Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The second word

The second word is Fascinating.
Every now and then, you have an experience that takes you out of your ordinary life and gives you a ringside seat to a world you don’t know anything about. I experienced that a few years ago when I served on a grand jury for several months and got to see the world of criminal justice up close. 
This has been a similar experience—there’s a whole world of people and life and experiences there on the corner of Holcombe and Bertner that I never even knew about before. 
There are two aspects of this world that are fascinating: the technology and the people. 
Obviously, I can’t share pics of the people but here’s a photo of the machine that I visit every day. In case you didn’t know either, here’s how it works: I have marks all over my torso—red, blue, green, a bullseye, an “x” (to mark the spot) and other lines—drawn with Sharpie and covered with clear tape. 
When I lie down on the table, green laser-type lights coming from above and to the side have to be lined up perfectly with the marks. Then all the techs leave the room and give me instructions over the speaker to take a deep breath and hold it (that moves my heart out of the way) while the machine moves around my body and makes a buzzing sound. We do that a few times and then I’m done. Fascinating, huh?
(My grandmother underwent radiation treatments for childhood cancer around 1930 and then lived to be almost 80. I would love to compare notes with her.)
The most fascinating part, though, is meeting the people who sit in that tiny waiting room. The intimacy reminds me of what it feels like to sit around a campfire where stories are told and deep connections are made. I don’t know anyone’s name but their stories are with me for life and I find myself rooting for them like crazy and carrying their struggle with me when I leave. 
There are women in this room every morning from all over the country and all over the world. One of my favorite mental images is of a woman from Qatar, completely covered in black, holding hands with a liberal Israeli woman, talking quietly about their lives. That is a holy moment. 
Another memory is of a woman a little older than me plopping down in an empty chair and announcing, “Today is my birthday. I was supposed to be dead by now. But I came here and they just told me that the treatment is working.” Even though we were all complete strangers, there was genuine celebration and joy in our midst. 
This has been a fascinating experience because every day it requires me to move outside my comfort zone and enter a world where I am a vulnerable participant and a learner, not an observer or an expert. The learning is rich—about myself, about medicine, about people, about faith. And I get to share this experience with others who are also vulnerable participants and learners.
It requires me to trust, to listen, to be curious, to lie still and (literally and emotionally) put myself in the hands of others. I'm not very good at any of those things but I've had lots of practice lately and I'm getting better.

So, if you were wondering, “How’s it going?” the second word is “Fascinating.”

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