Waiting Room

We found out about a month ago that my wife has breast cancer. Her doctor referred to it as the “vanilla ice cream” of breast cancers. It made us laugh and was oddly reassuring, but it’s going to take more than Dairy Queen to take the edge off of the news that my wife, best friend, and mother of my three kids has cancer.

It’s been a wild month of good news, bad news, good news, bad news that leaves my brain vacillating somewhere between “this will all be over in two months” and…well…let’s not go there. I can’t even imagine what she’s going through, but I wish I could. I’d rather deal with this myself than watch her do it. Nobody wants to watch a loved one go through this.

So now I sit in a waiting room. She’s been in and out of procedures all day, but now she’s actually in surgery. It’s a large, lonely room. It’s 6:36 PM and I’m kind of surprised they’re still doing non-emergency surgeries this late. One other woman is in here but she fell asleep in a chair watching a homicide show on A&E.

I put some earbuds in and tried to listen to a podcast to take my mind off of it. Toure interviewed Black Thought and it sounded amazing, but I couldn’t concentrate and before I knew it they had been talking for 20 minutes and I didn’t hear a word they said, so I just put some music on instead.

I’ve been staring at a mostly static screen for the better part of two hours now. The screen I’m transfixed on has a list of numbers and each number has an associated color. The numbers are surgery patients. For privacy reasons they’ve taken the names of the patients off of the screen and replaced them with six-digit numbers. The colors tell you the progress of the surgery. My wife is #128XXX (I’ll leave the full number out because maybe there’s something about this privacy I don’t understand and I shouldn’t be posting it on the Internet) and she’s green, which means she is in the operating room. 128XXX has been green for 114 minutes now.

There’s something dehumanizing about this process. They’re not actually removing cancerous lumps from my wife. I’m simply waiting for 128XXX to turn navy blue. When it does that means they’re finishing up. When it turns light blue she’ll be in recovery. When it turns purple I can go see how 128XXX is doing. I’m not complaining. It’s actually quite convenient. It’s also a reminder that there are at least five other numbers going through something similar right now…although I don’t know where their loved ones are. A&E lady just got a phone call and said to me, “The room is all yours now,” before she scurried off. I’m the only one in here now. I should change the channel. Why hasn’t she turned navy blue yet?

Enjoy the good times, people. Live in the moment. Tell your loved ones that you love them. Don’t ever buy me vanilla ice cream.


  1. Charlie, you are a wonderful husband, father and great friend to your wife and children.So many
    people are thinking of Chelsee and family. For being little, she is mighty strong.Happy the surgery is done and the healing can begin. We know you will take good care of her and the kids. You know
    your MIL will be there when she gets home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charlie: We have never met, we are long time friends of your in-laws and the Wornsons. Our thoughts and prayers go out for Chelsee, you and your family for successful surgery and good healing post surgery. The waiting room IS a lonely place when a loved one is in surgery, whether its full of people or if you are the only one there. Yet, for the patient you bring much comfort.
      Many people are sending positive thoughts your way, for Chelsee and you.
      Jean & Stu Krause, Wausau, WI

      Liked by 1 person

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