Friday, December 17, 2010

This Place is Like Outback!

After sleeping in late on accident and battling lunch time traffic, I finally made it to the hospital this morning around 11am. Entering the newly built Surgical Wing is reminiscent of entering a fine art gallery instead of a hospital. There are floor to ceiling windows and a huge glass fountain standing below a lovely atrium. The only thing that reminded me of my surroundings was the smell. What is that smell that all hospitals have?? Is it bleach mixed with bodily fluids or a combination of starched bed linens and the cheap stale coffee they serve in the cafeteria? I have no idea what it is, but the smell instantly brought me back to reality. Not even a beautiful fountain can distract people from both the illness and the healing that is taking place behind walls and closed doors.

I met my mom in the lobby and was informed that not only could I go and check dad's status on a large flat screen TV, much like you would see at the airport, but we were going to be "buzzed" when the doctor was ready to talk to us after the surgery. I had to laugh out loud when I saw the contraption she was given to hold until we were "buzzed". "This place is like Outback!" I chuckled. I know many restaurants use a paging system when keeping track of people that are waiting for a table, but I always think of Outback Steakhouse when I see one of the square pagers that jump and light up when its time for your turn to sit down to a blooming onion (insert bad Austrailian accent).

Mom and I polished off an above average lunch of turkey chilli and bread in the hospital's cafeteria and I have to admit it wasn't horrible. After what seemed like hours sitting in the lobby analyzing how comfy it would be to wear scrubs all day at work and trying to figure out everyone's "story" around us, we started to get a little anxious. After all, waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery makes each minute seem like hours. I checked the flat screen TV that doubles as a message board that lets family members know the status of patients and found that dad was labeled as "turnover". "Oh good, they turned him over and are doing the other side" was my first thought until I remembered that his surgery included only one arm, not two. :) After some digging, I found out that "turnover" means that the patient is in recovery and the room is being "turned" for the next patient. This reminded me a lot of how tables at the restaurant I work at are "turned" after being wipped down and re-set.

I will skip the boring details about the pager and its buzzing, but lets just say there were a few false alarms, a doctor missing in action and a sweet hospital volunteer at the front desk who feared for his life when my mother and I started to complain. Don't mess with women with sick loved ones!

Twenty minutes later we were face to face with Dr. Burke, sporting his scrubs and white coat and all. Is was a little like what you see on "Grey's Anatomy" minus the really hot hospital employees and great lighting. The details of what happened in surgery pretty much went over our heads, despite the research we have done regarding Melanoma (I am still confused as to what a lymph node looks like and what it does). What I did take away from our brief talk was something you can only read on a person's face.....optimism!! We asked how he felt about the surgery, but we really didn't need to. His eyes showed cautious optimism and strong knowledge. A great combo when dealing with cancer. "We will be watching him for a long time, but things went well." Burke mentioned regarding yearly PET scans and follow ups. I had a strong urge to hug him and tell him how precisious it was to me that he had swift hands in surgery and the brains to know what to do, but I settled for a hand shake.

For an Outback, the hospital's food doesn't compare, but for a hospital, our experiences have been positive. Caring nurses, trust worthy surgeons, fancy technology to keep us informed and that beautiful fountain. Now, if we could just work on that smell!

Mile Six

My dad was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma only a few months ago in September. To say that I was planning on running every step of my 10k race for him would be an understatement. I can't begin to put into words what it feels like to learn that a loved one has cancer, but I'm hoping this blog will help me to start to form those words.

The morning of the race my dad woke up with a bad cold and we all knew that standing in the cold and the rain to watch me cross the finish line would be out of the question. His second surgery was just a week away and he couldn't risk not being healthy. Healthy is such a relative term when it comes to cancer, isn't it? Although I was dissappointed, I completely understood and knew I would still have the smiles from my mom at the finish line.

The race started well and I felt strong, determined, persistent. Mile one always proves to be the hardest for me, but once I hit mile two I had found my stride. Miles three through five were kind of a blur, but I kept pushing through. It wasn't until mile six that I was struck with not only fatique, but emotion. The race wasn't raising money for cancer, nor was my dad even in the crowd of spectators, but for some reason I felt his presence and a huge desire to finish strong. I felt that each time my feet hit the pavement I was passing on some kind of strength and support to him.

I finished the race in 65.04 minutes (a time well beyond any expectations of myself) and I got pretty choked up, overcome with emotion. I learned a couple of things during mile six. I learned that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for, both physically and emotionally. I learned that people you carry in your heart can help you meet goals even when they don't know it. And most of all, I learned that if I can't beat cancer for my dad then I will at least run a million steps if only a fraction of that strength will help him.

Days later, my dad told me that I had inspired him to start running and we are planning on doing a 5k race this spring together. Imagine that....I inspired Him! Maybe its about time since he's being inspiring me my whole life. :)