I Like The Hair You Added

I went in for a CT scan today.  Nothing really interesting about that.  I didn’t wait around to talk to the radiologist. No news is good news, right?

As I sat there drinking my huge cups of “contrast” before going in, the door swung open, and an elderly man walked out with the nurse.  He looked so tired and frail and I thought for sure someone would have accompanied him. He made it over a few seats over from me….and sat there for a while. He tried to make a phone call with a Jitterbug-looking phone….you’ve seen the commercials.  He slumped down for a bit to rest and then he got up…..and slowly walked over to the receptionist desk to ask if there was a phone he could use and they pointed him around the corner. About 10 minutes later, it was my turn to go back for my scan. And I couldn’t go…..I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to go and check on that old man.

Leaving the waiting area, I went down the hall, following where I’d last seen him, and as I turned the corner….there he was……struggling with the phone on the wall:

Excuse me….sir? Have you….made your phone call yet?

It took him a bit to turn around….so I moved around so he could see me and repeated my question. He held out the handset and said:

I can’t……seem to make……a phone call.

I told him that my phone wasn’t working either and it was probably the fact that we were in the basement. I asked if he was waiting for a ride home and he said yes but he needed to call someone to pick him up.  I helped him to the elevator and explained that he would need to go to the first floor to get cell reception. He smiled, said thank you, and stepped into the elevator.

I went back to my chair and couldn’t hold back tears. I know the people sitting there thought I was upset about being there…..but seeing that old man struggle so much just to cross the long waiting room….and all he wanted to do was make a simple phone call…..and so many people just watching but no one really paying attention…..it was too much for me.


When the scan was over….the nurse was taking out my IV and the technician came out of the adjacent room: Ashley….I have to ask…..is this your artwork?

At first I thought I was in trouble….but then he said: I like the hair you added.

I don’t know….she just seemed too naked:

Speaking of paperwork, I’m kind of tired of answering the question: Is there any way that you could be pregnant? every. single. time. I go into that place.  I know it’s because of my age but there has to be a way to mark my file: NO UTERUS….COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE PREGNANT.  Then they wouldn’t waste so much paper on me just to tick that “NO” box every time.  Not a complaint…..just a suggestion.


When the nurse was trying to put the IV in she kept saying “oh gosh….you’re so tiny….these veins are so small…..so much scar tissue in this other side” and I kept reassuring her that I’d be fine….just try one…..if it doesn’t work, find another. It wasn’t a big deal. I had called the records office the week before to order a copy of a CD and when I went to pick it up the guy didn’t ask my name just handed it to me. I said “how did you know it was me?” and he said I was too young to be there…..he recognized my voice. It bothers me that I stand out by being young…..because all the elderly people there just start to blend in.  Like that old man…..as I watched him….no one noticed him…..he was almost run over more than once.  If I was too young to be there…..then he was too old to be there. I wanted to yell across the waiting room: Please! Someone….anyone……pay attention to this man!

When I went up the elevator after my scan…..he wasn’t there. He must have found his ride.

I hope he was picked up by someone nice and patient and caring…..

……and that they took him back to a nice and patient and caring place.

That’s my hope for the day.


  1. says

    you are remarkable.

    thank you for being you.

    also, i empathize on having to answer the pregnant question. as if it isn’t difficult enough!

    love to you.

  2. Judy says

    Love love love this post! I have always had such a special place in my heart for the elderly. Like I tell my kids, that could be your grandparents, parents and you someday. They’ve paved the way for you, all they need is love and respect. Praying for good scans! xoxo

  3. shelley says

    Your heart is so full of love and care!!! God sees your empathy and is so pleased!! We need to hear your story today….to remember one of Jesus’ last commandments-Love one another! I love you forever, mom

  4. Jennifer says

    You are so dear. Thank you from many of us who have/had parents that age with similar issues. The world is definitely a better place with you in it.

