It started with a song…. it generally does you see. Last Thursday evening I had another appointment with my oncologist, “Across the Universe” an old song by the Beatles was playing softly in the background as I signed in and looked around the waiting room to see if there was anyone there that I knew. My doctor is a Beatles fanatic, so I’ve heard every song a thousand times it seems, as I’m a long timer at this office. I’ve seen so many people come and go the past 6 years. Some leave for the best of all reasons, they’ve beaten the disease and have no need to be here anymore. And others have lost, never to return, but remain in my memory as treasures. I try not to get close anymore, having lost too many friends in the recent past. Two funerals started the last week off on a sad note. They seem to come in multiples anymore which doesn’t make it easy to keep my spirits up. However, I was fortunate enough to have some new company while waiting to be called into the inner sanctum. There was a young man waiting patiently off to the side as I took a seat. He was new to me, but didn’t seem upset or scared as people generally are in these offices… people like me. I briefly wondered what his story was, as I got out my phone to check emails and messages hoping that no one would need anything at the moment.
The week had been a draining one so far, and I was happy that the next day was Friday, the end of a very disconcerting week. My last full week at my job, only one more day of work and then I would be transitioned to home. Jobless, without benefits which meant this could possibly be my last appointment for a long time. I’ve been trying to see the good in all of this. And, I try not to think of the implications all of this entails. Lost in thought, scribbling notes to myself as I scrolled through my emails…
I never noticed that the young man had moved closer, to where I was seated and nearly jumped out of my skin when he quietly said “boo”! He started to laugh as I turned a lovely shade of crimson which only made my nervousness worse. It felt like an eternity as I looked directly at him trying to find my voice to respond to his greeting, and it was then that I noticed that he was in a wheelchair. Finally finding my voice, I held out my hand and said “Hi, I’m Annie”. I was rewarded with the most beautiful smile, I could just feel the joy oozing from him. “Jeff” he responded giving me that beautiful smile again as we shook hands and suddenly I felt at peace. I looked at his chair and said “nice wheels”. He grinned again and said, “Yea only the best for me”, as he maneuvered around showing off his wheeling skills. Not knowing what to say or do next I fell silent again and hoped the nurse would call my name. Jeff wasn’t so shy, he just came right out and asked, “What brings you here?” And we began to trade our stories.
Jeff was here for an annual check up, having beaten his nemesis leukemia among other things. He was 27 years old. At 17, he was in a bad car accident which left him wheelchair bound as a paraplegic. He rehabilitated himself, and by age 20 he went off to college to finish studying to be a teacher. Fate wasn’t finished with him just yet, he was diagnosed with leukemia 2 months shy of his 21st birthday, and took on his battle like a prize fighter. He finished his studies while undergoing treatment, graduated with honors, and finally 3 years later was home free from the effects of disease, and ready to live his life or so he thought. It was during this happy time that he suffered another accident. He was struck while crossing the street in front of his home, in his wheelchair, by a driver and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I sat there stunned, riveted by this exuberant young man, telling me his story. There are no words to describe what I was feeling, just suffice it to say I had been given a glimpse of heaven that evening. The nurse came out and called his name shortly after he finished the telling of his story. I wished him good luck. And he turned and smiled again saying “nothing’s going to change my world”.
I sat there waiting alone again, but at peace singing the words to that Beatles song in my mind. “Jai guru deva… om. Nothing’s gonna change my world…” I sent good thoughts out to the cancer gods in the hope that nothing would change his world, as it seemed fate had done enough of that already.
Sitting there, I couldn’t help but wonder how someone so young, having faced all of these life altering difficulties, could be so full of life and love. I really had been given a gift and a nudge in the right direction. No more worrying, at least not at that moment as there would be time enough for that in the coming days, weeks, months… who knew. I went back to my scribbles and list making and it wasn’t long before he came back out… my turn next. Grinning from ear to ear, he let out a whoop of joy when he propelled himself around the waiting room. He’d received wonderful news, the best really. His remission was solid, for all intents and purposes he was technically “cured”. He wouldn’t need to come back here for another 5 years barring any unforeseen circumstances. Selfishly, I felt a bit sad that I wouldn’t be seeing him around, his joyfulness was so infectious! However, I couldn’t help but be happy for him and hopeful for myself as well. Anything could happen! I had proof of that wheeling around in front of me.
So today is my first day off. No job to get to, no reason to get dressed, get up, get moving. Free falling into the abyss of nothingness. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad, upset, angry… scared. I am all of these things and more. But I can’t help smiling when I think of this man and how he’s adapted his adversities into a world of good. “Jai guru deva, om. Nothing’s gonna change my world.”
For now I leave you with this video of Across the Universe by the Beatles. I hope you enjoy it!
The Beatles – Across The Universe
It started with a song…
.. and ended with a smile!
Jai guru deva om 🙂