Power of Presence

— Categories: Ependymoma Community     Posted on November 30, 2023

Ependymoma Community Blogger Adam Holland shares his perspective on the power of presence and the impact it had on him during his treatment and survivorship of ependymoma. Throughout his entire journey, various medical professionals and allied healthcare workers, strangers in the waiting room, friends, family, and more have come alongside him in a meaningful way. Adam shares "The reality of the entire cancer process is that we cannot do it alone, we need others more than ever in our lives." Read more about the powerful ways connection has shaped his experience and changed his perspective.

It’s no secret that hospitals, waiting rooms, and doctor offices are some of the loneliest places in our world. They’re cold and sterile and that’s good to stop the germs, but there is a cold loneliness that is also found there, deep down in our soul. You may recall those experiences or are even experiencing them right now. To an extent, there is a loneliness of heart in this journey with cancer. 

I recall my first day of radiation; walking to the radiologists office, sitting in the waiting room silently alone while another patient received their radiation treatment, and then it was my turn. There was a deep hesitation as I sat there, not sure what to expect or if I would even make it through the day. My name was called and I laid down on the table while the technician secured my face mask to the table, and then left the room to administer the radiation. As the machine started to whirr and click, I lay there wondering how I got here; on this table with brain cancer. To an extent, how did I get to this place with cancer and this moment, all alone. I admit that a few tears rolled down my face onto the mask.

The reality of the entire cancer process is that we cannot do it  alone, we need others more than ever in our lives. 

Our journey through cancer can be extraordinarily lonely, but when people come alongside us, they carry some of that burden for us, whether physical such as providing meals, cleaning our house, taking us to a doctor appointment or waiting for us while we undergo chemo or radiation. Even larger is the emotional burden they help carry, allowing us to talk, or even a hand to hold, a hug to embrace, and a tissue to dry our eyes. There is the power of presence.

I was amazed at how many people in those doctors offices care so much about the patients going in and out, and even those waiting for their own treatment or check-up are there for you. To an extent, the doctors, nurses, and support staff are there to do a job, and patients come and go throughout their careers, but many of them also have such emotions and desires to see you go through the cancer process well, and they are on this journey too, helping you meet medical and health goals. I fondly remember so many that were in my life for this time and season and it was sad to see them go when treatment ended. In an odd way, that’s how it is supposed to go in life, people come into our lives for a season, and then for a variety of reasons, the season ends and life goes on I am ever grateful for each and every one of them and how they walked with me. 

It wasn’t just the doctors and staff that walked this journey, but also other cancer patients. It may take getting out of your comfort zone to say  “Hello!” and share a little about your life with a stranger, but you don’t know how much that person might need you just as much as you need them and their presence at that time. That little “Hello!”, may just change your life and their life as well.

Most of all, hopefully friends and family are with you at this time. I saved them for the last because sometimes these are the easiest and hardest people to travel this cancer journey with. It’s easy in some ways because your family and friends know you and you know them. There’s a sense of comfort of having someone familiar with you. WIth those friends and family though comes some history and difficult experiences, and the tension and stress can rise based on that history. Focus on the good of family and friendships and save the sordid history for another day and another journey.

Then there’s also the expectation of family and friends being there. There were several people I thought would join me on this journey and for one reason or another they didn’t. To be honest, it hurt, but it was a lesson learned that I could not assume anything about anyone. This was a journey for me and for them too. On the other hand though were people who joined me on this cancer journey that I did not expect and they remained there from beginning to end. I had something to learn from those who were there and those who weren’t, just as they had something to learn from me. The takeaways of this cancer journey go far beyond the disease itself, and if we choose, they go into our very souls and change our lives in extraordinarily beautiful ways.

The power that will bring comfort in these times lies in the power of encouragement, the power of support, the power of love, all in the power of presence!

Read more from the Ependymoma Community Blog.

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