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Passing the Time

Steph (they/them) is a 33 year old wife and mom living in Arizona with metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer. They were diagnosed in November of 2020, after their physical therapist pushed for answers via MRI. Steph and their family just moved from the PNW to sunny Arizona, and they like to travel and play video games in their spare time.

My wife likes to go with me to my

appointments. This usually results in quite a few laughs together, especially if we’ve had a lot of coffee beforehand. That tends to be the case because I like to schedule my appointments quite early in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our fair share of tears in the clinic. The largest cancer clinic in downtown Seattle sits right across from Lake Union and I was a patient there for seven long years. The trek from our house was always a long one, so we would definitely require coffee from our favorite stand on the way out.

One particular day stands out quite clearly because we were in the clinic almost all day. I am

immunocompromised, so I like to duck out of the waiting room if I can, and come up right at the appointment time. I think the longest wait times are always on the fourth floor, where I would be seen for my bone metastasis. On this very rainy day in Seattle, we took a gamble and left our phones in the car.

That, my friends, was a mistake.

I was on time for my appointment, yes, but my doctor was not. They placed us in the exam room any way, and we were there for almost three hours. I went to the bathroom, my wife went to the bathroom, we asked nurse after nurse after nurse, and without phones, well -- the entertainment was tricky. We can talk about a lot of stuff, but after a while we run out of things to say to each other. We read pamphlets and we joked about the bionic arm I was hopefully about to get.

That’s when we saw it. Right there on the wall with a couple of dry erase markers on the lip of the board. Cancer will take a lot from you. Cancer will take your time, your money, your loved ones and your personality. I’ll be damned if I let it take my sense of humor. I find humor in almost anything and laughing is one of my favorite activities. I laugh loudly, and often, and I truly believe in the healing that comes from belly laughs. I’m also a big fan of dark humor too. As someone in my situation, who wouldn’t be?

So, we played hangman on that white board. My wife picked up the marker, uncapped it and looked me square in the eye, and said, “Okay, first letter” and drew out what needed to be on there for the game. That appointment sucked, but the game of hangman that we played lives on in our minds as one of the better hours spent at “the place.”

There’s something to be said about finding the laughs when you can during a crappy time like

dealing with stage 4 cancer. Almost every day is a day dealing with doctors, appointments, white blood cell counts, bone pain or joint pain, and everything that comes with it. A little humor goes a long way, and laughter is magic!

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