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.

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15 Responses to “The Waiting Game”

  1. tim Says:

    me and the dogs wait every day, with baited breath, for you to come home from work. and its hard baiting our breath, too.

  2. Conz Says:

    Pru–another dicey phrase–”dodged a bullet”. Glad to know you don’t have to wait on this news any longer. But, that being said, we know we’re all of us just in the universal reception room, right?

  3. Mellimel Says:

    “Universal reception room” – after a major surgery for a strange thing they
    thought would be a fibroid and wasn’t (6 years ago)
    after 75 slides of the sucka and major review by the
    “Tumor Board” all they could say was “We can’t 100% say it’s not cancer!”
    To my way of thinking cancer would be like pregnancy -
    you either are or you are not. Cancer- you either
    have it or you do not. Apparently that is not the case.
    After waiting and contemplating I decided it was not cancer,
    opted out of any preventive radiation ….
    As far as I know I made the right decision. But I admit to having
    a tiny voice of doubt make itself heard every time
    I have a little cramp or ….

  4. Cathy Says:

    Ok, that said…

    Elizabeth Taylor is quoted as saying,”It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” Pru, your patient persistence matched with your super smart brain translates to an Aggrovate-o-Meter of epic proportions. I think we need an app for that.

  5. Carine Says:

    Oh, thank goodness for that good news. You’re a soldier, Prudence, and I know you’ll continue to beat that fucker every time. In the meantime, just let me know when you want me to gang up with you to ambush that Big C bastard in a dark alley. I’ve got my gloves on.

  6. MM Says:

    Thankfully, it’s good news for you! I agree that for so many, fighting any long-term illness can be a death sentence if you don’t have health insurance.

  7. dearpru Says:

    Loving the support, girlfriends! We have the spirit to conquer cancer, but not the commitment from the government to fund research. If we could shave several billion off that two trillion dollar U.S. defense budget, perhaps we might have the wherewithal to figure out what turns cancer on in so many of our bodies. Atrazine, the herbicide most commonly used on food crops, is linked to cancer, but even though Europe long ago banned the poison, our Congress refuses to stop Syngenta from its manufacture–possibly because so many in Congress have their pockets lined with the kind of money only death-in-a-can can buy.

  8. Tom P Says:

    Just so you know we will completely understand your eating desert before dinner is served. Waiting is a tough course but who knows if the alternative is any easier. Wishing the best to you and yours.

  9. rosemary Says:

    I am so relieved that you’re okay and so sorry that you had to go through this, again. That Tom Petty song started running in my head right after I read yet another brilliant, incisive piece of writing about something so profoundly personal. Much love to you and yours. By the way, glad you didn’t wait one second longer to move to Vermont. I miss you, but there really isn’t time to wait to be happy — it’s good for your health!!! xoxoxo

  10. Carrie Says:

    Glad to know that you are ok! And here I sit worried about whether or not my son was accepted to his number one college choice. Thanks for sharing, and the best to you always.

  11. Cathy Says:

    Yes Pru… Then there’s the BPA in the lining of cans.

    “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that it won’t ban bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial chemical that is widely used in food packaging. AARGH!!!

    Greed over good, very disheartening.

  12. dearpru Says:

    Regarding the FDA’s stance on more cancer-in-a-can for Americans, I’m not so sure why Republicans are up-in-arms over how “socialistic” Pres. Obama is. The truth is that he’s let the neo-conservative agenda put more guns in the hands of more George Zimmermans. He’s allowed the neo-cons to put the E.P.A. in a choke-hold, given the green light to Wall Street’s (particularly Goldman Sachs)rape-and-pillage spree that started in 1980 when Merrill Lynch installed Reagan as President and all but done away with the FDA. Obama has turned a blind eye to so many incursions upon our health and welfare that I’m very discouraged and depressed. At what point do everyday voting Americans get what is going on? FDR had the president of Montgomery Ward arrested for not paying his taxes during wartime–hand-cuffed right in his office! When will the presidents and CEOs of Monsanto, Goldman Sachs and Halliburton be arrested–or simply pulled out of their Lear Jets and forced to do the perp walks they so richly deserve to do in front of the world they’ve polluted, torn to pieces by war and destroyed in their attempts to extract more oil for their many homes and SUVs?

  13. Louise Says:

    Congrats on moving out of the line. I’m in it
    now. That being said, I chopped of my hair
    in revolt of the health system we inherited.
    May I join in the recovery line soon :) .

  14. dearpru Says:

    Louise! Tell me more!? I care…sending light and healing energy your way.

  15. christie Says:

    Wow! Prudence, the blog and the comments have given me so much to think about. Thank you. You have touched every issue we should be focusing on, especially in this election year, and yet all we hear is the babbling of the few, the dim-witted and the easily lead. I want an investigation into food-borne stupidity!

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