The Waiting Game
March 28, 2012, by Prudence Baird
As time tests her patience, Prudence is not amused
The waiting game. Just because this phrase rhymes with the iconic Jim Lange-hosted TV game show of my youth, I am not amused.
I object to coupling the word “waiting” with “game.”
There’s nothing joyful, fun or amusing about waiting, therefore waiting is not a game.
In truth, the phrase “waiting game” was never meant to be frolicsome. It originated in 1895 as a bellicose term describing the high-stakes game of Risk that certain European colonial powers were playing with the countries of Sudan, Burma and Serbia-Bulgaria—and each other, of course.
Yes, “waiting game” is a militaristic term meaning “to lie in wait and watch with hostile intent until the moment to strike is right.”
In my book, waiting alone (no need for “game”) sends my blood pressure spiking. On Prudence’s Aggravate-o-Meter, waiting for the elevator is a 6. Unless there are more than a dozen people also waiting. Then it’s a 10.
Waiting for my computer to reboot is a 9.5. Losing my own keys is a 7. Hearing my husband demand of no one in particular, “Where are my keys?” is a 10.
Waiting for someone (anyone?) to say, “Gee, thanks for making the lovely dinner,” is an 8. Unless there is an open bottle of wine with my name on it, then it’s a 2.5.
Some waits are harder than others. Like waiting for your son or daughter’s college admissions notification—which is much more agonizing for you as a parent than you as your 18- or 19-year-old self waiting for your own admissions news.
And then there’s waiting to hear about your own fate.
About a month ago, a tiny lump appeared at the site of a previously excised melanoma, I heard the cards of the sinisterly monikered waiting game shuffling once again. And this time, cancer is one of the players at the table.
By now, with four melanomas under my belt (actually, one above my belt on my upper right arm), I know the drill.
The first move is always cancer’s. “Can you find me before I foreclose on your body?” asks The Big C.
No need to tell cancer about lying in wait with hostile intent—like the Wall Street financier, hostile takeovers are cancer’s life’s blood.
Cancer would claim it plays fair; it shows us some of its signature cards—lumps, bleeding, pain, swelling—but not all. Cancer’s ace is that it knows human nature is pleasure-seeking so we ignore cancer’s calling card for as long as we can. It just lies there on the table near the door where we dump the Restoration Hardware catalogs, multiplying while we fiddle, shop and make plans for sunny days we’ll never see.
As a cancer survivor five times over, I’ve learned that even though I don’t want to play, I must choose a token and move onto the game board. So, I do.
The call to the doctor—if you can find a dermatologist who still deals with skin cancer and hasn’t sold his soul to the gods of vanity (Botox, anyone?)—is next and always my first move. I think it’s a smart one.
Fortunately for me, the heir apparent to Dr. Alfred Kopf, the premier melanoma expert of the 20th century, practices medicine across the river from my home. I am already his patient so he returns my call. (I pocket an ace, skip past cancer and collect $200!)
I also have another ace—health insurance, thanks to my husband’s union. One out of every five adults has no health insurance—a death sentence if diagnosed with the fast-moving cancer, melanoma.
And so, with two aces in my hand, I’m either a pro golfer or one lucky playa who is gonna beat this thing back. Again.
But in between comes the waiting game.
Thankfully, Prudence received a phone call last Friday telling her that the biopsy came back benign.