Gary and I have spent hours and hours in doctors' offices, specialist offices, and hospitals over the last nine months. One of our favorite people in the medical world, however, isn't a medical professional at all - he's the doorman at Sloan Kettering's Cancer Center in Manhattan.
The doorman is a gatekeeper of sorts, standing between the outside world and a world centered around cancer. He is this big gregarious guy, who makes it seem like you're a famous celebrity as soon you walk into the lobby. His presence is necessary - he is there to try to put a smile on your face before you climb into a crowded elevator and stare in awkward silence at the panels above the door which illuminate (literally) the different cancers that are treated on each floor. When the panel for floor 3 "Colorectal and Related Cancers" lights up, the doors open and Gary and I step out - leaving the others to keep climbing.
Last week, Gary and I took another elevator ride - this time to the fourth floor of St. Peter's Hospital to meet my good friend Beth's day-old baby girl: Sophia Rae.
Beth and I were destined to become friends ... we both lived in CA; moved to NJ at the same time; were hired to teach at the same high school; and attended the same Seton Hall graduate program. Last spring, we shared another thing in common - we both struggled with nausea and weird pains. After I was diagnosed with cancer, Beth supported me every step of the way. Luckily, Beth's symptoms were caused by morning sickness, and I delighted in watching her belly (and her glow) grow month by month.
Gary and I couldn't wait to meet Sophia, and as we were parking the car we realized that it was the first time in nine months that we had been to the hospital and weren't scared - and just like that, "the hospital" transformed from a place of sickness and pain into a place of miracles and joy.
At the Hospital - Holding SophiaAs Gary and I sat with Beth and her husband, Ryan, in the hospital room, the happiness was overwhelming. Holding little Sophia and feeling her heart beat and little body squirm made me giddy - and seeing my friend so beautiful and healthy made me want to cry with gratitude. Being able to welcome this new little person into the world, and hear about her birth made every one of those elevator trips to Sloan-Kettering's 3rd floor worth it.