Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gratitude, Take Two


Matthew got his cast off his ankle on Monday. He is working out his stiffness but is doing all the things he used to do - showering without a bag on his foot, playing with his brother outside, running -- doing the normal things that sports-crazed 11-year-olds do. Monday was also the beginning of one of my two good weeks -- when chemo and its side effects are, if not a distant memory, just faintly visible in my rear-view mirror. Between Matthew and me, it meant a a return to life as we know it. 

The old normal.

It's good to have the old normal back. When life is turned a bit upside down by chemo, I often feel like we are plodding silently along a desolate stretch of highway. The scenery doesn't change; there are no exits, no towns, no houses, no other cars on the road. We are just the four of us in the car, driving down the endless straight highway, knowing that we need to keep moving forward. We sleep. We wake up. Another milepost passes by. We eat. We talk. Another milepost passes by. And then we see hazy signs of civilization in the distance. It slowly draws near. And then, there we are, back in the city of life.

But that's not what  I wanted to write about. 

A shot of the healing garden on the third
floor of the Yawkey Center at Dana-Farber
Yes, I'm grateful for the old normal becoming the new normal again for the next two weeks. I've been thinking, though, about how grateful I am that nearly five years ago, I came to Dana-Farber to work. I often follow my gut. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. My recent foray into Providence was evidence of the latter. My decision to join Dana-Farber (and then rejoin it) was the former. I knew that the position would be different from what I've done before. I  also just knew that it was right. (Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink offers an interesting take on decision making.)

If I hadn't take that job, what would have happened? Would I be here for my care now? Doubtful. I would have likely followed my doctor's lead which might have landed me at Beth Israel or another Boston hospital, or perhaps I would have stayed in Rhode Island. Dana-Farber wasn't on my radar 5 years ago. Cancer wasn't on my radar...  until something put it there. It seems too important for it to be coincidence.

There are plenty of good hospitals and care centers out there; we're a bit spoiled here in New England. Still, none of them compare to Dana-Farber. I recognize that I'm at least doubly biased here, but I'm also intimately familiar with the care model, with the sheer brain power of the research and clinical staff, with the level of compassion, and with the intense focus and commitment of the people who work here. What makes it even more providential that I landed here as an employee before I became a patient is that if there's one place that you would think that understood the logistical challenges of working through treatment, it would be here. I sometimes try to imagine how I would manage the work and travel schedule that characterized my life in the years immediately preceding Dana-Farber and I don't know that I could have done it. 

Sometimes, the day-to-day work involved in a large, non-profit organization can frustrate me. But I'm grateful that Dana-Farber was there for me each time that I needed it.