  5. says

    amen! i had to have a hysterectomy and im still coming to terms with it. it hurts every time anyone asks if i am pregnant and i already have 3 little ones. what got me was when they made me pee in a cup to make sure that i was not pregnant. that was just too much for me. it is in my records that i have no uterus. maybe you can still get pregnant without a uterus…who knows. i have heard of a man being pregnant so maybe it is possible.

    your so kind to help that old man. there was a man this summer that had 2 prostethesis(spelling?) legs and he was walking the beach. he got to the boardwalk part and started really struggling. all he needed was a shoulder to hold onto because the boards were so unsteady. i watched so many people walk by him without offering to help. there i was with 3 kids and my hands completely full to the max, but i put down everything to help out. i came to find out from him during our walk that he was a vet…he lost his legs while fighting for us.

  6. says

    It is so sad to see things like this. People seem so involved with their own lives, that they put up blinders in moments such as this. It is nice to know that you offered him a kind hand. Hopefully, his ride home was equally as kind.

  7. Sally M. says

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have appreicate every aspect of your journey since I have discovered your site. My step-dad and best friend are both going through treatment at the moment. My step-dad is considerably older than my girl firend, but I have heard story after story about the waiting room. My girlfriend who is going through Chemo right now is always so sad at how nobody even gives eye contact in the waiting room. She has tried to talk to a few people to light up the mood a bit (her approach to this tough situation) and people have been receptive. It’s just not the norm. That is so so sweet what you did for that elderly man. Thank you! That could have been my step-dad. WIshing great results for your test. Many blessings!

  8. June K says

    You are such a loving person. . . with family, friends, and strangers. This world is so lucky to have you in it. Hugs.

  9. says

    Ashley, I love your posts like this. Sweet reminder for me to pay attention.

    The ‘are you pregnant?’ question drives me nuts at the GYN. I go off at every appointment that with the “sexual activity” question doesn’t give an option of “virgin”. Like I am an anomaly. I add an extra box. Every year. And that follows, duh, not pregnant. I sure would love to be. I sit in this office surrounded by big bellies and ache to be a mom.

    Not married. Not sexually active (yes, those two go together for me). Not pregnant.

    • says

      I should start adding a box. When my doctor asks if I could be pregnant, I always tell him, “Not unless it’s the second virgin birth on record.” But because I’m in my 20s, everyone just assumes.

  10. iralee says

    i probably would have done the same thing with that man. we are ALL too impatient, one day that will be us. good for you for taking the time to help him, i know he appreciated it!

  11. Melissa Z. says

    You rock..I think I’ve commented that previously. I work as a physical therapist in a hospital. My favorite patient population is seniors. To often they seem forgotten or are considered a burden. I adore them, and I adore doting on them. Your kindness was likely a ray of sunshine in that gentleman’s day.

  12. kelly b says

    oh yes, i good tear-jerker this morning. woo! blessings to you and everyone that is in your path as you continue life’s journey. you are such an inspiration and a bright light in this world.

  13. Alice H says

    You have such a kind heart. I would have also helped that older gentleman. I think older people are remarkable. My mom used to take us to nursing homes for almost every holiday when I was younger. We would sit and talk with them, take them cookies, read them magazines, etc. So many do not have family that make the time to visit and they shouldn’t be ignored. Thanks for helping that old man. And I too will pray that he is with someone who is patient and caring.

  14. Cristin Vosburgh says

    I am so emotional just reading this. That precious little old man. I definitely would have helped him too….it makes me so sad how unaware people are of other people…especially the elderly. :(
    I’m SO glad you were there to help him and be sensitive to his need. holy crap. I’m still crying! :(
    This one will make you crack up: My grandma (who is now 87 I think) cared for her mom for years. My grandma had a handicap placket in her car for when she parked so she could park close to the door….she took my great grandmother to all her appts, stores, etc. About 10 years ago before my great grandmother passed one day my grandmother was running to the store real quick (alone) and used the placket and parked in the handicapped parking space. Someone confronted her and told her she shouldn’t be parking there and that she wasn’t handicapped. She said “I most certainly am! I have a wooden leg!!” as she hobbled off into the store! She has been in amazing health without any prosthetics or issues until recent years….She is a spitfire woman who knows her way around life.
    Anyway…I’m glad you have a sweet spirit and helped the little old man. :)

