The waiting room

Husband worked his arm in circles, wincing. “I probably have shoulder cancer.”

“Whatever.” I shook my head. “Stop joking and just get it checked out.”

After seven months of pain, he finally made a doctor’s appointment, which led to an MRI. We awaited the results, convincing ourselves of his diagnosis: a torn rotator cuff. But we were wrong.

“I have a bone lesion.” Husband dropped the words like a pair of dirty socks. “The doctor wants to do a bone scan tomorrow.”

I furrowed my brow. Bone lesion. I had heard the term before somewhere, and it carried darkness and questions. After Husband fell asleep that night, I gave in to a temptation I rarely indulged anymore: I searched the medical term online.

My computer screen lit up with link after link—none of them innocent. I held my breath and clicked on the first one. Cancer. I chose a different link. Cancer. I selected a third link. Cancer. My heart racing, I texted two friends. I confessed my online, late-night activities.

One of them, blunt and loving, came down on me. “Quit reading. Pray.”

“You’re right,” I texted back. But after I turned off my computer, my eyes stayed open in the dark for longer than usual.

On Thursday, Husband went in for his bone scan.

“We should hear the results by tomorrow,” he said when he returned home.


Friday arrived, delivering terrible news—but not about Husband.

“Have you heard what’s going on in France?” I asked him the second he stepped in the door. “Paris is under attack.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Wow.”

I poured out the bloody details of terrorists blasting their hatred on unsuspecting patrons in bars, restaurants, a sports stadium, and a concert hall.

The story garnered international attention and gave legs to the suspicions of some in our nation. Suicide bombers, masked gunmen, hostages, rumors of repeat terror coming to our own country. And we headed into life’s waiting room. What would come next?


The weekend arrived, delivering awful news—but not about Husband. A man in our neighborhood had assaulted a woman, and when he interfered with the paramedics who tended to her, the police had fatally shot him. By Monday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered in response to the shooting and walked out onto I-94, stopping traffic for almost three hours.

The story captured national attention and churned up the muck beneath the neighborhood’s waters. Arrests, threats, clashes with police, rumors of riots about to explode all over our part of the city. And we waited in life’s waiting room. What would happen now?


On Tuesday evening, the doctor called Husband.

“Several of us have looked at your results. We don’t think it’s cancer, but to be certain, we’ve sent the scan to an oncologist.”

Husband was unfazed, but my thoughts jarred me. I remembered my first mammogram that had necessitated an ultrasound. It happened again the next year—and the two years after that—prompting the doctor to at last perform a biopsy. But test results and doctors’ answers had never brought lasting peace. And I wondered what would happen to Husband.

I hunkered down in life’s waiting room. But instead of warm assurance, I heard my heartbeat and the ticking of the clock. I sat for three hours, feeling alone and forgotten. Could bloodthirsty terrorists dictate how our world would go? Could a rioting mob decide the fate of our neighborhood? Could a doctor tell us about Husband’s life—or my own?

The silence hurt my ears, and the question marks pricked me. Then I caught a glimpse of Him in the nagging uncertainties and unanswered mysteries.

He had been next to me in the waiting room all along.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.