The Power of Words
They unlocked my bed, and took my down the hallway to the elevator. It was the same hallway I had walked down thirty minutes earlier fully dressed. Now I was in a hospital gown covered by a warm blanket. I could see my parents sitting in the waiting room. I’m glad they didn’t look up and see me.
It was a strange feeling, waiting for the elevator in my rolling bed and hospital gown while people dressed in street clothes walked past me. It reminded me of being at a nice hotel, leaving the the pool area in my damp clothes, and walking past the people checking in, fumbling with their bags and credit cards.
I was at the hospital yesterday for another scope of my lung. My second one in a month. The woman at registration recognized me. “Don’t you work at Furman or something like that,” she asked.
“Something like that.”
She led me to bed number five. I pulled the curtain, put on the gown and lied down. After a few minutes the nurse came in the ask me questions. Questions I’ve answered countless times over the past two years:
Name and birthdate.
Have I left the country in the past thirty days?
Did I want another blanket for my legs?
I answered them by rote while I stared at the white cloud and blue sky clip art plastered on one of the ceiling tiles. There is not a hospital in the world that doesn’t have these beach scenes posted on the ceiling. They seem to be as standard gauze and latex gloves.
Perhaps it was because I wasn’t quite paying attention. Maybe my mind was consumed by what this scope might find. I don’t know. What I do know, is that when my nurse finished the standard questions, and said to me, “So, you have a history of colon cancer,” for some reason I responded with,
“Yep, that’s me!”
I was simply trying to make a bit of a joke. To make this nurse feel as comfortable as possible. But as soon as the words came out of my mouth I was angered by them. That’s me? A history of colon cancer. That’s who I am?
If you’re like me, and you probably are, when things happen, you want to know why. Was there something I could have done at some point along the way to prevent this thing that is occurring. It sucks when the answer is probably not. I guess I could have gotten a colonoscopy when I was 30, but with no family history of the disease, people would have thought I was crazy.
So I start to look for other reasons. Did I smoke too much? Drink too much? I sit down while I write- should I have been using a standing desk this entire time? Maybe I could have eaten more sauerkraut and kim chi to ensure the proper balance of microorganisms in my gut?
The more I look for answers, the more the questions become farfetched. One study shows that eating eggs increases the chance of recurrence by 12% -out go the eggs. Stress is bad for the immune system and I need my immune system to be functioning at the highest possible level-out goes stress. I read an article by one survivor that said going to bed by 10pm allows the body to best replenish itself- out goes the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
When those reasons seem ridiculous, what I’m left with are words themselves. Do the words we speak give truth to our existence? Do they become the reality of our lives? If I say, “I have cancer,” over and over again, does that work its way into the DNA of my cells and eventually become the truth?
I think about that a lot. As I was writing my book, as I perform my show- are the words I’m speaking creating this reality I find myself in? Did that stupid little response to the nurse, “Yes, that’s me, I am the history of colon cancer,” …did that somehow seal my fate?
I don’t really believe that.
At least, I don’t think I do.
There was a ding. The doors slowly opened. They backed me into the elevator, hit the button for 1. No beach clip art here. The doors pulled shut, and the normal world disappeared from view.