Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Kool-aid, Kindness, and CNN at the Cancer Hospital

By Valerie Reiss, filling in for Amy.

Hi. So last night I went for my annual CAT scan to make sure that I still don’t have cancer again. I know Amy’s written about her fantasy of how hospitals should be–soothing music, healing, whole food, inspiring decor, etc. I’m with her.

I walked into–the admittedly more posh-than-most–CAT waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and there’s Wolf Blitzer on the flat-screen saying “And which celebrity has cancer? Stay tuned to find out.” Last time, there was a forest fire on CNN. And soon after Wolf, while I was chugging on my Raspberry Isotope Delite with Splenda (looks like fuscia Kool Aid), came Lou Dobbs, inspiring the 20-something male cancer patient next to me to start bitterly ranting about how illegal immigrants “breed” too much.


So I plugged into my ‘pod to drown it all out. Ick. Then a nurse looks at me and says, “Vanessa?” I’m like, “Valerie?” she checks her sheet and nods. I go with her. She says they’d been calling my name. I said I’d been listening to my music to drown out CNN because it’s all so depressing. She noted that I had a point, but that whenever something bad happens patients always ask to have CNN turned on. That depressed me even more.

Since we clearly don’t know what’s good for us when we’re waiting for a stressful exam that could tell us just how long we have left on earth, I’m suggesting obligatory relaxation. Or humor. Anything but death, destruction, and hate.


As I was leaving, I looked around the now mostly empty waiting room and there were scattered bottles of the raspberry drink and empty paper cups with flexi straws. It looked like the remains of a kegger in the cancer hospital. Which, I guess, it was. One woman sat there, looking grim. The (bad) news was on, the Times was sitting there looking unwelcoming and gray amid the cup/bottle detritus. I had the thought, “I want to give her something.” A thought, I might add, I would normally ignore.

But I handed her my Elle Decor that I had bought specially to get through this visit–I find listening to my own music and staring and pretty, shiny things is the best way to get through these. He face lit up and I saw that it was perfect. Perfect to not hold back the urge to give.

Anyway, I’m not sure what my point is, exactly, but I made it through CAT #zillion and managed to share a nice moment with someone also suffering in those unconscious waiting rooms. So though I feel like hurling (the raspberry stuff–full of iodine– has a way of lingering). I also feel a teeny bit glad and proud and less alone.

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posted April 13, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Very touching entry!May you be blessed and cancer-free. Cancer- that’s a scary word. It’s like a predator waiting to pounce on the next unknowing victim. So much of it and so many suffering from it. May we all pray for a cure for this disease. You’re right as well.. Hospitals are depressing. They should have soothing classical music playing and Comedy Central on the tv. The decor should be uplifting. Why does hospital administration not get that? Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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posted April 15, 2007 at 10:39 pm

I think the same people who “decorate” hospitals “decorate” funeral and nursing homes. When we were with my dad as he was dying in the hospital, they turned the tv on in his room and left it on the Fox News Channel. (He’s dying –why turn the tv on??). I turned it off, and about threw the damned thing out the window. So much for soothing comfort.

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posted April 16, 2007 at 5:07 pm

When I was reading your entry, I was so drawn in to what you were saying. You indeed have a gift and talent in your writing. Also, I will say prayers that you will stay healthy. God bless, Brenda

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