What Floor Is This

When I first got admitted to hospital, I got my family to buy me a journal so I could document everything that was going on. Even though part of me wants to forget all of this ordeal when it’s over, another part of me knows I will want to be able to go back and remember the little details.

Problem is, writing is hard! Not the process of putting thoughts into words, that is easy. But physically picking up a pen and writing out letters is a slow process, and my hand cramps after five minutes.

I am truly a member of the computer generation.

After about a week, I moved to typing all my thoughts and experiences into WordPress and not publishing. That way, if I do feel like sharing one particular story, it will be easy to put up.

Well today I am going to share a piece I wrote in that original journal. It’s a little short because, as mentioned, my hand cramped up and I couldn’t get the words on paper fast enough before the inspiration left my head.

It’s not funny, or witty, or inspiring. But it’s something I think about and go back to a lot…

The Moncton Hospital is made up of seven floors. Each floor has its designation and purpose. Instead of saying “Maternity,” often people will just say “the second floor” and know what area is being referred to.

The sixth floor is the oncology ward. Everyone knows it’s where the cancer patients go.

Even though I’m 25, people my age often go to the Pediatrics ward. There aren’t very many people in their twenties who require long-term care, so it’s easier to stick them in with the youngins’. We’re a little more active than those who take up many of the other beds anyways. But the kid’s ward is hectic, and busy, and I hear the nurses there are a little more harried. So my family doctor requested I be put in onocology.

It is mostly elderly people on the sixth floor. They’re quiet, apart from when their obnoxious middle-aged children come in to visit. The elderly actually like the food at the hospital, and they all look dead when they sleep. I chat with the other patients up here, but it is never a friendly chat. Everyone is engrossed by their own illness and problems.

Some of the lighter characters I’ve met in the hospital are the porters, those designated to wheel patients around to appointments and tests. The small talk with the porters is always a breath of fresh air after the depressing talk that happens in the oncology ward.

The other day, a porter was taking me back upstairs after a round of tests. He expertly turned my stretcher into the elevator and pushed 6.

“What the hell are you doing on the sixth floor anyways?” he asked.

I thought about it. This is where I would crack a joke or just tell the truth. But really, I didn’t have an answer for him. Because I don’t know why I’m up here. 25-year-olds aren’t supposed to get cancer. And I don’t belong here.

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Posted on July 19, 2011, in Cancer and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. No you really, really, don’t.

    I’m totally with you on writing, I used to journal as a kid and now I just can’t do it haha, hurts my hand too much.

    I hope chemo went as well as it could yesterday. :)

  2. enough said….

    Continued prayers and light Susan!

  3. You’re right. You don’t belong there.
    Hang in there Susan. And keep writing, oops I mean typing :-)

  4. Oomph. That is the sound of your poignant short story hitting my heart. You’re right; 25-year-olds aren’t supposed to get cancer; 6-year-olds aren’t supposed to get cancer; 71-year-olds aren’t supposed to get cancer. When we get down to it, no one is supposed to get cancer. Prayers and positive thoughts for you!

  5. Thetreadmilldiaries

    It sounds cliche to say life isn’t fair at times but I discovered how true this is when personal tragedy hit my life earlier in the year. You’re right – you don’t belong there and hopefully soon enough you’ll be able to leave.

    Sending good thoughts and well-wishes your way. Thank you for sharing such a personal side of your life with us.

  6. This is beautiful.

    Also, I was a porter at a cancer hospital for years and had some AMAZING conversations, so it warms my heart to know that the appreciation goes both ways.

  7. Wow, that’s quite a pointed question from the porter. It must have really stung. Very interesting to hear that the chit chat with the porters is a breath of fresh air. Now that you mention it, I remember that being true with my Dad. Porters were often young (and sometimes cute!) and they weren’t asking you about your IV line or your bowel movements. They were chatting about the weather or other stuff. It lightened the scene.

    You are so right- whenever certain ‘old’ people get together, they really do talk about their ailments because it’s usually (and unfortunately) front and center in their minds. And it’s a common ‘bond’ I suppose- something they share and can feel a connectedness with one another over (sorry bad grammar). And sometimes they love to share with TMI!!

    I suppose we can look at this as you are ‘just passing through’…you won’t be on the 6th floor very long- this will all be behind you in a few months.

    I’m so glad that chemo round #1 is done- just think: it’s already working to beat those uninvited cancer cells!!

