After blowing all my finals and realizing that my entire body was covered with eczema and it was way worse than before, I was quite sure nothing ever goes the way I want it to. Maybe it’s better that way though. But when I walked into the break room in the Oncology center today on Christmas Eve and saw a ton of food, my face lit up. There’s nothing food can’t solve either I guess.
“She’s back!” Yelena, one of my favorite nurses, said. “All of this needs to be eaten. Eat whatever you want.” Feeling a sense of belonging, I ate a cupcake and a crepe and a bunch of crackers with jalapeño cheese. I couldn’t believe the hospital break room was my new safe haven. I was surrounded by people who were kind without questioning. They didn’t know what was going on in my life, but still somehow made everything better and more bearable.
I’m so glad I volunteered on Christmas Eve. It was such a busy day. I crashed into an Anesthesiologist fast walking in the hallway, took a lot of phone calls, passed waters, broke down charts and delivered reclining chairs, and discharged a patient wheeling her out, and overall laughed so much.
Then, I walked into the room at the end of the hall in which the last time I was there that patient asked me to marry him. There was a woman there, shaking, in an insurmountable amount of pain.
I started talking to her.
“What are you up to?” She asked.
“I just failed all of my finals so I kindof feel like a failure, but I mean I did everything I could,” I said, laughing.
“Oh don’t put that on yourself. You did fine. Don’t look at it that way. Do you go to Sac State?”
“Haha no I’m actually a junior in high school. I’m 16.”
“Wow. What do you do here? You’re not a nurse right? They haven’t been getting me any pain medicine.”
“No I’m not a nurse. I’m a volunteer! I do basically whatever they want me to do. Today I learned that I hate taking phone calls though. I literally don’t know anything.”
Our conversation was so rich. I told her about a lot of the past patients I’ve met and how they’ve inspired me. She told me about how she lived in Southern California and that I should visit Newport Beach one day. Then she started to tell me about all the drugs she’s been put on.
“I’m just so afraid to lose my hair. That’s such an important thing,” she said.
“Yeah I can’t pull off the short hair thing like you. I’d look like a dude.”
“I have this condition called eczema. It’s all over me and it’s totally beyond my control. It’s super hard to look in the mirror and have crap all over skin, just like it would be to lose my hair. But in the end I’m glad that I have it because I think it’s made me more empathetic and humble. When I look in the mirror, it’s forced me to look so much deeper to find my beauty and I think that’s a good thing. I guess it’s an attitude thing.”
“My niece had that. It was all over him. Poor kid.”
“Yeah. It’s super life altering, but I think it’s what you make of it that matters.”
“Yeah you’re right. Maybe I can get a wig.”
“That should be easy to get.”
I told her about my teachers and how I’m so grateful for them in school and about how I have no life. It seemed to take her mind off of things. She laughed and told me I’ll have plenty of time in the future to have fun after my education.
“You must have great parents too, along with those teachers.”
“Yeah. I know they love me, but sometimes I unintentionally take things out on them.”
She had stage 3 lung cancer and a really low heart rate. She was more distraught than any patient I’ve met before. She questioned,”How are you supposed to choose between getting well and being in pain? They won’t give me pain medication because it will prevent me from getting well, but I don’t want to be in pain.”
I answered,”I guess sometimes a doctor has to inflict pain on their patients sometimes because they know it’s for the very best. You never know what might happen.”
“The doctor said I should be cured in 6 months.”
“That’s really good!”
“But I don’t trust him, because you never know what might happen.”
“But right now it feels like you can’t get better, but you never know, so you can believe that you can.”
I told her about Sarah Thebarge and how she had breast cancer and it practically destroyed her life until she met Somali refugees on a train and they ended up really healing her.
“I went through all that too. My husband cheated on me,” She said.
She told me about her kids, and then we talked about travel. I told her about my mission trip to Mexico. 🙂
“That’s just terrible. They have no access to medical care there? That makes me so sad,” she said.
“That’s what you would think at first. And then you get there and realize they’re so grateful and happy that it’s really not sad at all.”
Then, she asked me to fetch her some shower stuff and when I came back it was about time for me to go. She seemed a lot more vibrant now.
“I have to go but can I pray for you before I leave?”
“Yeah I’d really like that.”
I took her hands in mine. “Dear God, I just pray for Jane and that you would help her to know that you understand what she’s going through when others don’t. I pray you’d help her to know she is loved and that you will take care of her. Help her to know everything will be okay in the end. Help her with her pain, heal her God. I pray you’d help her to trust you with all of this. In Jesus name, amen.”
We opened our eyes. A huge smile was on both of our faces.
“Thank you,” she said. Tears stung her eyes. She was crying. I embraced her.
“Take care of yourself!”
“I will,” she said. And when I left that room, I was so happy. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I really don’t have normal days in my life and nothing goes the way I expect it to. And I think it really is better that way.