Love the Ward
Below is an excerpt from my book, “My Story: A Parent’s Journey Through His Child’s Cancer.” Throughout Michael’s battle with cancer, I learned so many lessons about parenting and life, and I journaled about them almost every day. Here is perhaps the most important journal entry I wrote during that time:
“This morning, at around 7:45 am, Kim posted something on Facebook. I responded, saying she should be sleeping not posting. She responded by asking why *I* wasn’t asleep and I said “I’m in a ward, in a saggy cot, with a sore back and a crying kid in the bed next to Michael. Wish I COULD sleep.” Her response? “Love the ward.”
Kim lives in a world where if you remain positive rather than negative/complaining, everything sorts itself out. Instead of being annoyed or angry with drivers on the road, love the drivers. Instead of being frustrated with a kid’s behavior, love the kid. Instead of hoping for a close parking spot, know with absolute certainty that there’s one waiting right where you need it (in this case, simply invoke what Kim calls “The Parking Genie.” It’s really quite amazing how often it works!)
I remember a few years ago, Kim hosted a retreat in Florida for her clients. She arranged a bunch of activities for them so they could get to know each other. We had a team chili-cooking competition one night, a special dinner another…and we went skeet shooting. We had a blast. Literally!
One of the women in our group, a transplanted Israeli with army experience, missed almost every shot. And with each progressive miss, she became more and more frustrated. By the end of the evening, she was complaining that her shoulder hurt (from the recoil), and that she hated the rifle she was using. To make a long story short, Kim advised her to “love the gun.” That’s right…LOVE the gun.
The guy who ran the activity had offered to take her back out in the morning to try again. Kim kept repeating: Love the gun! The next morning, our friend came back from the shooting range with a triumphant smile. She had indeed loved the gun instead of hating it and she scored nearly 100%, hitting something like 38 out of 40 skeet.
Kim’s line of thinking is simple. By hating something, you resist it. If you resist it, it will never ever work out. If you keep any negative thought about whatever it is, it will never work. So love the thing you hate. Love it unconditionally. And watch what happens.
So when Kim said “love the ward,” I realized that I was being miserable about something beyond my control, I was kvetching a bit to the nurses and it served no purpose other than to make me miserable and unhappy. So instead of being upset about the screaming kid, and instead of being unhappy about being in a ward, I let it all go. Michael is getting the treatment he needs, we have a bed, we weren’t sent home, etc. What am I complaining about?!?
That was around 9:00 am. By 10:00 am, the mom of the screaming kid was telling me her story. Her two-year-old was diagnosed with Ewing’s, just like Michael, but he had it in the femur, in his leg. He had had the tumor moved, was in a cast, and was uncomfortable. She apologized for his crying, hoping he didn’t keep me up too much.
They’re from Saskatchewan and are living in Toronto for three months. They stay in a hotel near the hospital when they are not in-patient. The kid will have one leg shorter than the other for a long time and will need a number of corrective surgeries over the next number of years. She worries about the impact it will have on him.
At 1:00 pm, I mentioned to the charge nurse that I know they’re full up, and clearly so many patients need their own rooms due to colds, fever, special care etc., and we’ll be fine in the ward. I asked if anyone was being discharged today and she said, apologetically, nobody’s going home for at least 24 hours, and we’re probably going to have to tough it out in the ward for the full five days of treatment.
“No problem,” I said “If something opens up, it opens up. You know what? It’s all good.”
She even told me that because of my back problems I could sleep in one of the spare hospital beds in the ward, and if they need it, she’d tell me and I’d go back to sleeping on the saggy cot. Cool and totally against the rules.
After thinking it through, I decided to tough it out on the cot. The nurses have it hard enough as it is. It’s not fair that they should have to do extra work if I take a hospital bed and they need it later. They’d have to strip it, wipe it down, sterilize the area…they have enough to do. I’m loving the ward.
At 6:20 pm, Paulette, the charge nurse, popped in with a smile. A kid got discharged early unexpectedly and we were invited to move into a private room. I’m in the room now. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, I have my narrow yet really comfy daybed which means no backaches or neck stiffness for the duration of our stay here, and all our clothes are unpacked into drawers instead of needing to live out of a suitcase.
It’s almost 10:30 pm. And I’m ready to call it a day. I love the ward. Good night.”
Postscript – March 28 2017: Michael had his semi-annual checkup today, involving a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram and a visit with his oncologist. I’m happy to report that he was given a clean bill of health and remains NEC (no evidence of cancer).