  8. So well written Susan-
    now just wish it was fictional,
    because this whole saga sounds
    both very unreal,and also too real.

    I really think you are “waking” a lot of
    us up with your blog these days.
    So sorry this is a jolt of reality that you
    have to travel through.

    Hope there are some simple pleasures in your life this week ,
    whether some charismatic porters chatting or a family
    tasty treat or fun mail…

  9. Wishing & hoping & sending good thoughts that you don’t belong to that 6th floor much longer – your writing touches my heart…

  10. greensandjeans

    This post gave me chills, and not just because you are a brilliant writer (but seriously, you are).

  11. wow. that was a beautiful journal entry. Brilliant, as stated above by another commenter.

  12. Damn well said. Again, you prove to be such a prolific writer. I just wish it was fiction. Thinking of you.

  13. you certainly do NOT belong there….:( That was beautifully written. Hope today is good.

  14. This post touched me. And, I couldn’t agree with your final sentiments more. I would have told him exactly that when he asked.

    I’m sorry the elderly patients are downers. I hope you get more breaths of fresh air soon.

  15. you don’t belong there, not a bit.

    I hope chemo went ok. I know that’s kind of an oxymoron – but here’s hoping that now you have started this journey, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

  16. Well written! I can’t handle writing more than a paragraph with a pen either! Your are right, you don’t belong there….sending you healthy thoughts and hope your first chemo went as well as it could. ((Hugs))

  17. The Oncology ward in Chalmers is on the third floor. You go left to Oncology and right to Maternity. Every time I went in for treatment, I would think about how I should have been going right instead of left. I would get on the elevator with women who had just had their babies – a constant reminder that instead of a baby, I had to endure chemo. You never forget those sorts of things. It still means a lot to me when I visit the third floor. When I went in to deliver Edward and got to go right instead of left, it made the experience much more special; I knew just how blessed I was to be going in the “right” direction. And when I got on the elevator with Edward to take him home, and I was the one getting congratulations as opposed to handing them out, it was deeply touching. Chris and I just cried. We were so thankful. As Khalil Gibran says: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” [Note: For anyone confused by this comment, I had a molar pregnancy that turned into PGTD. As a result, I needed surgery and five cycles of chemo.]

    That said… here’s a little perspective. Palliative is on the same floor, down the hall from the elevators. I also often thought that I’m glad not to be going in that direction! Like you, my disease was very treatable – a gift amongst all the crap. Every. Single. Day. now I wake up thankful for life and health. I wake up thankful that I don’t have to go in for another round of chemo, or have a disease in my body that can grow out of control and take my life. I feel everything more deeply and in the long run, feel it was a gift to me. It all led me to Edward. My life is so full now. It takes a while to come to that point. Some may never. But whatever meaning you find in it all is OK. It’s just important now that you find a way through and come out the other side with your health and emotions intact. We’re all here for you.

    This post is so candid. I appreciate that and feel grateful that you’re sharing this with your friends. This comment really struck me: “The elderly actually like the food at the hospital, and they all look dead when they sleep.” I sometimes thought/think that as well. I saw many people who looked like the wakling dead. Not you. Not with your big, bright, beautiful smile and those large, inquisitive eyes. The chemo can’t take those away. Some people just looked so ill. Some days it was me looking for life in the mirror, when I was yellow and had dark circles under my eyes. Yet there was always this light/life in my eyes and in many other patients as well. Call it hope, spirit, fight, or whatever, but it was there.

    I can’t believe you have treatment day one over. Well done! Each day is a day behind you and one step closer to moving past this experience. I think you’re amazing.

    • Kayla, I can’t even begin to fathom some of the complicated emotions surrounding your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Even though the losing my hair part doesn’t bother me, I do admit that having to look in the mirror and see a sickly person look back scares me. I’ve already noticed the purple under my eyes is more prominent with the first bit of chemo. I think the hospital and seeing other sick people brings a whole new dynamic to cancer too. It’s hard when you’re sharing rooms or getting treatment next to people who are literally dying.

      • The thing that bothered me about my hair thinning was that it reminded me of the poison running through my veins. On the flip side, it reminded me that my disease was also getting sicker, which made me happy. Seeing a sick person staring back at me bothered me a lot as well. Also, the shock of how fatigued treatment made me. It really was like my body was being held captive. I didn’t feel bound and gagged; I still felt like I had some power over the situation, especially emotionally. People often say to take things day by day. There were days where I had to take things hour by hour. It takes longer to recover with each treament.

