I have a cool ritual when I go to the hospital once a month for treatment.
My day starts at the blood lab to get bloodwork done. This is the most stressful part of the day because my veins refuse to cooperate and quietly mock the blood technician to draw blood. Usually, after two pokes, and the technician commenting on how little and non-existent my veins are, the blood finally finds its way in the tube. I take a deep breath and move on to the 4th Floor of the Princess Margaret hospital where I hand in my hospital and health cards and socialize with the folks at the desk who have become part of my family.
Once I get my buzzer (which will buzz when it’s time for my treatment), I scoot off to the 14th Floor of the hospital – the Stem Cell unit – where I spent 3 weeks of my life last year getting a stem cell transplant. I first go to “my room” and see who’s occupying it this time. I talk to the two patients there. Sometimes we laugh. We share stories. I learn about how they were diagnosed (often accidentally, with no previous illness). I hear their fears about what they are going through, and their hope for the future. I reassure them that they will be just fine – look at me!
I then make my way to as many hospital rooms I can talking to patients. Sometimes they will ask me questions about the stem cell process and I share my experiences with them. For some patients, this is their second transplant in so many months – – or years – – and they handle it like a trooper. Some days I learn about new clinical trials that patients are on, and new forms of treatment. Occasionally, a family member or caregiver will approach me and tell me how scared they are; how difficult it is for them to see someone they love suffer so deeply. I comfort them as best as I know how. I have found that the Myeloma club is a resilient bunch that have learnt the value of having a sense of humour. To them, I represent hope that everything will be okay and that they have a chance to live a normal life post-transplant. For me, it is a reminder of how far I have come through this journey and how blessed I am to be where I am today.
And then my buzzer goes off reminding me that it is time for my Pamidronate treatment (known affectionately as Pami). Pami is a bone strengthening medication often given to patients with Myeloma to reduce the risk of broken bones and to reduce bone pain. It is given by IV and takes approximately 3 hours to complete. The great thing about getting Pami is that I am not stuck to the IV, and can move around.
So I use the precious 3 hours to socialize and do fun things. Generally, this involves sitting down for a long and satisfying chat with Michelle, the incredible librarian at the hospital. And then meet up with friends for coffee or lunch. When the weather is good, I explore yet another restaurant on Baldwin Street, a beautiful street close to the hospital. So far I have eaten at six restaurants on Baldwin, the latest being Sambuca.
And then, its time to go back to the hospital to get my IV removed and to connect with more nurses and new patients. The final part of my ritual is to call Nagib and let him know I’m all done. I wait for him with anticipation as he picks me up from the hospital and we drive home together, talking about our day. And when it’s all over and done, I happily circle the date for my next visit to the hospital the following month.
I invite you to watch Part 4 of “Munira’s Journey” that focuses on “Labels are for Jars, not for People”. It is my experience of the gifts you find when you look beyond the labels. Please click the link below: