About two and a half years ago, I was able to personally visit M. D. Anderson. I was on my way to Texas to spend a week with my oldest daughter. On the way there, my son in law and I stopped to spend some time with a friend. She was dying of cancer. This young mother of four knew there was nothing more to be done for her. She spent her remaining days in a pristine hospital room surrounded by those who loved her and the hospital staff treated her with utmost respect.
That visit was difficult for me. I had also been diagnosed with breast cancer and though I was not stage 4, as my friend was at the time, having the reality of her cancer slap me hard across the face wasn't something I'll ever forget.
From the moment I stepped into her room, I felt death all around her. Her body, wracked with pain, lay underneath a mountain of blankets. She was extremely cold although the room was very comfortable. IV tubes hung from her bruised and battered arms. Her face, swollen a deep jaundiced yellow, looked subhuman. Tiny slits in her face were eyes that chose to remain closed. We stood in silence staring down at her as tears welled in our eyes. There was nothing we could do, nothing we could say. Our presence spoke our love and she felt it. After a few minutes, she managed to open her eyes. We spoke softly telling her we loved her and we wanted to come to see her. She thanked us and closed her eyes again. The heaviness eternity surrounded us.
We didn't stay long that day. There were other family members there to pay their last respects and we didn't want to infringe on their time with her. On our way out of the hospital, we didn't speak a word to each other. I think we were both in shock. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced back at the hospital. It was a huge facility and on every floor there were hundreds of patients in various stages of cancer treatment. It broke my heart.
It's hard to believe that was almost 2 1/2 years ago. Today, while on Facebook, I was once again reminded of M. D. Anderson in Houston. An article, written by the family member of a patient, spoke volumes to me and reminded me, that even in the midst of a horrendous storm, hospital personnel manage to keep the proper perspective. They do their jobs. They go above and beyond the call of duty because their commitment to their patients is paramount. Here's what he wrote:
"MD Anderson needs to be praised. They have had what they call the Ride-Out team here since Friday; this means no one goes in or out. Imagine being stuck at work for five days straight. And, imagine finding out you are on this team at the end of your third twelve hour shift. It is not optional; it is understood. These people are saints: the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, pharmacists, supportive care team, maintenance, house keeping, cafeteria--all of them. There are signs on closet doors that read: night shift sleeping; do not open. I have seen those doors open at times, and there are tiny cots crowded inside. Most only have a small suitcase. There have been the same cafeteria workers serving three meals a day, every day. Food trucks didn't arrive on Friday due to high water, and cooks managed to improvise and keep us all fed. The meals, by the way, during this time, have been FREE for both employees and visitors. The hospital has updated us every day with well-written, easy-to-read emergency information flyers. Our care has been superb as usual. Wade's usual doctor is even part of the Ride-Out team. Our sheets are still changed. Our room is still cleaned. The pharmacy is still responding quickly to all medication needs. We are eating hot meals every day. We understand that all of this would not be possible without the planning and sacrifice of many. For this, we are forever grateful." ❤️ Douglas and Marla Chandler MD Anderson Cancer Center
The news reports from Hurricane Harvey's aftermath have been constant. Day after day we watch as exceptional people do extraordinary things. Rainfall has reached epic proportions and many have lost everything they own due to flooding, but still, kindness perseveres. And now, another hurricane is brewing in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma.
I'm so thankful for those who choose to do the right thing even when they are inconvenienced, like the amazing staff at the M. D. Anderson cancer center. The American spirit always seems to rise under adversity. Soon, the remnants of the hurricane will have passed and things will return to normal but lives will be forever changed. M. D. Anderson has made an impact in a good way. Shouldn't we all follow their example....