I was proud of my job at MD Anderson cancer center in Houston straight out of graduate school in 1997. For the first three years of my life there, my assignment was working with bone marrow transplant inpatients and the patients in isolation rooms. Then I moved to Melanoma and Sarcoma services.
There was so much suffering, hope and despair all mixed in one place, it was quite overwhelming to say the least. (Prior to that I worked as a volunteer coordinator on the weekends at the same hospital while I was in school. That was back in 1994). I was there for total of about 8+ years pre and post graduate school. This part of my career as a licensed Social Worker taught me plenty about life and death and how so many people fought so very hard to live one more day while the rest of us seemed to take life for granted focused on the most frivolous things. It was my Mother’s illness that prompted me the desire to work with cancer patients. It was my Father’s illness that prompted me to work with the Elderly population (Gerontology Social Work). It was so so long ago but gosh, I sometimes wonder how I made it through the days at work back then. My work there taught me much about the human spirit, human strength on so many levels. And the sheer will to survive and live another day to enjoy another meal, to feel the warmth of the sun on the face, to dance one more song, to hug one more time.
I still carry those harsh but real and raw lessons with me to this day and I am thankful I was introduced to these lessons early on in my life. Perhaps those experiences shaped my life for the past 7 years of our lives. Perhaps it is the realization that we have today and tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone of us, that I am to exist in this life time with a healthy dose of gratitude.