For example, the day after my surgery, a eucharistic minister came to my bedside and asked me if I wanted to receive holy communion. (I had identified myself as Catholic on my pre-admission forms.) I immediately felt stronger and calmer after receiving the Sacrament, and much more willing to face the day's challenges.
In addition to being sensitive to religious needs, Sloan-Kettering also fosters a sense of community and hope among its patients. Every nurse, doctor, and staff member who walked into my room had a smile on their face and cracked jokes. This jovial attitude spilled over into the hallways, where patients would cheer each other on as we did our required daily "laps" around the floor. I felt like I was completing my first marathon instead of just shuffling a few feet, holding onto my IV pole for support.
The 15th floor (my floor) is home to the Gastric Mixed Tumor/Colorectal Cancer Unit as well as the hospital's renowned recreation room, which was described by the NY Times as "something of a cancer patient’s corner bar, minus the booze". The recreation room has daily activities (see my previous blog posts about the Ritz-Carlton pastry chef demonstration and "look good feel better" program) as well as a pool table, library, and outdoor patio. The purpose of the room is to limit "down time" - when a cancer patient's mind is likely to drift to places that are dark and defeating.
My doctor, Garrett Nash, also demonstrated the difference in Sloan-Kettering's approach to patient care. Case in point, as soon as Dr. Nash found out my pathology results (Thursday night) he called me at the hospital. He could have easily waited until morning rounds to tell me the good news, but he went out of his way to ease my mind.
As if that weren't enough, Dr. Nash visited me on Saturday, his day off, in his running gear. It turns out that he runs to raise money for cancer research! He is currently training for the NYC Marathon in November as a member of Fred's Team, which is a program that raises money to support crucial research at MSKCC, "bringing us closer to a world without cancer - one mile at a time." [Click HERE to visit Dr. Nash's donor page and support Fred's Team.]
Sloan-Kettering truly embodies Francis Peabody's famous quote: "The secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient".