*cue the jazzy harmonica*
“This isn’t summer camp; I’m not here to make friends.” – Jillian Procope circa June 2015
Honestly, if someone were to give me a dollar every time the vibrations of my vocal chords produced that extremely angsty sentiment, there would have been no need to worry about the cost of medical bills (hey Fall Out Boy of early 2000s, I’ve got a song idea to swing by you). I said it any time a nurse tried to be friendly to me, whenever the Child Life Specialist invited me to play bingo or do a craft, or when my mom
forced encouraged me to walk laps and hang in the teen room to meet other patients. By my logic, I was spending my summer in a cancer ward, not at some posh summer camp complete with wood cabins and juvenile pranks. (Side note: as you can tell my only reference for a summer camp is The Parent Trap movie with Lindsey Lohan. I’ve never actually been to one myself.) Any memories made at Camp de la Hopkins – I was certain – weren’t going to be pleasant ones, so I was determined not to look back on them later in life. Making friends would have just made that mission harder.
Unfortunately, I am a sucker for cute little kids so my heart of ice started to melt rather quickly. I’ve always been all-talk anyways. And so, I’ve decided to take a break from my usual complaining to talk about some of the friends I (unwillingly) made early on, and other homies that made life on the eleventh floor somewhat bearable that first cycle.
Much like every single day in the inpatient unit began (ungodly early and against my will), I’m going to start with the nurses. I’ve talked many times about the “team” of nurses that each patient gets, with the primary nurse and the other three nurses assigned to you the majority of the time. OG Squad, Day Ones, Ride or Dies, clique – whatever you want to call it, that was my team and they were the bomb-dot-com. They were all mid- to late-twenties and so although they were older than me, and technically in charge of me, I came to view them as my older sisters who just loved wearing scrubs. Which is fitting – I think – because I really enjoyed chatting with them, but I hated them when they were forcing me to swallow pills or pumping me full of chemo. It’s the sibling circle of life.
The first nurse I met when I had
all most of my wits about me (read: not at three AM after being handed a life changing diagnosis), was Katie. She woke me up that first morning and instructed me to stand against the wall of my room so that she could record my height. However, there was no height-measuring-thing like you typically see at the doctor’s, so she just taped a soft, wrinkled piece of measuring tape to the wall to get a rough estimate. And then mentioned that my height and weight would be what the chemo dosage is based on. So yeah, rough estimates are great. 🙂 Katie is one of the nurses I had throughout my time whose personality is quite similar to what I like to believe my own is: sarcastic, humorous, and nice. If anyone were to be in charge of the juvenile pranks in my warped summer camp, it would be her. For example, knowing how much I loved their visits, she would go out of her way to make sure Physical Therapy knew I was available for a session, especially if my own personal therapist, Susan Procope aka mom, decided to give me a lap-walking reprieve and leave the unit for a while. She wasn’t afraid to curse around me and spoke frankly, which I appreciated because many residents spoke to me like I was a nine-year-old instead of nineteen and tried to distance our relatively close ages. Katie treated me like the adult I was, and for that I am so grateful. Also, the voice she uses to mimic whiny children is pretty much my favorite thing ever.
I say that Katie is the first nurse I met because when I met my primary nurse, Leann, it was three in the morning and I literally remember only a two-second conversation before I dove head first into my pillow.
“Do you go by Jill or Jillian?”
*tired mumble* “I don’t care.” *tired mumble*
So Jill it was, and Jill it has remained to this day (but only for Leann, so don’t get any crazy ideas). Honestly, Leann is genuinely one of the sweetest people I have ever met, and I always looked forward to the days (but mostly nights) when she was my nurse. Leann would go above and beyond to help me and my family understand in non-medical speech what the different treatments and medicines were for, and there were many times when she was the voice of reason to keep me from a full-blown freak out. Not to mention, she’s used her position as a non-family member to lecture me for being particularly snarky to my loved ones when I would get stressed, knowing that I wouldn’t get mad at her (think of “feel good moments” like what you see on Full House. Leann is the compassionate Danny Tanner to my DJ/Stephanie/Michelle).
The next person I met because my mom made me. One day, when my mom came back to the room from the family kitchen area, she looked at me and said, “I’ve been webbed.” Now, you can imagine my confusion at this statement. I was the one on mind altering drugs (shout out to my pain pump), and she’s the one talking about being webbed. What she meant, she explained, was that there was a little boy being pulled around in a wagon by his mom, wearing a Spider-Man costume and pretending to shoot people with his imaginary webs.
Alright, cool, neat, whatever, I thought. But that wasn’t the end of it. Instead, my mom pulled up the blinds covering the door’s window so that I could watch when little Spider-Man came around again, and sure enough, when he saw someone in the hallway he would “shoot” them.
I never stood a chance.
As anyone who knows me knows: I am a sucker for kids. From the moment my brother was born I became “Mommy’s little helper” and never looked back. At eleven I became a helper for my neighbors with young kids, and as soon as I was able I got certified to become a babysitter. Then came swim team. Every summer since my freshman year of high school, my days have been filled with hours upon hours of helping children learn to swim, and keeping a handle on the unavoidable mayhem that always comes with having more than fifty kids in one small area. It’s something I look forward to every spring as the school year winds down, so I was absolutely crushed when I realized that being stuck in Camp de la Hopkins meant I would not be able to spend time with “my kids” at the pool.
Cue little Spider-Man.
I realized very quickly that being on the pediatric floor meant being surrounded by cute little children all the time, and Spider-Man was one of the cutest. He very easily brightened my day anytime I ran into him in the hallways, and I even got out of bed before noon a time or two to talk with him (believe it or not). Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I have come to love little Peter Parker* (as the comic fans like to call him) and his entire family, but then I’d be writing a chapter for a novel instead of a post for my blog – which, to be honest, is why it took me so long to publish a new post – so instead I’ll leave you with these quick tidbits:
- Peter Parker* is the only one on 11 South who has ever outdone me when it comes to room decor
- I will never be able to un-see my father in a form-fitting Green Goblin costume
- I found my motivation to walk laps by refusing to be embarrassingly defeated by a four-year old (instead I was just regularly defeated)
So there you have it. A few of the initial people who I met during my time in the hospital. The friends I made at summer camp, if you will. And although I was extremely reluctant to make friends in the beginning, once the damn sprung a leak there was no way to stop it and the friendship train has yet to end. I will always be happy to see these people, whether it’s been one month or one year since I’ve last seen them.
To finish out this over obnoxiously long yearbook inscription: you rock, never change. Keep in touch. Have a great summer. LYLAS. TTYL. ❤
*My spidey senses tell me that names have cheesily been changed in order to protect the top-secret identity of one of Marvel’s most famous superheroes.