I call them the” Specials.”
Who are they?
When a new patient walks into the lobby at the cancer center, they carry all the signs that say, “I really don’t want to be here and I have no idea what to do next.” I think there’s a little fear mixed in with the anxiety of beginning this journey into cancer world too.
So it’s up to one of the first “Specials” to meet that patient with a smile, a handshake, and a kindness that conveys a greeting of helpfulness. I’ve seen it a million times. Just the simple process of checking in for an appointment can be overwhelming, so there he is, ready and willing with all the tools of a “Special.”
You can spot another type of “Special” walking with a patient or caregiver. Her arm is on a shoulder, or holding a hand. Her eye contact is direct, but with a twinkle of understanding that this is a bad cancer day and she will try as hard as possible to take some of that bad away. She is a family services social worker and yes, it’s her job, but jobs like that require more than a college degree. Social workers in cancer world are angels of understanding and compassion.
The cancer center has a chaplain who just “gets it.” Her degree probably doesn’t use those words to describe her accomplishments and studies, but that’s the way I see her. She’s a student of cancer. So it’s not just the calming and peacefulness that comes with her counseling, it’s the understanding of where the cancer patient and family are in the course of the disease. She doesn’t care what God you pray to, or if you do pray, her purpose is comfort and understanding. She is a “Special.”
A cluster of “Specials” occupy the out patient center. One by one they walk out, into the waiting area and call names of those waiting. These are the nurses who are on the front line of cancer care. They are the contacts who listen to a patients description of what it’s been like since the last appointment. How was treatment? Are the drugs causing side effects? How’s life? There’s not a patient or care giver in cancer world who could make it from appointment to appointment without these “Specials.”
These are folks who come to work everyday and do their jobs. They work seamlessly to make the patient/family experience a smooth one. But they are by no means, regular folks. Without them, coming to the cancer center would be a paralyzing experience.
These folks are SPECIAL.