This past week I was reminded of the power of wellness. From the other side. And it came wrapped up in sound. Five words, to be precise.

I was instantly reminded how powerful a few words can be in the exam room.

We all want to feel wellness. The freeing kind, as in the way you feel when towered over by big objects. You know what I mean, the wide open wellness you feel in the presence of grand nature. Mountains, canyons, 342 degree skies. Those spaces that decipher size and scope and are without haunts. It’s the hands to the sky, wind in your hair, rocks underneath, clock-less type wellness. Liberty from suffering, time to breath, acheless, carefree days, type wellness. We all need and want these days. Particularly after recovering from illness.

Sometimes, this sense of wellness is granted from the absence of things. Sometimes, the presence. Fortunately for me, sometimes this sense arrives within the confines of an exam room.

What doctors say can remain with us. The words spoken in an exam room linger and can pop up in life unexpectedly again and again. Aren’t there things a doctor has said to you that remain? I have those…We physicians need to remember to proclaim precisely what we see. Wellness, like illness, should be detailed. The absence of illness is also the presence of health and wellness and we must rejoice it. It’s not just routine.

My mom finished her chemotherapy this summer (think: illness). She’s slowly regaining her speed and she’s doing great, gradually returning to herself while her health prevails. While her health has been a huge relief for me, I can’t imagine how she must feel unsuspended from illnesses’ grasp. Like a coming to the surface of the water after swimming the length of the pool, she must feel the relief of easy breathing. To me at least, the air feels so good entering in. Slippery in the new simplicity.

Seeing her oncologist this week reminded me how much my mom’s life has been defined by illness this last year(s). It took the glass shattering (words in the exam room) for me to see it. It went like this: after the blood draw, the waiting, the weighing, and the measuring, we sat in the room #11. The oncologist joined us. When he came in, he sat on the stool where he always does. Put his hands on the keyboard like he always does. Planted his feet in just the same way as his laces lay as they always do. But then he did something he’s never done before. He looked at my mom and he said,

“You’re the picture of health.”

And poof, suddenly the walls crashed around us, the big mountains became visible, a wide open sky came shimmering in. Wellness blew about, enveloping my mom.  She smiled and shifted in her seat. She was polite, restricted, and patient-like. But as we left, she hopped up and bounded through the hall and around the corner. Five words from her doctor she’d never heard before.

These are words that need to be spoken.

Congratulations, Mom. And thank you, Dr P, for reminding me how important these 5 words can be.