Monday, December 03, 2018

December 3, 2018 - The Recreation Floor

Yesterday and today Claire and I have had the opportunity to explore a part of Memorial Sloan-Kettering we hadn’t encountered during my earlier hospitalizations: the Recreation Floor. It’s not an entire floor of the hospital: just a part of the 15th floor, with a rather nice view of Manhattan skyscrapers.

My first couple of days here have all been about getting mobile again after my neck-dissection surgery - a more scary description than “lymph node removal surgery,” which is the kinder and gentler term I’ve been using. Dr. Boyle stopped by today and explained that he took out more than 50 lymph nodes - I’d only heard about 4 or 5 nodes lighting up on the PET Scan, but I figure the removal of the others was prophylactic. He said the pathologist will have a look at the nodes he removed and will let us know what’s going on with them. That will inform our future discussions about possible further therapy, be it radiation or chemo, or good old watch-and-wait.

The fact that the surgery site has continued to drain fluid into the plastic tube - that feeds a little cup nestled in the chest pocket of my hospital gown - is what’s kept me from going home today as predicted. Everyone’s optimistic that the flow will slow down by tomorrow, so the tube can be removed. I’m more than ready to go home. We’ll see.

That means I’m (1) mobile and (2) not receiving much in the way of active medical treatment, which has made me a good candidate for the Recreation Floor. Claire and I have hung out there twice now. Yesterday there was a group of five earnest Juilliard students putting on a little concert/dance performance, and today there was a guy tickling the ivories on the baby-grand piano (movie themes, jazz standards and the like), who I’m pretty sure was self-appointed but who was mighty good.

There’s a cruise-director sort of person who’s in charge of the Recreation Floor, who sets people up for art projects (decorating tote bags and Japanese lanterns), explains how the coffee machine works and lets everyone know which programmed diversions are coming up next. But most people just hang out, enjoying the cityscape view, reading their email or playing board games.

There are two types of people on the Recreation Floor: those solemnly padding around in hospital gowns (some dragging IV poles behind them), and others in street clothes - undoubtedly friends and family either accompanying their loved ones or taking a break from visiting them. None of us patients looked especially hale or hearty, but we didn’t much care. It just felt good to be out of our rooms.

The Recreation Floor is a gentle reminder of the fact that cancer is something you live with. Amidst all the high-tech medical wizardry around here, it’s nice to know there’s a place for painting Japanese lanterns and watching a talented ballet student demonstrate her grace and balance.

It’s about life. Which is the point of it all, isn’t it?


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