    • Cristin Vosburgh says

      I should correct myself…aside from terrible asthma her entire life, no other main health issues…specifically, she still has all her limbs! :)

  15. Sydney says

    I have MS and septic and inflammatory arthritis and I’m 43 so I mingle with many 70-80 year olds when I go to the doctors. I absolutely agree with you, compassion is lacking in a lot of young people. I have to say I think compassion lacks in a lot of HEALTHY people. It’s not that they absolutely don’t care, they just don’t understand.

    My mother was extremely healthy throughout her first fifty years and really lacked compassion for my health issues I had through my earlier years. She even wrote me a letter at one time telling me she thought I was a hypochondriac. I hadn’t been tested or diagnosed with my health issues and she just simply didn’t understand and it was frustrating for her. When she developed COPD she completely changed. We were best friends and cared deeply for each other and were very compassionate for other people in general. We used to discuss regularly the lack of compassion that exists in our society. She lost her battle with COPD in May 2012 and it’s been tough not having her there but I am so lucky to have had the special relationship and kinship with her the last ten years of her life. When she was in bad shape at the office we worked at together (she was CFO for the company and my dad is still president) I was the only one that offered her a cold drink, wanted to get things for her, and would get her lunch for her when she needed it because she simply couldn’t do it. It was hard for her to accept the help but I find it sad that no one else even considered helping. She ended up having to work from home and I worked at the office without her. I would get in such bad shape that I could barely move and it hurt even to walk to go to the bathroom or get a drink or get something to eat and NO ONE would offer or help me, ever. I now work from home. If I get sick, they don’t care. They don’t offer me help with my work, they don’t tell me to get well soon. I thought it was the group I worked with ten years ago, but there’s been major turnover and they still act the same. I think my health irritates them. It’s very sad and strange. My husband and children are completely opposite thank goodness and offer me tons of love and support so I’m not lacking there, it’s just sad that so many others don’t do that for family, co-workers, neighbors, or like you said, strangers. Thanks for posting this…I hope others will take a little more time to do something for someone else. That’s what I love to do best!!

  16. Jenni says

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us so deeply Ashley! I to see so many people being looked over – from children to the elderly – in today’s rush, rush world it happens more and more. I love to sit and visit with both group – experiencing the wonder of new adventures of the child and the excitement they can barely contain to the wisened venerable to benefit from their years of experience. I saw a young mother who was in a terrible rush at the outdoor mall the other day pulling her sweet little one behind her, the little girl stumbled and the mother dragged her a few steps and then berated the little girl for crying, never taking one second to check why – I saw them a few minutes later coming out of Starbucks… the little girl had a trail of blood down her leg from her skinned knee. I looked pointedly at the mother and handed the little girl a wet wipe to clean her leg and the mother noticed for the first time that her daughter was hurt. When the mom asked the girl how she’d gotten hurt it took everything I had not to knock her head off but I merely said – it was probably when you drug her the few steps in your hurry to get your coffee and wandered off feeling so terribly sad. Thank you for taking a few moments to help that gentleman – I’m sure he appreciated it!

  17. K G Palmer says

    I love your sweet, patient, loving, generous spirit & heart. After all you have been thru to still have the capacity to give so much, God Bless & Keep You – K

  18. Louise says

    I worked for years at a nursing home before moving to my current town. You’d be horrified how many elderly are taking care of themselves – or, even worse, their spouse – long past when they can and should have to. Bless you for caring for that little man. Sometimes that’s all they need, just someone to point them in the right direction.

  19. says

    I ran into your blog through Etsy, I bought a pattern from you, then i just loved your blog content and then realized you also wrote about your persoanl experience with cancer, this drew me in even more. These posts are thoughtful, insightful and beautiful. I also have a DIY blog, not as big as yours, but for a long time, i didn’t want to share there my experience raising two sons with autism. As, i have shared , I think it has made me more of a real person to some people. Thank you so much for sharing this very deep, personal journey. The marrying of art and life, the good and bad, is what it’s all about!

