Monday, February 13, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0081 - Cheney Laughs

Three days away from the cancer centre, away from treatment, away from that's a great long-weekend for me. To top it off, my sister-in-law came to visit our family. S is a retired nurse and former administrative assistant to the chief executive officer of an Ontario hospital. Part of her responsibilities there included patient liaison and handling of complaints. So it really hasn't been a stretch for her to advise me on the medical process and the interaction I've had with medical professionals throughout the course of diagnosis and this first round of treatment.

Most of all, though, what sets S apart is not her vocational knowledge and skills, but her interpersonal skills. She is a remarkable woman who makes you feel heard from the moment you answer the phone or she first asks you in person how things are going. She doesn't interrupt or offer advice unless the timing is appropriate and it is clear from the conversational flow that it makes sense. It was easy for my wife and I to chose S and her husband G to be godparents for our children.

True to my expectations for her visit with our family, S inquired about each person in the family individually, not with trite, polite questions, but with sincerity and true interest in the answers. She even went to see my youngest son's basketball game at the high school even though she knew in advance that he probably wouldn't get to leave the bench.

I was especially glad that she could visit my wife. M has been incredibly supportive throughout this ordeal, in fact, I really don't know how I could possibly hold up without her. But it is good for her to have her sister here, to talk about things other than cancer for a little while, to chat about things that neither I nor my two sons would probably share much interest.

But even after those conversations, S made sure she joined my youngest son and me to watch the final quarter of the basketball game between the Raptors and the Timberwolves. Then, even though it was growing late and she had already driven a 6-hour drive from Ottawa, she stayed up with us to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I think we all benefited by ending our day with The Daily Show. We knew it would be a dandy ahead of time. Sure enough, the first half was satire about Dick Cheney's mishap of shooting his 78-year-old friend in the face with his shotgun while aiming at quail. At one point, Jon Stewart looked up towards heaven and said, "Thank you Jesus!" We all laughed so hard, it hurt.

Good friends, good conversationalists, good laughs - is there a better way to battle cancer?

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