There really is a place where you don’t find discrimination—it is called the Moore’s Cancer Center at UCSD Medical. You see, cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t have any rhyme or reason. It doesn’t care about your race, religion, or political views. It doesn’t care an iota about your social status, your career, your age, your appearance. It doesn’t care if you are overweight, athletic, strong or weak. It doesn’t care where you went to college, how much money you make, how many kids you have, or what dreams, goals, and plans you have for your life.
Everyone who is at the Cancer Center is there for one reason—they have cancer (or they are a caregiver/loved one of someone who has cancer). Whether you are waiting to see a doctor, waiting for lab work or medication, or sitting in the infusion center, you are there because this insidious disease has attacked you and your life. And when it does, it changes everything. How you prioritize, how you plan, how you prepare for each day. How you listen, how you love, how you labor, how you learn. It changes how you think, how you spend your time; it changes the words you use and the activities you choose.
Each time I go there for an appointment I am amazed and humbled at the power of the human spirit, at the resilience of the human body, at the faith in the human heart. Yesterday I went for my “post scan” appointment. This scan was to see if all the cancer was gone post lung surgery. I got good news. The scan was clear, and my doctor said that I will not have to endure chemotherapy again. He will have me do monthly labs and scans every six months for surveillance, but for now (and I hope forever), this latest cancer phase is over. But as I sat there in the waiting room, and then again to get my bloodwork done, I observed who was around me, and how we looked at and treated each other.
There were many older people, some so weak they were in wheelchairs, some had oxygen masks. There were young people, ranging from 20-30, as well as middle aged people like me. Some of us looked tired, others quite healthy and strong. Some people had a relative or two, or a whole family with them; others were there alone, probably just getting a follow up visit like me. There were people of every race…Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, white, African American. I sat next to a regal looking man who wore a suit, sunglasses, and a black turban. A beautiful woman with gorgeous skin and a bald head wrapped in a cancer scarf sat a few seats down. A sweet older woman in a wheelchair was surrounded by her daughter and granddaughter who lovingly caressed her hands while they waited. Most of us don’t talk, but we acknowledge each other with a smile and a nod. We have a universal understanding of what each of us is going through. We comprehend what many don’t—the “cancer culture.” We know the taste of saline and bitter metallic. We feel the sting of the needles and IV’s. We share the same weakened veins and the shaking hands from the chemo. We endure the fatigue and the lack of appetite. We fight the fear and the pain in varying degrees.
We don’t discriminate; we don’t hate-- because we share a common bond, one that fights for breath and life and hope.
We don’t sneer or leer or cross the room when a person who is different from us sits next to us. We don’t call each other racist names or have political arguments or put each other down. When someone gets called back to an appointment or to infusion, we might wonder things like, “What type of cancer or what stage?” or “What kind of treatment?” or “What news is that person getting today?” It is a sick, nauseating feeling to know that each person is going through something related to their disease that day, and for 90% of us, it is painful news or a pain-filled procedure. And yet, there is a fighting feeling too. I often say to myself as someone passes me, “You got this” or “Go get it now” or I pray for them to have strength and peace to endure. Cancer doesn’t discriminate and those waiting at the Cancer Center don’t provoke or harm, or hurl angry words at each other. You don’t find hatred there, only compassion.
Every time I leave, I feel a new sense of strength to fight however I can against this disease. I know I don’t have control of it; I know it can come back and attack me at any time (or not). But I feel a fierce sense of indignation at it. I come out with renewed purpose and priorities. Every single time. Cancer changes you. Every part of your world. Those who find themselves sitting and waiting for diagnosis or treatment or prognosis become unified through their suffering. There is no place for hatred or division when you share the common bond of a deadly disease. How pathetically sad that a horrific disease can bring unity through such pain. How horrible is it that a place of peace and love is in a waiting room where death lurks in every corner? How tragic is it that a cancer center is the place where we find no discrimination because the disease that doesn’t discriminate brings us together as one?
There is another place where we will find no discrimination, no racism, no pain, no fear and no suffering. It will be found in the new heaven and the new earth where we gather in multitudes enjoying all God has created for us. It will be found when people of all nations, races, and tongues join together to feast and fellowship with the living God. Cancer will not exist. Suffering will be no more. We will be united through Jesus in our compassion, love, and purpose.
There is such a place. And it won’t be in a waiting room in a cancer center. It is coming one day and it will be beautiful. It will be forever. Unity for eternity.