  20. Jamie says

    I know exactly how that feels.. Being a 26 year old 3 year cancer survivor. I’m the young girl the dr’s remember , the receptionist don’t ask for my name cause they alll ready know me. My veins are all scared up from 7 months of chemotherapy. The dr. Blew up my hand during my ct.. But there is something special about the people you meet in that chemotherapy room. I’ve made friends with a lot of “old people”. :) I thank Jesus for that! They have the most amazing stories to tell!!

  21. Amy says

    Oh Ashley……every.single.time I pick up a prescription at Walgreens they always ask if there is a chance I could be pregnant…..that I need consult with the pharmacist before getting my meds. really?? It makes me very sad and I just wish they could have this big red box that comes up on their computer that says “She has no uterus…she is NOT pregnant…EVER.again!”. Sigh…..happens at the dr. too….I am better now and usually don’t start sobbing…..I try to remember that they are just doing their job….they don’t mean to upset me…..but it just stinks :( I guess in 15 or so years they won’t ask me anymore b/c I will be too old…lol. Thinking of you!!!

  22. Nicky says

    This just makes my heart hurt. I’m sorry that was your experience today. My mom was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer this month, and it’s been a bit of a ride between the surgeries and now treatment. When I read what you write it helps me see things more positively. Thank you.

  23. says

    Sometimes we are the recipients of love, and sometimes we can choose to be the vessel through which love can work.

    Thank you for being the vessel this time, and for sharing your experience with everyone. We all need to listen for that quiet voice, then act on it, more often.

    I have long believed that there should be a budget in every medical team, hospital, group, plan, corporation, HMO, PPO, what-have-you for patient advocates. People who can see that assistance is needed. People who are not otherwise occupied with their tasks at hand, but whose task it is to make sure that patients know that they are cared for, not just next in line (or crossed off the to-do list). Someone who can do exactly what you did for that man.

    I have also grieved a little every time someone has asked me the pregnancy question. You can’t be angry, they are doing their job – I just wish doing their job would include reading pertinent notes in your record.

  24. vivian says

    I think you are amazing! Really! Your heart is so big! Thank you for being who you are! You have touched so many lives! I am blessed just by following your story and your post!

  25. Erin M. says

    Ashley –
    You truly are a kind & thoughtful person.

    As you wait for your scan results,
    I share with you comforting cancer words of wisdom that a fellow cancer mom emails me every time my 8 year old daughter has a follow-up scan:
    Continue Choosing Joy & Making Moments Happen!
    Erin M.

  26. shari says

    best post ever. really. one of the more sad posts ever too. but, you’ve probably inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) taught hundreds or more people a true lesson of kindness today. xo

