Aug 03, 2015 at 10:50 AM

On Being a Patient Patient with Impatience

By Jos� Cofi�o

Thoughts from Santa Barbara

While waiting for Ben Trust as he gets things ready to get me into the car, it crossed my mind that my patience has grown since being given the role of full-time patient. Then it struck me: what does being a patient have to do with being patient?

The root of the word is directly from Latin patientia "patience, endurance, submission," also "indulgence, leniency; humility; submissiveness," literally, "quality of suffering."[1]

The Patient Patient

BeyondALS Cofi�o

In this, the two words that stand out are “endurance” and “humility.” These are both qualities of a good patient. In essence, being a patient is synonymous with being patient, with humble endurance at the center. In this, I use the definition of endurance to be “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.”[2]

None of this suggests that, in facing health issues, or any other adversity, we should simply “give in” to the challenge. There is nothing to be gained by wallowing in worry, anxiety or despair. “Patiently” waiting for a solution means enduring the situation and continuing to move forward.

Impatience - Eager Desire for Relief

So what then of “impatience”? It can be, most obviously, the absence of patience. However, there are deeper meanings: “eager desire for relief or change; restlessness” and “intolerance of anything that thwarts, delays, or hinders.”[3]

BeyondALS Cofi�o

It is these additional meanings that allow for patience and impatience to reside in us simultaneously and without conflict.

Living Impatiently Patient with ALS

In living with ALS, I seek, and find, the strength to face the adversity with (I hope) humility, being grateful for the dawn of a new day, and the support and love friends and family. However, I am also eager for relief and intolerant of anything which hinders the progress toward a treatment, or cure. Intolerant of delays caused by failing to put research dollars to work in the lab with the sense of urgency I feel, or the lack of cooperation among those we charge with doing such research on our behalf.

I hope my patience as a patient endures. I think it will. I know my impatience as a patient, most certainly, will not wane. I am an impatient, patient patient.


José Cofiño is living with ALS, having been diagnosed in 2012. He and his partner, Ben Trust, founded BeyondALS to increase awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. He writes and speaks about overcoming adversity. He may be reached at j[email protected] and followed on Facebook at BeyondALS


[1] Online Etymology Dictionary



Posted in Overcoming Adversity.