”
“Oh my God,” raising her palm to her lips. “That’s awful.”
“Yup,” with a pause. “When HR heard, HR sent an email to all managers to never, ever do that again, that any communications with a deceased employee’s family comes from HR.” Rolling my eyes, “Imagine, someone had to tell them this.”
“Sheesh,” shaking her head in disbelief.
“Yeah, idiots are out there. Unfortunately, some are in management. When I was in consulting, I witnessed a CEO ghost-pepper mad that the company hadn’t fired an employee prior to receiving a liver transplant, ‘…it was going to affect our health-care plan,’ he stated.”
She chuckled, “What kind of consulting was this?”
She roared in laughter. “Yet, here you are.”
“Irony of ironies.” shrugging.
I handed a business card and requested that should she ever need someone, to either write an email or call. She smiled, slipped the business card and mouthed the words ‘thank you.’ In the days following, she has not contacted me.
Contrary to the public perception, the statement “first, do no harm” it isn’t a part of the Hippocratic Oath at all. “First, do no harm” is from “Of the Epidemics.” I’ve met many a ‘professional,’ both in and out of healthcare. Let me say this, helping the sick is ‘optional.’
For all on the road to kingdom come, it’s up to us to take care of the sick, the disabled or those in pain. If we see someone struggling with a heavy load or difficult task, we step in and share their burden – share the pain.