27 August 2010

MISSION: Chemotherapy and Caring.

When I discovered a lump in my left breast four years ago at the age of 28, I was definitely scared. When the surgeon removed it and the pathologist reported that it was an atypical papilloma, I was even more scared. When I took my first trip to the Hillman Cancer Center here in Pittsburgh to get a mammogram to see if there was anything else bad going on in my breast, I was Officially Scared. And when the radiologist brought me back to her screening room after my mammogram, showed me the linear-shaped calcifications that often indicate cancer and said I needed to have another surgery right away, I was at Level Defcon 5 of Terror. I couldn't fathom the idea of cancer in my body. Not at the age of 28. Not ever.

Luckily, the second surgery showed no cancer, and now I just go to the Hillman Cancer Center every 6 months to be watched like a hawk in case The Big C does decide to show up. But still, I live with the fear that cancer will ultimately take up residency in my body some day.

So, when I received a mission today from Affiliated Agent J from right here in Pittsburgh, I knew I had to post it right away. While I don't have cancer, I, like many, have been touched by it in some way--either through a friend or family member, or, of course, through my own too-close-for-comfort experience.

Grab your tissues, dear readers. This is a powerful mission.

Date: Friday, 27 August 2010

Location: Allegheny Cancer Center; Allegheny General Hospital; Pittsburgh, PA

Time: 1:00 p.m.

Affiliated Agent J shares with us the amazing experience she had on her mission toda

My older brother has brain cancer and he has been fighting it now off and on for almost four years. There have been times during this four year period where he has been cancer free and has been fine, but during the times he's been in treatment he gets chemotherapy at the Allegheny Cancer Center at AGH. These days, he is there for a chemo every other Friday. My parents and I go with him and sit in the treatment room and talk to help pass the time.

I am always struck by the mood in the infusion room; it's not grim and sad like you might think, but rather it's kind of a cheery, hopeful place. There have been times when we've been there that small groups of friends of family have gathered around someone to laugh or play cards.

The nursing staff is so overwhelmingly kind and sensitive and inevitably there are homemade pastries or other goodies that someone has brought to share with the patients, families and staff. I thought this would be a good place to do my first mission because I just wanted to add to the feeling of hope and kindness in that room.

When I arrived in the infusion room today my brother was already in a chair and a nurse was getting is IV ready and strangely enough there was only one other person there for a treatment. Usually the place is rather busy. But, I figured that this was my chance to put my card somewhere where someone would find it easily find it, and I wouldn't get caught.

I put the card on one of the infusion chairs and snapped a quick photo before almost getting caught by one of the nurses! Then I casually walked away to see how my brother was doing.

Not 5 minutes later one of the nurses found my card, read the front and figured someone had accidentally left it there. She then gave it to the one other patient in the treatment room, an older woman who was receiving chemo and her daughter who was sitting with her! I was so excited that I would be there to actually see someone open my package!

The woman opened the card and read it aloud and her daughter said she had heard of people doing these random acts of kindness before and couldn't believe that they were the recipients of such a thing! I had to pretend that I wasn't listening, but really I was so happy that they liked the card and gift!

Affiliated Agent J: we say prayers for your brother, for you, and for your entire family. We send love and comfort to you all and to every person who has been touched by cancer in some way. And because of your mission of kindness, we are reminded that we are never, ever alone. Thank you, dear friend.

{To see another mission completed at Allegheny General Hospital in honor of all those affected by cancer, click here.}


Mike said...

I don't swear that often, so I can save it for situations like this.

Fuck cancer.

Hope your brother keeps up the fight, and awesome way to spread some joy.

Anonymous said...

My 9 year old little boy is fighting brain cancer grade III and the prognosis is grim. I hope your brother fights his hardest and kicks the hell out of cancer. Being a mom of a cancer patient, the little kind gestures people do are so appreciated as I'm sure you know. So thank you for choosing someone who is going through or supporting someone with cancer, its a tough and often heartwrenching job.


Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful mission! I work at an oncology practice so I see every day the toll this takes on not only patients, but their entire family. It becomes a full time job for them just to come to their treatments, keep up with medications, scans etc. It's mind boggling. Every day I ask myself "why". Why does this have to happen to people? I wish I had answers. All I have is faith and hope and prayer. I pray that you all will be sustained and lifted up in every way...Great Mission!!

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine was just diagnosed with cancer so this one touched me... a job very well done. And much hope, love and light to your brother. May he kick the big C right out the door for good!

Operation Smiley Face said...

Nice one! This was so thoughtful, and I'm sure it will be remembered forever by the recipient. Good job A.A. J, and all the best to your brother. You all will be in my prayers.

Affiliated Agent K said...

I have done 2 missions for SAL so far, and they all stem from having cancer currently and loosing friends to cancer. This one did have me in tears, and it's awesome that you got to see the receipient open it! Good for you for picking a wonderful location!

vivian lee croft said...

Keeping you and those who've commented in my thoughts. My dad died from cancer a little over 6 years ago. It's a tough disease and for those who live with it and pass from it, and those who take care of them, I send thoughts and well wishes.

It was not until I was part of the first SAL documented mission at AGH with Laura that it really hit me... how much cancer can change a life, and how strong and how much stronger people affected are because of it. I know during my dad's illness I felt isolated and at wit's end. This mission is very powerful and very beautiful.

I was very happy to see the AGH tower in the photos here. I'm also happy to know that I live near this hospital and my boyfriend works there, too. I love the feeling of connection... For me, it helps me feel a little less alone now.