When I got into the lift on the ground floor of Bristol Children’s Hospital it was often crowded, but there wasn’t usually too many left in it by the time it reached the top floor of the hospital.
This 7th floor housed the paediatric oncology unit, the bone marrow transplant unit and the Adolescent Ward.
Sometimes as I looked at those who stayed in the lift till the 7th floor I could just tell by their drooping shoulders that this was a “cancer mom”.
Within minutes we would be exchanging personal information of greater depth than we would normally tell close friends and family.
We were in this together and close bonds were quickly forged.
I remember on one occasion getting into the lift on the ground floor with a total stranger.
As the lift approached the 7th floor I discreetly glanced at her and just knew by her posture and facial expression that her child had cancer.
I introduced myself as another mom.
Her pretty teenage daughter had recently been diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer & was facing a below knee amputation. They hadn’t yet been able to bring themselves to tell family members about the amputation that would take place within weeks.
My heart ached for their pain.
As parents we were expected to be quite independent in caring for our children & this suited me well.
On the adolescent ward this included stocking up on disposable receptacles to catch bodily fluids, marking them with our child’s name & room number & returning them to the sluice after use.
It used to break my heart when I went into the sluice and saw the many bowls of vomit from all the children and teenagers on chemotherapy.
However in the midst of it all, to brighten things up, a lot of the kids/parents used to “personalise” their disposable vomit bowls & other receptacles before they used them!
Leah and I weren’t very artistic or imaginative in our decorating compared to some of the ones I saw.
It must have made the nurses smile as they saw all the different cartoon drawings & reflected on the strength of human character in the midst of sadness and suffering.
I guess it’s another way of tracing rainbows through the rain.