Waiting rooms are part of almost any doctor’s visit, so of course, they are part of any cancer journey. Have you felt uncomfortable in a waiting room? Maybe it was an awkward gaze, an uncomfortable moment, or an anxious sigh. Are there rules for waiting room conduct? Do you start up a conversation with the person nearby, or do you just look vacantly at the out-of-date magazines that seem to reside in every waiting room? In my experience, people rarely make eye contact or chat with the people nearby. They spend most of the time trying to get comfortable while waiting, even in pain and anxiety.
This is quite a contrast to the waiting room atmosphere in my veterinary office. Pet owners are a different breed of “waiters.” Pet owners often immediately make comments about one another’s pets, asking for breed information or the nature of the visit to the vet. Recently I took my dog, Lulu, to the vet for a check-up. As I took my seat, an older lady quickly asked me, “What kind of mixed up dog is that?”
“She’s a BBL or beagle-birddog-lab, Ma’am,” I proudly replied.
“I’ve not heard of that kind of dog,” she said. (I guess not, since I just made up that breed on the spot!)
Overhearing our conversation, another man asks, “What’s wrong with your dog?” (A bold question from a stranger.)
“She has pancreatitis,” I replied. It felt a little strange sharing Lulu’s private health information with a total stranger, but Lulu didn’t seem to mind. Now, the gates were open, and the questions kept coming. All the pet owners in the waiting room bonded over pet breeds, diagnoses, and even other life issues. Camaraderie was quickly established, and no subject seemed off limits there in the vet’s waiting room.
Now, let’s go back to the waiting rooms at doctors’ offices. What are the rules? Do people really not want to be bothered in waiting rooms at the oncology office, laboratory, or imaging departments? Or, would some small talk with a fellow cancer survivor or caregiver actually be a welcome change?
The basic rules of being polite apply in the waiting room. Smile if you make eye contact with someone. Give a compliment if you like someone’s outfit. Share a mint or tissue with the people waiting around you. Offer to get a cup of water or coffee from the refreshment table for the person next to you. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can make someone’s day in a cold, sterile waiting room. Or, if you are not feeling up to socializing, you can also sit in comfortable silence or listen to music or an audiobook on your headphones.
Remember, if anyone can relate to what you are going through, it’s the people next to you in the waiting room. Let’s try to make waiting rooms a more comfortable place! What are your tips for making the waiting rooms you encounter on your cancer journey more comfortable? Share in the comments below!