One Step Closer

Comparing hospitals, specifically chemo infusion centers, is interesting. Each has its own systems and protocols. What is allowed at one, e.g., having patients change their own central line dressing, is forbidden at another.

One of the most obvious differences is the space itself. Taking a lap around the infusion center today, things seemed less chaotic than at Hopkins. There were plenty of nurses seated in close proximity to the pods, and while I was assigned to a window-less pod off to the side this time, it was still much more spacious than the tiny windowsill beds that I’m used to.

The two main members of my team each came to visit me soon after I started, whereas I literally never saw my attending at Hopkins during treatments and always wondered where this omnipresent “whole team of docs working on my case” was who didn’t bother to communicate with their own patient. Talk about horrible experiences. In hindsight, I should have spoken up about this right as a patient to know exactly what is going on and not accept hearing uncertainties through a fellow. But then again, isn’t that just how Hopkins operates?

I am still bitter about how one particular doc and her team came to visit me while hospitalized for those five days after returning from Taiwan and came off quite condescendingly (pointedly asking, “Any other questions?”), leaving me and my parents not even wanting to ask more questions, in fear of wasting her precious time.

Otherwise, hospitals are hospitals, and taking that lap helped confirm that I once again was the youngest patient there. I often wonder if the nurses and students there are around my age and inevitably make even more unhealthy comparisons: me, unemployed student on leave with twice-relapsed cancer; versus them, busy saving people’s lives and learning from the best docs.

But as my therapist said, what I do with my time, even if it’s just listening to music, is enough. As with most children of immigrants, I grew up with the mindset of always having to work and be productive. There were no family dinners where we all talked about our days—which helps explain why I simply am not used to chatting with someone about my days, especially when they’re not “productive.”

I don’t need to have accomplished something to please society. I can be selfish sometimes and live for myself. Of course, one day when I am healthy again, I do hope to give back and work with organizations benefitting cancer patients.

Until then, I remain a fighter taking big steps in my own way.


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