Yesterday, I went for my annual physical at Winthrop Family Medicine, which is conveniently located right here in town at a health center in an old converted factory. Although I dislike going to the doctors as much the next person, I am very grateful to have this health center in Winthrop, where the staff is friendly and efficient and the services range from lab work to imaging, including walk-in mammograms. Winthrop, population 6,000, is one lucky little town. (When my husband broke his arm, he was in and out of the health center in an hour, and that included getting a cast. )
Dr. Gasper, my doctor, went over my blood work with me, and for someone who is, ahem, carrying a little more weight than she should, I am in amazingly good health. I suppose it must be partially genetic and also partly because that even though I eat more than I should—I am a good eater, after all—I do eat well, with plenty of fruit and vegetables in my daily diet, very little red meat, and a fair amount of olive oil.
Then we moved on to a topic that has dominated my life for the past six years—breast cancer. In the summer of 2010, I was diagnosed with this disease. Fortunately, the cancer was slowing growing and lazy, both very good qualities when they’re applied to cancer. I had a lumpectomy and radiation. Chemotherapy was not needed.
Dr. Gasper, that rare doctor who actually has a calming effect on people, looked at me and smiled. “You are considered cured,” he said.
Cured! What a wonderful word.
Now, Dr. Gaspar wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know. At the Cancer Center in Augusta, after five years, I was given the option of going to my primary care physician for yearly check-ups, and that’s exactly what I decided to do. I will not miss those trips to the Cancer Center, and going to my regular doctor makes me feel like a regular person, which, after breast cancer, is a wonderful way to feel.
But to hear my doctor say those words—“You’re cured”—well, it was as though he had given me a gold star.
After I left, feeling oh-so-happy, I reflected on the power of words and their ability to either bolster us or drag us down. Kind words, even if they are true and self-evident, can ripple forward for years, leaving a good impression in our memories. They can steer us in the right direction and help us to think better of ourselves.
Going forward, I will be more mindful of what I say. Are my words kind or unkind? Do they help or hurt? Even if they are true, do they need to be said?
A final lesson for me: No matter how old we are, we can always learn to become more mindful. And more kind.