        I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like being an inpatient. I got treatment with a couple of inpatients, one man who was wheeled in on his bed. That really affected me. To see that everyday, well… it would make it more difficult, I think, because you don’t get a break from the reality of cancer. You don’t get to walk away from it, seeing other people ailing and just how bad it can get. Hang in there, Susan. You have my deepest sympathy for having to endure that. Unfortunately, some people that are admitted there will not leave alive. You will! Hopefully, you’ll be free from the hospital soon and when you finish treatment, you can go home and find some comfort there. I have heard of people taking their own sheets in, pillows, hanging pictures/posters, etc. Have you done anything like that?

        • No, actually. Because I never wanted this place to feel too homey and I never came to terms with the fact that I’d be in here for a while. Good news is that I’m getting discharged tomorrow! I guess my doctor is satisfied with how I’m making out :)

          • Woofricinhoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s the BEST news. What you said makes sense. I thought that asking that question, but asked anyway since I didn’t know how long you’d be in there. Very happy to hear that you’ll get to leave. :D

  18. That sure is right, you don’t belong there!

  19. You sure don’t belong there. Keep up the faith, I know we’re all cheering for you.

  20. This post is very touching. You are an amazing writer!

  21. You’re such a beautiful writer.

  22. This post gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. Like many others have said, I just wish it was fiction.

    Thinking of you lots. XO

  23. Hi Susan, I’m new around here. I came across the link to your blog from HeatherEatsAlmondButter and I’ve spent the last 30 minutes reading through. Reading your story and seeing all you’ve gone through in less than a month really hit home to me. I’ll be turning 24 soon and I thought to myself “this could have very easily been me”. It made me realize the importance of taking care of yourself, mind and body. Listening to your gut feelings, even when your mind is saying “Illness? no that won’t happen to me”. I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and making me realize I need to start taking care of myself now rather than later. I’m sending tons of prayers and good wishes your way, and will be following along on this journey you are on. By the way, did you ever get to see Harry Potter this weekend? I did and I spent most of the movie sobbing into my tissues :)

  24. Susan,
    As someone who has spent some time in the hospital, this post rang so true for me. Just over a year ago, I gave birth to a stillborn little boy. I was well into my trimester, about halfway through my pregnancy. When all of the madness and chaos of giving birth and being treated for some life threatening complications was over, I found myself in the maternity ward. I knew that I had just given birth, and that the doctors on that floor were the ones trained to treat me, but it just felt mean that they put me there. All around me people were visiting mothers and their newborns, women were nursing their new babies, and people were preparing to take their little ones home. My husband and I were sitting in my hospital, in shock over what we had lost. When you think “maternity ward,” our experience is not what you picture.
    I’ve been thinking of you a lot over these last few weeks. Sorry it took me so long to drop in and send some well wishes. You’ve been in my thoughts and my prayers.
    Kayla

  25. Cancer is never fun, but when you get it when you’re young it is particularly difficult. Maybe I’m harsh, but if you get cancer when you’re 80, it is almost expected. Should the worst happen, you’ve already had a full life. When you’re young you face the possibility of it impacting your long term plans. My husband was 36 when he had it for the first time. He was older than you, but way too young to get the type of cancer he had and he had zero risk factors for it. I remember going with him to appointments and being surrounded by old people. Some of them had their adult children to comfort them. In our case it was my husband’s older parents who were there to comfort their adult son. The role reversal was particularly jarring. Not only that but people my age (I’m younger than my husband and in my last twenties), are really uncomfortable about the whole topic. They’d want to talk about going out drinking and partying, and I would be talking about doctor’s appointments and surgeries. The whole experience ages you both in positive and negative ways. You grown more mature but paradoxically enough it make your also feel extremely young and afraid.

  26. You DON’T belong there. You belong in my pocket! Having adventures in Philly! Ugh. Screw you, cancer.

    And I agree with Gillian. You are suuuuch a good writer! Did you go to school for that or something?! =P

  27. You are a beautiful writer.

    I find that I am more articulate and well-versed when I longhand things, rather than type them out. Perhaps because it takes longer and forces me to slow down? I journaled furiously as a kid (and still to some extent now), so my hand takes longer to cramp, but it still does eventually. :) Fun fact: JK Rowling wrote the earliest drafts of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in longhand.

