Sitting beside her in the waiting room I think I was more nervous than she. I felt honoured to be there but under no illusions as to the extent of my responsibility. That morning, we needed to remind ourselves and each other that it would be all-right. She repeated it like a mantra 'It will be fine'. And it was. Better than fine, in fact. But even if it wasn't all-good, it would be fine.
We are not, I think, ever sent more than we can manage. Somehow, the cliche is a truthful one - what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and we are growing each and every day. In order to grow, we need to be fed, and that was what dawned on me sitting there, in the room with pink decor.
"You get sick of them after awhile" she said, referring to the lipstick hue walls. I was feeling nauseous, but it had nothing to do with my surroundings and everything to do with anxiety. I really wanted to hear good news, but was confronted with the reality that I had no control whatsoever over what the consultation might comprise.
I quickly became aware of what was going on. Human beings are inclined to share with each other. We do this instinctively. Good stuff, or bad, we open our mouths and seek comfort from those around us, familiar or complete stranger. We find ourselves disclosing information to those we encounter in stressful situations. Movies have been made on this basis. This wasn't a motion picture, but what I observed will stay with me for some time to come.
The set was unassuming. Chairs arranged in a square around a low level coffee table covered in magazines. Noticeably, they were the most recent issue. People waiting to hear unwanted diagnoses need reading material they might actually want to read. There was a wall covered in literature about treatment options and support services. It was tidy, well maintained and looked inviting. Serious illnesses merit seriously good information. The staff were bright eyed and bushy tailed, even at 9 o'clock.
The NHS are to be commended for the thoughtfulness of the environment which was as comfortable as one imagines such a place could be. What struck me above everything was the importance, or priority of thoughtfulness, or mindfulness of speech. Hearing one woman's struggle to come to terms with her diagnosis, and the concerns (or rather complaints) she had about each and every aspect of her treatment, I felt two things - enormous compassion and frustration in equal measure. Sharing one's woes is beneficial, but probably only for the person cathartic-ing. For someone attending their first appointment at the clinic, learning of someone else's terror might not offer much to alleviate the oncology department virgin's anguish. If you haven't got anything nice to say...
I am interested in the power of our self-talk. The degree to which what we tell ourselves affects our sense of the world, and how we feel about it. I am not suggesting the power to determine anything, but we surely have choices as to how we experience what may or may not be inevitable.