Hope and Sanctuary: M.D. Anderson Cancer Center by Katherine M. Clark

The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

April 2004–Following Bill’s family through the maze of a hospital into our waiting room in the Rose Zone, I realize that M.D. Anderson is like its own city. You could easily get lost without a proper escort, like Bill’s grandmother. Not really paying attention to where she is taking us, I notice that though it is confusing to me, the hospital is very organized, It is broken down into different colors, sections, and numbers. I realize that each color corresponding to a particular ward of the care center. After a few moments, we find our way through the maze of passageways inside of the hospital and come to the waiting room that we are told to wait in. It is easy for me to associate a sense of care as I look at the colors on the walls. A subtle beige and tan color provide a moot feeling, and the hospital is kept cool, quiet and clean. The only smell that can be described is a heavy air of medicine. Those who are waiting in the waiting room to see various other patients are quiet, out of respect for those who are being treated there. Most of these people must be experienced at the hospital visit, as they appear to be dressed for a long stay; comfortable clothes, the latest daily paper, and a cup of coffee. The first time visitors must be those that are dressed nicely and playing with their clothes seeing as they seem to be very bored.

I am here with my boyfriend Bill and his dad. We are here to visit Bill’s mom, who has come from four hours outside of Houston. Bill’s mom has cancer in numerous places and lithium poisoning and is going to be put into the hospice, where people are put once it is deemed there is no hope of living for them. It all started with lung cancer, which is hard to treat, that came as a result of her smoking. There is a new vaccine that destroys lung cancer in some patients, but Bill’s mom is too far gone. Before we entered the hospital, Bill’s dad lit up a cigarette and I watch him smoke in amazement.

How could he smoke, when his ex-wife’s cancer started in the lungs from smoking? This is the same man who fought cancer once himself. We have seen horrible things happen to him and his ex-wife and he still stood there and smoked, right outside the hospital doors. I think about all this as we walked through the entrance to the waiting room.

As most people who come here, we quickly grow tired of waiting for the hospital to allow us to visit, so we found entertainment through various magazines. Bill and I chose a puzzle and we began to work on it. Most people around us are talking loud enough that we can’t help but overhear, it is funny how their conversations were mostly about things unrelated to the reason that they are there. The only time they bring up their reasons, they keep it short and to the point.

Also, judging by the visitors, the patients are mostly ones from Texas, but some are from outside the state. They come for many different reasons and are dealing with a variety of cancer types. Most of the people here at this hospital, especially in the zone that we are in, are very sick. The hospital makes the patients as comfortable as possible. In fact, M.D. Anderson is considering providing online services to patients in their rooms.

After building up quite an appetite from just sitting and waiting, so we head for the cafeteria, which is the only place in the hospital that makes you feel like you’re not in the hospital anymore. When you’re eating in the cafeteria, you’re sitting with doctors, nurses, other staff members, patients, and visitors. It is a time out from the real world and back into the commercialized world with overpriced food, which surprisingly is comforting. The food tastes like it does everwhere else there is a Pizza Hut or a Chick-Fil-A.

Bill‘s grandmother, who stayed in the waiting room, has come down to inform us that Bill’s mom has been placed in a room and that we can go see her. Walking to the room is where we actually see other patients. We see them walking around the area where the rooms are and through the open doors of their own rooms. Although the majority of people’s time is spent in the patient’s room. Bill’s mom looks bad, almost unbearable to look at. We spend a good amount of time with her and then we leave, back through the maze of hospital.

The patients look lonely when they are by themselves and that is when they look sick to me. But when people are visiting them they look happy and alive. It is very important that patients are visited by their family and loved ones. Looking at my boyfriend’s mom made everyone want to bust out crying, but when you’re there you realize that you have to stay strong for them and the rest of the visitors. So you act as normal as possible and try to make them fel as if it is just another day. Smiling helps a lot. Since I am not a relative I felt that it was my duty to keep smiling and holding their hands in order to keep them from falling apart.

I have lived in Houston, Texas all my life and have been familiarized with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, through numerous visits to see Bill’s mom. It is the most valuable possession we have and the nation’s top cancer hospital. Anyone who lives in or around Houston should visit and contribute to it, so that it can prosper, so that we can prosper. It is a symbol of life to many people fighting cancer. The hardworking doctors and nurses are caring and dedicated. It is blind to race, gender, and age. It will be there for you no matter who you are. Ultimately, we are all here in this world striving to stay alive and no one is working harder to help us out than M.D. Anderson.

The visits I make to the hospital have changed my life. I used to be afraid of hospitals because all the sick people overwhelmed me with sadness. But now I see hospitals in a new light. I see people helping other people out and I realize where they would be without this. The work they have done has shown greatly and has passed with flying colors in the hearts of everyone.

It is important for the hospital to have support and you can support the hospital and their patients even if you do not have a loved one there. Besides giving money, you could give them your time with volunteer work or even join their team of professionals to better the lives of the cancer patients. Out of all the places in Houston, M.D. Anderson shines the most; it is the heart of our city. It is the only place that you can go where all the set backs and digressions in life are brought down to size and where people work together to keep and better life for all.


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M.D. Anderson




Houston Guide


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