Cancer Schmancer

I don’t have much good to say about cancer. But, in my experience, there have been some positives.

When my Mom needed chemotherapy for colon cancer, I took her back and forth to her treatments. We would often stop for lunch or dinner after these sessions and this time together gave us a chance to know one another better and have a closer relationship.

Then, during a trip to the Bahamas with my wife, I felt something on my back as I toweled off after a swim. I thought nothing of it, but it grew larger. Two months later, I was diagnosed with stage IIIC malignant melanoma.

I tried to stay positive throughout the whole ordeal. My war cry was “Cancer schmancer — at least I’m healthy! I’ll either beat it or die trying!” I was offered a clinical trial. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

After a monthlong course of daily IV chemo, I gave myself injections at home three times a week.

My mother passed away.

A second lump metastasized  into my lymph nodes.

After my fourth indoctrination ( that’s what I call an operation), a clown friend told me that I had been “blessed ” with cancer so that I would know what patients feel — inside and out. I believe him.

Another friend, a nurse, asked: “Do you know what makes a good nurse? A sense of humor and an incision.”

I had a lymph node section under my right arm, and stopped all chemo treatments. That was in 1999.

Humor in the healing process really works, and I have the experience on a personal and professional level.

There isn’t much fun in medicine, but a hell of a lot of medicine in fun.

Kidneys Come and Go, A Spaghetti Tie Lasts Forever

Dr. Maladjusted And me

I think the main idea of this one is I refer to this type of situation as a ricochet. When we play to the baby and it affects the parents or we play to the parents and it affects the child.

Unfortunately, a few doctors and nurses feel  the hospital clowns shouldn’t be anywhere near their patients. We learned from Dr. Gordon Harper that some people actually fear laughter! And there’s a technical term for this: geliophobia! Some medical professionals must be geliophobic, because they apparently feel that laughing, smiling, or giggling while tending to a patient would be very unprofessional.

I can’t believe how rewarding, challenging and maturing this job can be. It’s like tap dancing in a mine field. We are all finding something to take in and grow with. Our joys range from meeting patients from all over the world (Laughter has no accent!) and little gifts like ties made from spaghetti and surgical tape. Our sorrows range from everything such as chapped lips to being told someone is brain dead. We still perform.

I am Happy to report that we at Children’s Hospital have successfully translated and taught the song “George Washington Bridge” To children from Iran, Hungary, Lebanon, Italy and Germany (This is a silly little song by singing the words George Washington Bridge over and over to the tune of the Old waltz ” Over the waves”)

Dr. Maladjusted and I had the honor to be present at not one but two “Breakout’s”

A Breakout is when a patient in one of the special isolation rooms in Bone Marrow Transplant is going to be allowed back into a regular environment. Some of these patients are in these rooms for weeks. But on the day they come out, the staff places a brick wall (made from cardboard brick covered boxes) along with paper streamers and ties across the doorway of the isolated room. Everyone who can gathers around for this prestige’s event and the patient accompanied by a parent gets to kick the wall down.

We played music, sang and danced. Not once but twice.

After the second one we were leaving the unit, I was greeted by an old friend (A young girl from Iran) on her way back into an isolation room.

We sang “George Washington Bridge “once again. We take the moments as they come and cherish them

I will never complain about getting old – some people don’t get the chance.

I am truly amazed at the way kidneys come and go, or what it must be like to breathe with someone else’s lungs or to have your blood being pumped with someone else’s heart. All of that seems minor when we’re being asked by the patient to come stand beside the bed, so they can just look at you. No magic, no music, just stand there or to just look into their room.  To get a kid to pick a card or to point to a silly rabbit, forgetting that their arm is taped to an IV board – priceless.