The Blonde in the Waiting Room

The Blonde in the Waiting Room
A young woman weeped. Pretty blond hair swung in front of her face, but it didn’t hide her angst. From where I sat, I could feel the panic running though her body. It cut through the room like a chilly, wet breeze and crept into my lungs. Her cellphone was pressed to her ear. “I’m going to get a parking ticket,” she said in a breathless voice. “I thought I’d only be here an hour.” Two small children shared the chair next to her, oblivious to their mom’s distress. Three other women sat across from them, and I was in a corner seat. We were wrapped in thin, blue robes, just like the blonde. I glanced at my book, but it was hard to concentrate, so I took in the scene unfolding across from me instead. “They found something,” the lady whispered into her phone. She was obviously trying to keep her voice down, but it came out sounding terrified and aggressive. “Can you come and get the kids? I don’t know how long this is going to take. And we can’t afford a parking ticket.” I guessed that she was talking to her husband, that she was trying to communicate how scared she was without alarming their children. But the tension she radiated was infectious, and I have no doubt that her anxiety came through to him clearly. Her panic reminded me of when I received my own diagnosis, even though my experience was very different from hers. I was at a rural hospital, where I had the waiting room to myself. A single tech did all the work, and there wasn’t a parking meter for miles around. My husband had found a lump in my right breast, as hard and defined as an almond, just below the surface of my skin. During my mammogram, the tech told me she knew where I could get cheap chemo. "I must have cancer," I thought. The revelation came to me like a
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