Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. ~ Marianne Williamson
Mornings are my thing. I love the morning. I have only occasionally seen the sunrise since the time change, but it's calling to me. Soon I may be awaking before dawn again. It is my very favorite time because the world seems to be steeped in silence. Meditation just flows, and I feel such a deep sense of being.
I scheduled my annual mamogram for today and chose early morning, as I always do, to go for it. I was a little bit nervous because I'd had surgery last year and, well, if you're a woman, you know that mammogram machine can be brutal. I arrived on time, checked in and barely sat down, when a woman open the door and motioned for me to follow her.
I noticed immediately that she had a bandana tied around her neck. The paisley print coordinated nicely with her light purple scrubs. She turned toward me, placed her fingers over the scarf at her throat and said, "Take everything off from the waist up and put on the gown opened to the front."
Her speech was rough and difficult to understand, but I knew the drill. The moment I saw her hand move to her throat, I thought of the advertisement of the cancer survivor. You know, the woman getting ready for work, talking about the risks of throat cancer and urging people not to smoke. My next thought was completely judgmental. Why do people smoke when they know this could happen? What a horrible disease, etc.
I recognized in an instant, they were just thoughts. I didn't need them and detached; I wanted to be open to the moment. As she led me into the room where the machine was waiting, she again turned toward me, made eye contact and said, "I've have throat cancer and they had to remove my voice box. If you have any trouble understanding me, please let me know. Could I have your name and date of birth?"
Something touched me deeply as I responded to her request. After giving her my information, I told her I was glad the surgery went well. Her face softened and she was visibly relieved. She began to share her story. The cancer was discovered under her voice box last October. Following the surgery she took 2 1/2 months off and has been back at work for almost two months. She never smoked, but grew up around secondhand smoke. She was so matter-of-fact, not a trace of bitterness.
We talked about how lucky she was to be a survivor. She said she has been working at mammogram center for 27 years and the thought of not being able to come back to work was nearly unbearable. I told her she did a great job and to stay healthy. She gave me a bright smile, "See you next year!"
Although I have heard secondhand smoke is a cause of cancer, I'd never known anyone unlucky enough to have it. My favorite uncle died of throat cancer when I was a freshman in college. It was terribly sad, a very difficult experience and my first encounter with cancer. Since then what I notice for me is a prickliness, fear, anxiety and discomfort around "cancer."
What I felt today was the genuine warmth and authenticity of truly connecting with another human being. I may never see her again, and yet we connected. I was able to communicate with her, without negative emotions. Just two spirits being in presence. It was amazing.
I could have allowed my mind to go to an entirely different place. I could have shut her out, felt uncomfortable with her speech and her outward image of cancer. She could have spoken about all the horrors of having cancer.
What is it that allows us to recognize joy? Some days it is just there and I am so grateful.