The glass, automatic double doors slide open and close, time and time again during the course of the five-hour time frame where I stand front and center as a navigator and helper to those entering MD Anderson Hospital. There are many who, like me, consider MDA a familiar place as they have undergone treatments and follow-up visits for several years or have stood by the side of a loved one undergoing treatment for a lengthy amount of time. On rare occasions, I have visited with patients who have been under the care of doctors in the MDA system for twenty plus years. However, every single day, hundreds enter the front doors for the first time with those closest to them in tow with a look of frantic desperation, tears, and sadness. The appearance of being lost, confused, and the question of hope is more often than not embedded on their facial expressions. This was true for one such woman this week as I stood in my usual place, watching patients and families pass through the doors of the greatest Cancer treatment center in the world.
“Good morning!”, I said to her as she hesitantly approached. Her husband was only two steps behind with a folder full of lab results and scheduling paperwork under one arm along with his iPhone in hand, scrolling with his thumb, obviously hoping to find that he was in the correct building. Each of them with their own set of concerns; he, trying to insure a timely appointment arrival and she, wanting someone… anyone, to assure her that she was going to survive her recent Cancer diagnosis. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked to see her appointment schedule. Her husband was more than willing to pass the responsibility over to me as it can all be very intimidating and overwhelming to a new-comer. I flipped through three stapled pages until I found the correct date, time, and clinic address which read: Thoracic, Elevator B, 9th floor, 9:15. My heart sank as I quickly swallowed, took a deep breath and raised my head. Under their seemingly dazed condition, I decided to personally escort them to their first appointment to guarantee they did not get lost in the maze of elevators and corridors, further adding to their anxiety.
On the elevator ride to the 9th floor, I learned that the couple was from Alabama and had just arrived in Houston the night before. Obviously exhausted and frazzled to the last nerve, both were reserved in their conversation. The elevator door opened and the three of us stepped off with me in the lead. During the next twenty-five or so steps, I prayed for strength, peace, and a word of encouragement that I might offer to relieve the couple’s burden. As we rounded the corner on the left, just above our heads was the official signage hanging from the ceiling, THORACIC. Once again, I prayed, “Lord help me to be a comfort”.
The hospital has upgraded its check-in process to an iPad system. It is pretty straight forward as one is asked to enter basic information. However, for new patients, the sight of a computer screen in their already nervous, concerned condition can be very daunting. The husband and wife looked at each other as if to question which one was going to attempt to sign in. I chuckled with them and offered my assistance to enter her information to which they again gladly accepted. After I pushed the “send” button, completing the process, I turned to them and said, “Okay, you’re good to go. Just make yourselves comfortable until they call your name. I want you to know that you’re in the best hands and you’re going to receive great care here. I actually spent nineteen months in this very clinic with my mom.” They both looked shocked and relieved to hear these words coming from me. The woman asked, “What kind of cancer did your mom have?” I replied, “Lung cancer.” She responded, “Oh, that’s what I have! How’s your mom doing now?” With a smile on my face, I looked straight into her eyes and said, “My mom is beautifully healed”. Her face lit up as she wrapped her arms around me. Giving me a big squeeze, she said, “That’s wonderful!” As I was locked in her arms, I glanced over her shoulder at her husband. With tears in his eyes, he winked at me as if he understood. His wife was still smiling as she released her arms from around me and turned to take a seat in the waiting area. Having completed God’s assignment, I headed back to the first floor to take my position at the front door.