Gratitude. It’s a hot topic with happiness “professionals” these days. So hot that Gratitude training was one of the free evening sessions offered during the mother-daughter Canyon Ranch get-a-way that was my daughter’s graduation gift (to myself.)
“I’m pretty sure this is all bullshit,” I told my daughter, “but we’re here, let’s go.”
She was game, but she does a lot of yoga and meditates, so no surprise there.
At the session, we learned 10 Gratitude techniques. If practiced regularly, the science says, gratitude can make you happier—at least that’s the basic idea.
“Interesting,” I thought as I left the room. I saved the handouts for a few days. And then I lost them.
I didn’t give Gratitude (as a therapy) a thought until the other day, when I used it to get me through my oncology appointment last Friday afternoon.
I arrived at my 2:30 PM appointment 15 minutes early. I had some bizarre hope that if I got there a bit early, I would be done early, and I’d beat the traffic home. I had a busy evening ahead—I needed to get to the pre-wedding festivities for one of my closest friend’s daughter- a lovely young woman I have known since she was best friends with my own daughter in first grade. I didn’t want to miss a second of it.
But when I walked into the hospital, the receptionist greeted me, put a band around my wrist so I didn’t forget who I am or when my birthday is, and gave me a locator badge in case I wandered (you would think I was visiting the Alzheimer’s floor, not oncology.)
Then she said, quite matter-of-factly, “I just want you to know, the doctor is running at least 2 hours late.”
“Ah…how long did you say?”
“At least 2 hours…”
“…and you don’t call people to tell people that?”
“No, I’m so sorry, we don’t. We just changed to a new computer system and everyone is getting used to it and it requires the doctor to spend more time with each patient.”
“But I have a wedding tonight!” I exaggerated a bit there, forgive me.
“I’m so sorry,” she told me. Maybe if you tell the technician, she can help you out.”
“OK then…” I was well aware of the fact that this was the one place I could not use the C-card.
I swear to god, any other time of my life, I would have walked out. Good bye, see ya, sayonara. I’ve walked out on plenty of late doctors (and dentists) before, indignant as I made a big point of leaving, saying something like “please let the doctor know that MY time is equally as important as HER time.”
But this time, things were different. This time, the doctor’s time WAS more important than my time. There was no question. My time was completely unimportant. I needed him. I needed him desperately. I would wait. I would wait for as long as it took.
And as I took my seat in the waiting room, I think this was really the first time I was really, really sad about my cancer.
I sat in corner where no one would bother me or see the tears welling in my eyes, gazing at the sunshine outside where I could not be, and it all hit home. I didn’t want to be the person in the waiting room on the 9th floor of the Yawkey Center waiting to have my cancer checked.
I was not pissed off, I was sad, sad for myself. And I hope that is not the same thing as feeling sorry for myself, because I promised myself not to do that.
I was called in, just to have my vitals taken.
“My appointment will only take 5 minutes,” I told the technician. “The doctor just needs to do a quick baseline measurement of my tumor. I promise, if he can sneak me in to take the measurements, I won’t ask him any questions.”
I had, of course, brought a long list of questions I wanted to ask. But I figured email would work just fine (though one of my questions was, “Can I email you my questions?”)
And so I sat and waited, and to pass the time, I started a little Gratitude session:
I was grateful to have a doctor who cared so much that he called me the Monday of Memorial Day Day weekend at 11PM so I could start on my Tamoxifen before I went away.
I was grateful to be waiting for one of the best doctors at one of the best hospitals in the world.
I was grateful that I had my laptop with me.
I was grateful that I brought my phone charger.
I was grateful there was a wall plug right next to me.
I was grateful I brought my reading glasses. Until I realized those cheap Costco ones broke in my bag. Then I was grateful that I brought along a spare pair of cheapo reading glasses.
I was grateful to be able to work while I waited.
“Ronna B?” the nurse called, after only an hour and half, “the doctor is catching up. It will just be a few more minutes.” I was put in a room.
And then I waited another half hour, and continued being grateful…
I was grateful that the doctor was not going to be MORE than two hours late.
I was grateful that I did not gain weight since I started the hormone therapy.
I was grateful that they offered snacks, even if they were ridiculous ones, like Oreos.
And when the doctor finally came in and apologized, and he was the kindest, most thoughtful, fabulous, empathetic caring doc you can ever imagine, everything was forgotten. It wasn’t his fault. They were changing computer systems.
I asked all my questions, and he answered them patiently. I was supremely grateful that he told me that for now, I could continue my plan of hormone therapy and surgery in the fall.
In the end, I made it to the pre-wedding festivities, pretty much on time, and I was grateful for that.
And I was certainly grateful that I was able to get most of this piece written on the 9th floor of the Yawkey Center while waiting for my oncology appointment on a beautiful Friday afternoon, when I was feeling pretty sad.