Yesterday, I saw a young woman waiting for the elevator at the Swedish Cancer Institute. She was probably in her late 30’s. She wore well-fitting jeans (not tight, just right), a top, and a cute little hat on top of her nearly bald head. I thought, “She’s rockin’ that look.”

I smiled at her, said “hi”, and we both got on the elevator. She saw my Swedish tote bag, which identified my membership in the cancer club. She remarked that she had carried hers around for months but it made her feel like a nerd.  I joked that I called it “my big ole’ bag o’ cancer.” It ended up that we were both headed to the surgery clinic. We chatted a bit more as we waited to check in. She seemed smart and friendly. After we checked in, I joined John who was already in the waiting room and she sat in a different section of the room.

After several minutes, she walked over and said, “I hate waiting. Would you like to chat?” We introduced ourselves and talked for a few minutes. Jen had also just gotten surgery but this was her second surgery. She had also just completed a round of chemotherapy and it was likely that she would complete another one. I wish I’d gotten a chance to talk with her more but I was called in for my appointment soon after she joined us.

Jen looks really young and she’s had a lot of treatment in the last 7 months (she was diagnosed in December). Despite these sobering facts, I was reassured by her. Two of my biggest concerns about cancer treatment are having energy and if I should ever need chemotherapy, changing the way I interact with the world because I would be an obviously ill person. But Jen had enough energy yesterday morning to take care in putting together an outfit, which she rocked. (I know that she had just finished chemotherapy so she probably felt worse earlier but still.) She also engaged with me, a stranger in an upbeat way. I’m sure she gets lots of looks and has the frequent dichotomy of experiences where people either avert their gaze and ignore you or approach you and talk about your illness even though they are a stranger. But still, her presence was reassuring.

If I don’t see you again, Jen keep rocking the hat and I wish you a speedy recovery from this point on.