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Sunday, June 12, 2011
A Clerical Perspective on Caring for Cancer Patients

BY ROBIN HART

Administrative Coordinator

Surgical Oncology Department

Franklin Square Hospital Center, Baltimore

 

I can’t say I’m just like everybody else. Obviously, I am not. Talking to other people makes me realize I think outside the box. Taking it even further, I speak it. 

 

Sometimes this isn’t necessarily a good thing. I get a lot of “looks” and “you’re crazy” stuff. I say what a truly feel, and that’s what makes me who I am, unique.

 

For me, there isn’t always a connection with every patient, their accompanying family member, or friend – basically their support group. 

 

I would say about 80% of people who come into the office I "connect” with. The majority are confused, concerned, and afraid. So although I love my job, I truly hate this crap. Yeah I call it crap because I’m not clinical, I’m clerical. I don’t understand the medical ins and outs of cancer, and this stupid disease angers me.  

 

I don’t think I’m special, but I know I’m here to do something special. I don't know if I've already done it or if it is yet to happen.  

 

For example: You know how some couples just look like they are supposed to be together, like they “match up” perfectly? That is Mr. and Mrs. Z.  They are just so cute!  I remember when they came in, and I just loved her hair – even tried to get mine cut like hers. I commented on it the first time, second time, and I’m pretty sure the third time they came in. She just beamed…but so did he. 

 

I could see him standing there just to the right and behind her, smiling and shaking his head.  You could see he agreed she was a looker and was proud of her. 

 

Each return visit, there were fewer smiles. More testing led to treatment, nauseating treatment.  Loss of hair. Loss of hope. You never know, and yet...you do know.  "There's my girl!", he would say.  "You're like one of our own daughters", she would tell me. God it hurt! 

 

I was lucky enough to get to see Mr. Z about a month before he passed on.  I had just come in the building, and my eyes had not yet adjusted to the darkness from being out in the sunlight. 

 

I heard a familiar voice ahead of me and saw a small, frail figure accompanied by a walker. That all too familiar hurt in my throat commenced as I desperately fought back tears and forced a smile.  "Hey there Mr. Z!"  "There's my girl!", he replied. 

 

I leaned down to gently hug his neck. Idle, uncomfortable chat ensued. This would be our last encounter. "See ya soon, Mr. Z", as he left the building. I entered the elevator, I knew -- I just knew. 

 

I pulled myself together before going back to the office where more patients had arrived. There they sat, waiting to be called next.  I smiled..."Hey Mr. A, how ya doing"?  I give Mrs. K a hug and tell her how pretty she looks in blue. 

 

If I can make one patient smile for one second and leave their worries behind, I feel my purpose has been fulfilled. 

 

It is not only clerical care I provide, but also compassion.

 

6/16/2011
Ms. holly m. redmon said:
th the loss of my little brother. I just wanted to let you know that i was very touched by your article and it trley is those smiling faces you see at the hospital that give you hope when doctors say there is none to be had. I think what you do is amazing and i can relate in a big way. Thankyou for your opinion and honesty. It really did touch my heart in a place i dont let myself go very often. thankyou so much for tha thought provoking article! very much enjoyed it. Holly REDMON
6/16/2011
Ms. holly m. redmon said:
Hello. Mrs. Hart. just wanted to say I loved the article. I thought it was very good and very REAL. I dont like it when people/doctors are very "clinical" about something as precious and as fragile as human life. Such a thing should be treated with the utmost compassion, sympathy, and respect. We are very feeling being and to be blunt or even cold about something like cancer just feels unnatural and completely wrong. I cant imagine what you do for a living is easy by any stretch of the imagination. I lost my brother to ewings sarcoma 3 days after his 16th birthday in 2001. To watch someone almost become a shell of there former self is an awful and gut wrenching thing to go threw. So my hat is off to you Mrs. Hart. My family and I spent the better part of my youth on the 8th floor at John Hopkins and it was one of the most confusing and fearful times in my life. You grow up with these images in your head of your brothers and sisters growing older with you and that was forever changed wi