I work at a hospital. Our offices are housed in the cancer center, a beautifully and thoughtfully constructed building set away from the main hospital with art, sculpture and green space. Of all the (four) places our office has moved, I like this location the best. Although, all that beauty is a distraction, and it’s there for a reason.
People come here to die. Well, not really to die. They come here to find out they are dying. They spend hopeful hours, days, weeks, sometimes, in and out of the centrally located laboratories, doctors’ offices, chemotherapy and radiation suites. The waiting rooms are filled with people with the same worried, yet hopeful looks on their faces, holding hands too tightly, silences too pregnant between the infirm and the family members who are grappling with the very real possibility of losing the ones they love.
But the work they do here is hard, but good and noble. And, there’s days where it’s all I can do not to rush up and hug the woman I overhear responding to her husband, “All gone?” “Yep, all gone, the doctor said.” Or the woman who’s walking slowly with her husband, both white haired, moving slowly down the hallway. She turns sideways and, like a kid, begins hopping over the edges of the tiled floor. “Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back!” she says softly. Her husband laughs politely, softly. “My mother never had a chance,” she remarks, straightening out her gait. In the words she doesn’t say, I piece together that she’s sick, and may not survive, but she’s got hope, and with the care we provide, a chance.