Patient Politics: They are Everywhere

My parents forced me to be a candy striper at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oklahoma City when I was in ninth grade. They did so out of allegiance to my eccentric geriatric Great Aunt Exa who was a Pink Lady volunteer at the hospital. My job was to inventory the guest cots that family members rented so they could sleep in their loved one’s room. As such, I had free reign to go on every floor of the hospital and into the rooms of anyone that rented a cot. The only part of the job I liked was that the hospital cafeteria had really tasty super thin artery-clogging french fries which I ate as my lunch meal every Saturday. The worst part of the job was the smell of sickness. I think everyone has their own idea of which type of patients are the worse off in the hospital. At age 14, those patients for me were the ones I was not allowed to see. The patients quarantined on the burn unit. No one rented a cot to stay in those rooms.

Patient Politics: It’s natural to compare levels of misfortune.

A few friends have felt lumps in their breasts lately. Perhaps spooked by my recent plunge into the cancer pool, they are doing what conscientious women do and getting checked. Another new friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21 weeks into her pregnancy. She delivers her daughter right after Christmas this year after a lumpectomy and five rounds of chemo. Double mastectomies. Reconstructive surgeries. Crohn’s disease. Debilitating depression. Rare Mast Cell disease. One friend from high school reports having endured fourteen surgeries. Another friend’s marriage of twenty years suddenly ending in divorce. I don’t hear any of them whining. And me? I feel lucky having a problem someone can help solve.

politics

It is extremely humbling wandering around the hospital and coming into contact with so many sick people. Really sick people. Amputees. Bandages. Oxygen tanks. Scary thin. Bald women. People with seriously awful mullets. Far, far too many croc sandals. And those are just the ones who have outwardly physical issues. (think of all those mom jeans and velour they could be wearing under their coats). Until my diagnosis in October, each time I would go to the hospital for some routine appointment I would try not to stare at the visibly sick like they were a different species with whom I could not relate. Now I’m one of them, only I don’t look or feel sick yet. You never really know what other people are going through. Seeing each other from the outside only provides a whisper.