  28. Susan, you are continually in my thoughts and prayers. You are very brave and you express your emotions is a very thoughtful and eloquent way.

    I hope your chemo went as well as it can.

    Meagan (Sara’s uni roommate)

  29. Very beautiful, and you are right. You don’t, and nobody else for that matter, belong there.
    You can pull trough this. I know you can. *hug*

  30. So as a random but related comment . . . when I was telling the Fudge lady where I wanted your fudge sent I gave her your full name. Then I gave her the address and made sure to say oncology ward. To which she replied, “Oncology!?!?!? I thought you said her name was Susan!?!?!?” I told her your name was Susan and then she said, “Ok, got it. Susan Ward.”

    HA!!! True story!!! :P

  31. You are a very talented writer.

    No, you don’t belong there. No one does. ((hugs))

    I’m glad you got some time to be home with your family.

  32. No. You don’t belong there.
    ((hugs))

  33. I love this post. No. You don’t belong there. You are always in my thoughts, love. Always.

  34. i think you are going to be so glad you documented this all – to look back and see just how much you’ve overcome – you are such an inspiration! i know you probably don’t feel like it, but you are. you are, you are.

  35. You definitely don’t belong there, and I can SO relate. I am 35, and while that is a lot older than 25, it’s also too young for stage 3 ovarian cancer, which is my diagnosis. In the last few months, I’ve had 4 extended stays in the oncology floor myself, and the nurses, techs, etc. always want to know what I’m doing there. Prayers that you will beat this beast called cancer.

  36. I haven’t read your blog, before, I just came upon it today through Healthy Tipping Point. This entry just made me cry. I’ll be participating in your upcoming fundraiser. Stay strong. I’m so sorry this is happening.

  37. Susan-

    I too am 25. When I was 22, I had emergency surgery to have my right ovary removed due to a tumor, sized between a cantelope and a soccer ball. I was in the hospital for a week recovering from surgery and the 9 inch incision on my belly, and the overwhelming uncertainty, fear and waiting of- “Is it cancer?”

    Mine turned out to be of borderline malignancy. Meaning, it was not malignant, but it was not benign. It was, in essence, pre-cancerous. Unheard of for a 22 year old. Ovarian cancer is thought to be a post menopause issues- not for someone fertile and in their 20s who hasn’t even had children yet.

    The last 3 years I’ve had oncology appointments every 3 months, another surgery, countless blood draws to check CA-125 and transvaginal ultrasounds to monitor the remaining ovary for cysts or tumor growths. All the while I am thinking to myself how incredibly lucky I am that I am not sitting getting chemotherapy treatments. Lucky that I still have my other ovary and theoretically, should still be able to have children when the time comes for me. Lucky that the tumor was caught when it was and I am alive.

    But like you, I wonder, why the hell is this happening to me? It is so overwhelming and so frightening and the waiting is the worst part. I remember being in the hospital after my surgery, doped up on morphine, just waiting and driving myself crazy with thinking. I watched my grandmother die of cancer. I am an only child and to see my parents so scared and worried and on the verge of tears just killed me. I had to be strong for them during that time. I don’t know if I could have done that if they didn’t have me on morphine! I don’t know that I could have stayed strong had I needed chemotherapy or radiation, or needed my uterus or other ovary removed. Had I lost my ability to one day have my own children, it would have devastated me more than losing my hair, than having chemo- any of that. I have always wanted to be a mother, to have children and be a great mom. I’m just waiting for Prince Charming to find his way to me. But had I lost that ability, I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to continue to cope with all of that with a smile on my face.

    I am now waiting for an appointment with my doctor this week concerning my last ultrasound. I’ve never had to have a face to face appointment to get ultrasound results, so I’m quite worried. Many of the symptoms I had before my first surgery are back- bloating, hard stomach, general abdominal discomfort, lack of energy, being full quickly. Vague symptoms, but not normal for me. I am worried, but I am keeping calm and carrying on.

    I have learned that God will not throw anything at me that I can’t handle. I don’t think of myself as a particularly strong, or brave person. But when I look at the things I have gone through and survived, not just medically, but otherwise, compared to most women my age, I do wonder how I did it. Friends and family tell me I am one of the strongest people they know. I don’t know how they figure that, but I figure I need to believe it too.

    I was lucky, and I’m not saying I know exactly what you are going through. But have faith. Be strong. And accept the challenges being thrown at you because they will shape and change you in a way you will be incredibly thankful for one day.

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