It's been awhile since I first heard the saying "pay it forward" but it resonated within me and has stayed ever since. The idea of doing something nice for someone and that niceness spreading to others could make for a much better world to live in. People are quick to tell others when someone has wronged them in some way. Yet, when someone does or says something nice it's not passed along quite so fast.
Last week as I sat in a waiting room mentally preparing myself for my annual mammogram, I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me. Anyone that knows me or read my blog about cancer last week knows I am a breast cancer survivor. Every year when I am waiting for my mammogram now I am a nervous wreck.
I'm nervous not just because I fear a recurrence, I also do not love the feeling when the machine does it's massive squeeze maneuver. So, I began a conversation with the woman, joking about how to prepare for a mammogram. I suggested we freeze metal bookends and then crush each boob between them as hard as we can. She giggled but I could see she too was nervous. She said she wasn't having a mammogram, she was having a needle biopsy for a small tumor she had found in her right breast.
Ironically it was 8 years to the day that I had had the same procedure. I began to tell her the story of my journey but I didn't go on and on about how awful the diagnosis/chemo/hair loss/radiation, etc was. So often when I first revealed that I had cancer people felt compelled to tell me about their friend that had just died. Thank you very much, now someone just shoot me I would think.
So, I went on to tell this woman all the positives that I could possibly share. I pointed out that I was sitting there with her; alive and well. I dwelled on the positives, I told her about something my surgeon said to me during my biopsy: "You almost certainly have a malignancy, but it's totally treatable and you're going to be around for a long, long time."
She was called into her procedure and gave me a terrified look as she said good-bye. I wished her luck and caught her name as she walked away. When I walked into my exam room I began to cry. For all that I'd been through and for this total stranger that I had just met. I cried for her fear because I knew EXACTLY what she was feeling. Before I left the office, I gave the nurse my phone number. I asked her to share it with the woman if she felt that she would like to talk more. I needed to give her more support and I didn't even know her.
A half an hour later my phone rang. It was my new friend Elena. She expressed her gratitude and appreciation for my number and said that she had prayed to see me before I left. She has called three times in the past week. Her tumor is malignant but very small. I have given her pep talks, talked to her about what to expect. But most of all, I have done what I can do to ease her fears as I wish someone had been there to do for me.
I am not looking for praise or strokes. I believe that we should all go out of our way in daily life to lend a hand to someone. To lend an ear, to give a compliment. Pay it forward. I promise it won't bite you in the ass.
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