I’ve been thinking a lot about illnesses lately. About how some of them take your loved ones away, piece by piece, until there is nothing left of the person you once knew.
My grandmother’s mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Such an insidious disease. She went from the fiercely strong woman I knew to someone who no longer even knew herself. And as some of you know, my dad is currently struggling with cancer; he’s doing everything he can to kick its ass. I’ve often wondered: is it better to lose your mind and keep your bodily health or retain your intellect yet have your body waste away? A twisted kind of lottery if you ask me, no matter which way you go. Terminal illness sucks, of that there is no doubt.
While I would drop everything to be at their beck and call, from day to day I try to keep a light heart and not dwell on the reality that is my dad’s illness … if I did, I’d go down that rabbit hole and never come back up. Instead I show my love through food and treats and stupid jokes and gossip and stupid jokes. Did I mention stupid jokes?
The tangled mess that is my mind wonders about so many things and since we’re discussing illness, naturally, I wonder about hospitals. So here is me … dealing with an ugly reality in a very not so mature way.
Why can you never find a doctor? It’s a hospital, for goodness sake. Doctors swarm around there like ants on your kitchen counter, so why is it you can never find one when you need him? Pinning a doctor down for a visit to your hospital room is like planning a visit from your cable company, only a lot less fun. “I’ll be there between 8am tomorrow morning and 11pm next Tuesday.” Are there hidden golf course in the basement of the hospital?
Why are so many surfaces white? Sure, I get the concept. White equals cleanliness and sterility. But what’s the point when the janitors are playing “Guess That Body Fluid” every time they make rounds? Do you think janitors and housekeeping play fun games behind closed doors? “I’ll see that pee puddle and raise you a vomit pile.” “BINGO!”
Why do they wake you up to give you a sleeping pill? Look, Mr. Baker is finally asleep. Let’s run the floor polisher, set off all the alarms, and wake him for a sleeping pill.
Where do they hire the cooks? Is there a testing process the cooks have to go through to be hired? “Yes, Mrs. Smith, I see you worked in the High School cafeteria. Serving cardboard pizza and soy hotdogs is great experience for this job. However, I’m afraid you failed the test when you made the chicken taste like meat.”
How do they change the hallways to ensure you get lost every time you leave the floor? This is some kind of engineering feat to rival anything NASA accomplishes. From the moment you step out into the hallway, the room changes sides and moves to the opposite wing of the hospital. The hallways reconfigure themselves, and the elevators disappear completely. I swear, it’s like Hogwarts on steroids (if you don’t get that reference, go read the Harry Potter series … it’ll be good for you). The cafeteria moves multiple times to ensure no one will ever be able to find it, or its tasteless chicken. I tried to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, but they disappeared when the janitor swept them up, excitedly marking his Bingo card. Apparently, breadcrumbs are double or nothing.
Why have a call button at all? Admit it, we all do this. You hit the call button and immediately go out to find a nurse. This is similar to the person hitting the up button on the elevator when it’s already been pushed. Of course, once the call button is pushed, all nurses and technicians play hide and seek. Well, all except for that poor nurse who’s always standing at the medication cart, paper cup in one hand, looking like a deer in the headlights.
Can we try happy words instead of procedure names? “It’s bubbly yum yum time” sounds so much better than “It’s time for your chemo treatment.”
In all seriousness, I hate disease, and the way it robs us of all we hold dear. The treatments sometimes seem worse than the illness they are treating, and it is hard to stay strong when you are watching someone begin to lose parts of themselves. Some stories have good endings – thankfully, my Dad appears to be veering off into this direction – some, unfortunately, don’t. The best you can do is reassure your loved ones that you have your seat belt on, and you’re coming along for the ride.
In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to try to find some small doses of humor along the way.
Oh, and I’ll bring the snacks.