An Adult Among Children
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
My name is *Kathy and at 27-years-old I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an extremely rare bone cancer. It typically affects children, so I was treated at a pediatric hospital.
As an adult at a pediatric hospital, I’ve had several subtly humorous encounters throughout my treatment. Some of these instances even before I’ve seen the doctor:
“Can I speak to the parents of Kathy Smith?” the friendly scheduler asks.
“Actually I am over 18, so you can actually speak to me,” I suggest patiently.
“What is the patient’s name?” the ER phone operator asks.
“K-A-T-H-Y S-M-I-T-H?” I reply.
“What is the parent’s name?”
“K-A-T-H-Y S-M-I-T-H?” I repeat.
“What is your date of birth?” the nurse asks.
“4-26-1990” I say for the bizillionth time.
Silence as the nurse does the math to realize I’m older than her.
In the waiting room, a space full of kids, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, I sit alone, save my blanket and backpack. I am waiting for someone to call me to get my vitals, tell me I did or didn’t make counts or let me know that my room is ready. The nurses who know me after these last eight rounds of chemo are not startled to see a grown adult, albeit bald woman, when they call my name. The newer nurses yell a bastardized version of my last name while I’m next to them, not realizing I am indeed the patient.
Once I’m in my hospital room, I receive all sorts of kind and generous visitors in my hospital room. On Wednesday nights, it’s the “Treats and Treasures” volunteers with one cart full of candy and one cart full of toys. I politely decline both, but sometimes I’m coerced into a sweet treat as I wave away a Barbie or Hot Wheels car. Occasionally, it’s the clown doctors, who remind me of Robin Williams in “Patch Adams.” They play a real ukele and imaginary ping-pong. During my unfortunate ER visit during Christmas, the big red man himself made an appearance complete with a stuffed Frosty the Snowman, Disney figurines, and Clue.
After all these crazy visits, when my oncologist informs me my scans are clear after 10 months of treatment, one of my first questions is when can I drink? She laughs remembering that I’m several years beyond the legal drinking age, which most of her patients are not. This is clearly not a common scenario for her, so she says she’ll check with her pharmacist friend.
As my boyfriend and I leave the hospital, he waves to the security guard at the front desk and introduces me as his “baby.”
The stern-faced man breaks into wide smile.
Cancer puts you in all sorts of situations, some more humorous than others.
* Name changed.