'My cancer diagnosis: Patients/patience' – Sean Kent

January 18, 2013 | by Roberta Nichols

One in a series of stories asking former patients to reflect upon their experience ...

Sean Kent Comedian and former Hodgkin lymphoma patient Sean Kent with his wife and two daughters. (Photo courtesy of Sean Kent)

We asked comedian and former Hodgkin lymphoma patient Sean Kent to look back at the time of his diagnosis, and ask himself, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? What wisdom, soothing words or practical tips would you give your newly diagnosed self?

He responded with so much good advice that we're posting it in six installments.  The first installment was about guilt, the second about food, the third about the hospital buddy.

Here’s the fourth part, titled “Patients/Patience.”


There’s a reason they call you a “patient.” It’s because you’re going to need to be patient.

A lot.

Hospital stays, treatment, hours of feeling like poop, waiting in waiting rooms, unfriendly receptionists doing their nails, doctors taking a long time with the patient next door to you, a long line to get your blood drawn, receiving chemo for four hours, getting a million different scans …

These things will all be much smoother on your psyche if you just accept from the very beginning that they are going to take as long as they’re going to take.

Don’t be in a hurry. Read, bring a friend, play a video game, think, do a crossword. Just don’t expect the machinery of medicine to crank its creaky engine any faster for you than it does for anyone else.

Confession: I’m the least patient person in the world.

But once I realized that I had nowhere to be except where I was right then, things got smoother. For the first time in my life, I was able to be present in the moment and not anxious to get on to the next thing. It’s a good thing to learn.

It was all about acceptance and control. I didn’t accept that I was going to die and I didn’t give up control about everything. But I learned to accept the pace of cancer treatment and I learned to only control what I could control.

Once I took my foot off the gas, learned how to make conversation with the other patients around me and accepted that I wasn’t making things better by giving the staff dirty looks and stamping my foot – my life got a lot better.

Of course now that I’ve been well for nine years (knock on wood) I’ve completely lost that and I’m an impatient jerk again.

Next: Advocate for Your Comfort

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