This was my third social, at my third hospital, and I had the same great experience. This time I went to Illinois Masonic. This hospital is near and dear to me because it is where I was taken about a year and a half ago when I was hit by a car – but that is the subject of another blog altogether. The setup at Illinois Masonic was a little different: we had a table directly in the waiting area near the check-in desk. Jackie, the volunteer coordinator for Imerman Angels, mentioned this hospital location was not usually as busy as some of the others, so she informed us that we shouldn’t expect too much traffic. One interesting concept I noticed was that patients received lighted buzzers upon check in, like the type of devices that you receive at restaurants while you wait for a table.
I walked around the waiting area offering water, Lemonheads candy, and brochures to people waiting for their appointment. As a side note, the reason we pass out Lemonheads candy is because it alleviates the metallic taste patients may have after undergoing chemo and radiation treatments. In addition to this tip, the Lemonheads candy we pass out has all the Imerman Angels information printed on the back of each box.
One person who stood out to me was a gentleman who was going in for his last check-up after his final round of chemo. He had never heard of Imerman Angels and he thought it was such a great idea to provide patients with a one-on-one support system based on shared experiences. He was elated to sign up in order to offer support to another who might be experiencing the same feelings of uncertainty and fear that come with a cancer diagnoses.
Cancer is such an emotional affliction; I found people display a huge array of emotions regarding the same disease. After being introduced to this process, both in my professional experience with Mesothelioma victims and in my volunteer experience with those battling all types of cancer, I have seen people be very warm, selfless, social, and willing to discuss their process. But I have also seen people be very cold, distant, and unwilling to engage. In both instances, I was there to provide information, support, guidance, empathy, and sometimes just a listening ear. In all of my experiences, I found that when people are faced with their own mortality, one never knows what to expect. I have found it to be extremely important to be sensitive when speaking to people who are affected by cancer– both in my volunteer work and in my professional work. You don’t know the journey each individual goes through every day; a little compassion could be more appreciated than you might anticipate.
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Written by Mirela Stefanescu