  27. Jane says

    I feel your pain about the pregnancy question, it is so annoying to those of us who have had a hysterectomy. I have a solution, several comebacks when they ask, even though you have checked the “not a chance in hades” box. If you use these then you have to do it with a credible straight poker face! “Ya know it’s the funniest thing, my army buddy Butch and I were on our first leave after boot camp in Mexico, we had partied all night and were on our way back to the hotel when we see this guy holding a sign that says SPECIAL VIRGINS good price 2 for 1. Butch and I decided to check it out thinking it was a brothel. We walk into the place where they give us this fantastic drink and sit us down in a waiting room, the next thing I remember was waking up to a woman wearing a mask saying, in really broken English, everything good you have beautiful Virginia. I look over at a bed next to me and there is my buddy crying like a baby so I ask him what is going on. He points to his genital area and starts crying even louder. Just then it hits me like a ton of bricks, all the puzzle pieces falling into place. I lifted my sheets and saw that my penis was missing and in it’s place was a vagina. I demanded to see the doctor and all he could say was that we had to wait until next penis special because they were all out. So Butch and I went back to the states and saw all the best doctors who said that they could do nothing because of the botched surgery. Man since then Betty and I have been great friends and we vacation all over the place but we never have been back to Mexico.” Or you could use this one; ” nah, no chance I had my penis removed 5 years ago.” Or; “nope, I cut my husband’s penis off a few years back and man it took him a long time to get over that, what a sissy!” Or,”I never say never because there was that whole Mary and baby Jesus thing years ago.” The best part is that awkward silence when the tech is really wondering if you are serious. It’s always fun to make someone laugh and I am sure that you can imagine the chatter in the break room that day when they tell their co-workers about their nutty patient. My personal favorite is actually a true story that happened to me and I love telling it because it really makes people laugh, “funny ring about that is no, I haven’t had sex in many years, let’s see my son is 7 years old so, no sex in 7 years. Ya see about a week after delivering him I was sitting down and moved the wrong way and my vaginal area felt funny so I went to look and see what was going on. I held the mirror between my legs and. It looked really swollen and then I realized that front to back everything was stuck together. I called my friend who happens to be my obgyn too and told her that I was stuck together and she laughs saying that with a first birth everything swells and looks funny but she will take a look just come in to see her in the morning. So I go in and assume the position on the most embarrassing piece of medical equipment on the face of the earth. She comes in smiling and trying to reassure me that I am fine, so she scoots down there and puts the light on my stuff, slaps on the gloves, and begins to take a look. Then I hear “Hmm, uh, oh SH?T, you weren’t kidding you really are stuck together.” As I scream in pain when she tries to separate my labia. She explains what it is, adding that she has read about it but never seen it, and schedules me for separation surgery the following day. I go into the surgical center get ready and she asks me if I mind if she has some people observe (thinking a few folks why not I won’t be conscious) and hand her a zip lock bag. She looks at me and asks what it’s for and I tell her that I want her to practice first before the actual surgery. They twilight me and wheel me into the or where literally every space on the wall of this huge or 2 or 3 deep is a person there to observe this unusual phenomenon. So glad my vagina was such a teaching moment, so since then I am mortified to have sex, terrified to get pregnant, and close up shop again! No chance of pregnancy there!” Of course we had baby #2 3years later and I didn’t close up this time but it’s funny to see their faces.

  28. Sandy says

    Ashley, I will never forget the day I took my 90 year old Dad to the dr. It was Veteran’s Day and the nurse asked my Dad if he was a veteran. He proudly said yes. She took a step back, raised her hand to her forehead, gave my Dad a salute, shook his hand and thanked him for his service to this country. Tears filled my Dad’s eyes as he smiled and simply said, “You’re welcome”. A day of infamy in my heart. Pride doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling I had at that moment.

  29. Jane says

    I personally think folks are born with compassion. My 27 year old daugher used to mention a boy in her class named Timmy who wore prosthesis on both his legs due to being born without feet. We would drive by Timmy’s home and would see him playing in his yard and she would be so happy to see him. The last week of their school year they had a field day and everyone was supposed to run around the track in a pack. My daughter was finished and noticed Timmy was still struggling to finish the run and was on the track all alone with the whole stadium watching. On her own she ran down to him and gave him her company to finish the run so he wouldn’t have to be alone in front of everyone. No one told her to do it and she was only in 3rd grade. Her heart told her to do it and I was never more proud of her and I am welling up with tears just remembering.

  30. Tausha says

    AMEN Ashley, AMEN!!!

    EVERY single time I go to the primary care doc they ask if i’m pregnant. One time I lost it on the nurse and the doc.

    In this day and age why is there not a way for it to be shoved in my face that, yes I had a hyst at 34, no I don’t have kids, and thanks for reminding me every single time I come in.

    Ummmm- guess I needed to vent. I’m so happy I am not alone in this.

  31. kristin says

    I’m trying to think back through the Cancer Chronicles and remember if you ever mentioned crying for yourself…. I don’t think so. You are so sincere and “together” that it really speaks of your character that you are brought to tears when you feel like you maybe haven’t helped someone else enough (even though you helped more than anyone else bothered to)!! You are an example to all of us, humble and strong as you may be. xoxo