My hands were full.
Clutching a syringe, alcohol swabs, bandaids, and loose leaf papers, I approached the double doors with my filled fist towards my sternum, and my right arm angled outwards, ready to push the lever forward with my forearm and elbow.
Then, through the glass, an older man started towards the entrance, on the opposite side.
His back was slightly curved, his neck protruding just a bit. Seeing me approaching, he took his fedora off and tried to swing the outside doors open using his left hand. He anchored his brown cane for balance on his right.
“Oh….” I shuffled the items in my hand with caution, to avoid a needle stick injury, and hoping to help him…
But he hurried, with his wobbly gait, toward the 2nd set of doors, the inside doors I was about to push open. He nodded and smiled as he gripped his cane with his right hand, then pulled the door open with his left hand.
“I should’ve opened the door for you instead,” I apologized, as he held the door for me.
“No, once a gentlemen…” he took a step backwards and reached behind him to push open the doors as I exited. “Cancer or not, always a gentlemen.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
In that brief moment, 30 seconds, he walked in, held both sets of doors open for me, and I walked out. He replaced his fedora on his head and disappeared into the building. I never saw him again.
As I continued towards the medication room, I mulled over the precious testimony he confided in me, a stranger in passing. Cancer or not…
It wasn’t about being a gentlemen. Or being chivalrous.
It was the voice of resilience.
It was bravery standing before me, boldly proclaiming that cancer cannot conquer the human spirit. It may weaken, as tumor cells tackle the body, and it may cripple, as chemotherapy commands surrender, but it will not conquer.
Even in a fleeting moment like this, I am reminded, again, the reason I became a nurse. I’m humbly reminded that, sometimes, I am the educator, offering health advice, but it is most often the patients who are the teachers, teaching me far greater lessons for life.
In the medication room, I set down all the supplies and papers upon the counter.
I lingered upon his words.
My hands were empty, but my heart was full.