My Hospital Family During Cancer

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My visits to the local cancer center were very impactful as a cancer survivor, and I consider that staff a part of my family.

cartoon image of Jane Biehl

I go to a local hospital every month for treatments for my MDS, a blood cancer. During my afternoons there it feels like a marathon since I visit the lab first for blood work, then see the doctor to look at the results and order the treatments, then go to the infusion floor where I receive my shots.

I never cross the threshold into the spacious new cancer center, only a year old, without feeling exhilarated. I survey the gorgeous lobby and its artwork which always fascinated me. This new center is truly a state-of-the-art design. Each hallway and room, including the exam room, is spacious yet practical. I was invited to be on the Patient Advisory Committee even before the center was built and it was one of the most positive experiences of my life. The architects and the administration at the hospital listened to each one of the patients on the committee and we were there from the groundbreaking to the grand opening. COVID did not stop us since we continued our work on Zoom. Every single piece of art was approved by us. We were given choices of several pictures and would say the pieces were too dark, too busy, or too drab. As I walk down the hallways I remember each one hung on the walls.

Even better, I made wonderful friends through the committee I still keep in touch with. Unfortunately, we lost a couple of them along the way but they are forever etched in our memories.

My last visit, I was sitting in the lobby waiting when several nurses walked by. They came up to me and told me how great I looked. They asked what happened and I explained I had unknowingly suffered from severe hypertension with my blood pressure spiking up to 227/100! I was now being treated with diet and meds and it finally dipped to a safe level. I feel better than I have for years. I also received greetings from the other staff, including the receptionist, the people who make the appointments, the nursing assistants and the scribes. I have tremendous respect for the oncology nurses and we all at CURE know how special they are.

I thought back to the 13 years I have been with this family. How they comforted me when I lost my beloved oncologist to another state. I reminisced how they listened when I had to make the horrendous decision of whether or not to have a bone marrow transplant. I went every week through COVID-19 to receive shots to bolster my red and white blood cell counts. The hospital was spooky without coffee shops, gift shops, or restaurants open. I heard the nurses worrying about their patients who were afraid to come during COVID-19 and might die from not having treatment. I listened to some of them as they talked about their husbands taking care of the children so they could work. One of them told me about stopping for groceries in her scrubs and having customers either yell at her to go away or come up and thank them for their service. I supported them when they would lose a member of their family and saw them through exciting pregnancies and having babies.

Indeed, this is a family – not by blood but by shared experiences and love. I will always treasure the wonderful people I have learned to know as my hospital family.


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