Thursday, October 25, 2012

Probably Shouldn't Slap a Woman Who's Being Treated for Cancer.....

I had another blog topic planned for tonight, complete with pictures, but something happened today that set me off to the point that I had to write about it tonight.

If you were shocked to read the title of my post, please rest assured that I am NOT talking about my mother-in-law. I apologize if that doesn't make the title any easier for you to stomach.

There is a woman whom we have seen several times at the radiation clinic. She is one of those people who speak so loudly (not to mention incessantly) that it doesn't take many trips to become well acquainted with all the details of her life. I know what kind of car (truck) she drives, what is wrong with it, why she went to see the folks at Just Brakes instead of the mechanic who calls himself "Dr. Vo" that she used to use, what kind of cell phone she has, where she bought it, what she does (and does not do) on a phone, and how she blocks things that she doesn't use and therefore doesn't want to pay for. I know the back way into the clinic that doesn't involve a left-hand turn on a busy 6-lane highway (I would be the first one to thank her for that one, but she wasn't even talking to me), I know she takes both chemotherapy and radiation, and I know that her appointment time is "when I get there."

Her name is Paula, her friend's name is Lou, and every time they are in the waiting room together, he thanks her again for telling him about the back way into the clinic. I think once (maybe twice) should have done it. Perhaps that's the only thing in the world (other than cancer) they have in common.

There are two tables in the waiting room with jigsaw puzzles on them. One of them is finished (I put the last pieces in myself one day last week, after I corrected some "misplaced" [read: hammered in even though they obviously didn't go there] pieces and determined that one piece was from a different puzzle entirely), and the other is in the beginning stages. Some people sit in front of the puzzles and work diligently on them; some ignore them.

Today Paula and Lou were in the coffee corner, discussing cell phone plans and car repairs, and an Hispanic woman (I think that's part of the underlying issue here, or I wouldn't mention it) came in with two absolutely ADORABLE children. They looked like twins, a boy and a girl, China-doll beautiful and perfectly silent. Those children didn't utter a sound. They appeared to be somewhere around three years old. Their mother was on the phone, and she was sitting in front of one of the puzzles.

I was engrossed in the stupid game I've been playing on my iPad, but I suddenly heard, "No, No, No, NO, NO!!!" Paula was pointing at the children, who had DARED (!!) touch some of the pieces of the unfinished puzzle. I think she frightened them into submission (or into next week), because it was quiet for a few minutes. Then I heard it again, when the children had wandered over to the other puzzle, the finished one, and began taking some of the pieces apart.

I thought Paula was going to come unglued. She got up, practically ran across the waiting room, and pounced on those children. She proceeded to fix the pieces they had moved, and apparently they had moved some pieces from one table to the other. Paula was clearly exasperated, sighing and stamping her feet as she "fixed" things.

Even Lou said to her, "Paula, don't worry about it."

I had to wonder if Paula's attitude toward those children had anything to do with the fact that they are Hispanic. There. I said it.

I realize Paula obviously has some challenges in her life, going through radiation AND chemotherapy, and I heard her mention an ex-husband, so it's possible she doesn't have the life support I have and I should give her a break. I just got the impression that she behaved this way even BEFORE she had cancer. I could be wrong, and I know I shouldn't vent about things without knowing the whole story.

But they were CHILDREN. Precious children. Beautiful children. In a radiation clinic, where NO ONE wants to be, and they have no idea what's going on or why they're there. I don't even know the relationship between the mother and whoever is receiving treatment (it could be her, I try not to figure those things out unless they are SHOUTED in my hearing).

I made eye contact with the mother and smiled, trying to convey in a single facial expression, "It's okay, we're not all like that, it doesn't matter that your children touched the puzzles, please don't be embarrassed." It's exhausting trying to get all that into one brief smile.

I will try to think nice thoughts about Paula while she goes through this terrible experience. I will attempt to chalk her behavior up to how difficult it must be to deal with cancer on a very personal level. I will make every attempt not to slap her in the event she behaves that way again.

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