Two patients talked about their cancer yesterday. Both mentioned the loss of friends (“Do they think it’s contagious?”), different ways of filling their time remaining (“I’ve bought myself a Ferrari and drove down to California”) and the unfairness of their disease (“I’m only fifty — why me?”). All I could do was to sit still and give each my whole-hearted attention.
Both thanked me and one apologized for burdening me with her story. Burden me?!? Walking away, I felt as light as a feather. What was that about, I wondered? Through entry into their world my burdens evaporated. My petty troubles had shrunk in the act of bearing witness, of looking into their eyes and tasting their angst. This didn’t come about logically (as in “My troubles are nothing compared to his”) but through concentrated awareness and a focus shift to the persons before me.