Something delightful happened to me when I went for chemo treatment to the hospital. I was mistaken for a visitor, and not a cancer patient! The significance of this was astounding. Since my diagnoses on February 3, each time I have gone to the hospital, my identity has been that of a cancer patient. When I go to get my bloodwork every Thursday, my hospital number is checked and I am asked to confirm my name and my birthdate. When I go to get chemo every Thursday, it is the same routine. I am first and foremost a patient at the hospital and am treated as such. At the beginning, I responded by acting like a patient – passive, acquiescing, obeying. This was easy to do when I was not feeling particularly well. Thankfully, I realized quickly that I was more than a patient — I was a person.
So, I decided to change the dance. I started dressing up for my hospital visits and looking forward to them. Woo hoo chemo! I found that, as a result, I was walking taller and taking charge. I went to the hospital with the intention of making the many hours at the hospital work for me and the people who looked after me. i focused on getting to know the people behind the uniforms. The curious thing is that when I changed my dance, the people I interacted with were compelled to change their dance steps. My behaviour and attitude were having an impact on people I was meeting. And my relationships with my caregivers, went from boring, status-quo two-step dance to vibrant salsas and exciting stories to tell each other each week.
And then today when I was assigned to chemo ward purple, number 14, I saw a cancer patient in my pod who thought I was a visitor who had come to visit someone else in our pod. I was flabbergasted. I was pleasantly surprised. And then I was overjoyed. For one of the first times at the hospital in 8 months, I was not seen as a patient! And it came to me that so often we label people and limit them to the constraints of that label. We are so much more than that. Each one of us — and the people we meet everyday — are fascinating, complex beings with hopes, dreams, challenges, pain, passion and stories. What if we did not label them? What if we got curious about everyone we meet — including our parents, children and significant others — as if we were meeting them for the first time? What might we discover, what might we create together? Labels are for jars, not for people!