Thank you to all the oncology doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who cared for my son, and to all those who go to work every day and treat their patients with skill and compassion.
Five years ago, for eight months, I walked the halls of your hospital and clinic on an almost daily basis. I walked past the colorful art painted by oncology patients and the stained glass windows of the hospital chapel. I slowed down to read and re-read the inspirational quotes stenciled on your hallway walls. I used your room phones to order tater tots, PB &J or whatever my two-year-old's chemo-filled body could handle. I sat cross-legged on your cold hospital floors, putting together Disney puzzles and Lego sets with my visiting older children. I carefully pushed IV poles, while convincing my connected, excited son not to run to the hospital playroom. I lifted my son up as high as I could so he could decorate the top section of your lobby's Christmas tree. I worried and sobbed on your blue vinyl chairs while I pounded sadness and rage into my keyboard. I tossed and turned on your oddly-shaped couch-beds and tried to block out the sounds of beeping, alarms, and your early morning footsteps. I lay down next to my son in your hospital beds, rested my hand on his bald head, and prayed. Over and over again.
You were there too.
You tiptoed into our dark room, changed his chemo-filled midnight diapers, and tried to let me sleep. You managed to smile, even when you were tired and ready to go home. You walked me down the hall when you noticed I might not be able to see through my tears. Whenever possible, you trusted me with home treatments so that we could spend less time in the hospital. You created humor in a sad space, and laughed along with my son's toddler jokes and pranks. You took our concerns seriously, and phrased your sentences in ways that gave us hope. You allowed us privacy whenever possible. You seemed to understand that my tired smile was little more than a fragile facade, ready to crumble into tears at any moment. You seemed to understand that the horror in our lives could not be removed, but it could be calmed by kind words, respect, a comfortable space, and a degree of freedom.
You have a difficult job, and I am sure it would be easy to grow calloused and weary. Thank you for choosing to be kind and compassionate. It makes such a difference.
In December 2010, my son received his last chemo treatment. Today my family is blessed with his beautiful presence. You saved my son's life, and ours, many times. We will be forever grateful. Thank you.