Sometimes, I can’t really believe that one of my Former residences is a long term cancer house and a cancer hospital. I just got home last evening from a two-day visit to that Former home, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Target House. That said, my visit there was pleasant, for it was a “routine” follow-up visit for my daughter. It’s a little odd (isn’t it?) that I am referring to a visit to a children’s cancer hospital as anything remotely “routine”. The visit consisted of a one-day appointment of intellectual/psychological testing and a few other clinic visits-physical therapy, occupational therapy and endocrine clinic follow-up appointments.
This trip is the first one I have made since starting my personal blog. When I got the assigned appointment, I tried to reschedule it to January when life is typically a little slower. Unfortunately, schedules there didn’t allow for that, so I settled in the reality of coming this week after Thanksgiving. Being there many times during this exact time of year in the past, I knew the visit would place a different perspective on the holiday season. It has.
The First night we arrived (unfortunately, due to airplane problems, too late to shop at a Few of our Favorite Memphis shops first) we headed to a Favorite restaurant and then Target House. Elsie, one of my Favorite people, happened to be working. Elsie provided me with endless hugs, prayers, words of encouragement, strength, hope and Faith during my time there. She was one of many unforgettable people whom I believe God placed on my path to make my journey a little bit easier.
My Daughter Marit comparing her height to Elsie’s
We were able to visit with her and also see the new DreamWorks Room that my husband helped create and brought to Target House. In addition to the various games and activities this room provides, the patients and their families have viewing access to movie premieres too.
My daughter Marit kept repeating: “I wish I could be here now to enjoy all of this” or words to that affect. It’s sad to think about all the hours we resided there while unable to partake in much, as she was so very ill for the large majority of out time there. I was so terrified of losing her and so consumed in her day to day care. I regret that I didn’t fully appreciate all of it. When I go visit now, I am overwhelmed with how nice the spaces look and feel. One aspect I definitely DID appreciate during my time there was the kindness and compassion I felt by most of the staff at Target House and at the hospital.
The Target House opened in 1999. Architect and designer Michael Graves was involved with the design, the decor and theme. He designed the elephant fountains at the entrance of Target House 1. He also designed this statue that sits in the entrance of Target House 1.
I have always loved that this line from the 23rd Psalm is visible on the back.
An elephant theme prevails throughout the house. My understanding is that the elephant was chosen as a mascot because elephants represent Family, long life and strength. Here is a photo depicting the various elephants deigned or decorated by Target House “Famous” affiliates:
Here are several of the decorated elephant photos done by people I have met and or know personally who have contributed to the elephant wall:
Just in case, you’re interested in another’s perspective as outside visitors, I’m including 2 links to blogs I found on line written by two women who visited Target House. I believe they both captured nice visuals and the essence of Target House:
My associated home along with Target House is, of course, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital itself. I ask myself Frequently why (for me) a place like this elicits so many positive emotions along with a true sense of warmth and security. It seems absurd and counterintuitive that a hospital that treats children with life-threatening diseases would also represent and contain so much goodness. I could walk throughout the hospital and conjure up some pretty awful moments spent within the walls. Interestingly though, I generally don’t. I Found out about Friend’s children’s (within the confines of the hospital) cancer recurrences. I became one of those parents who was told the cancer had recurred too. I lived with that knowledge until a day later when another less life threatening situation (meningitis) was presented as a possible explanation for a “bad” scan. I still don’t Fully understand why I have such wonderful Feelings when I’m there now and when I reflect back upon the experience in it’s entirety. I looked up the word Familiarity in the dictionary today though and this was what I Found:
Familiarity-definitions: 1.Knowledge of something through experience.2.the state of being familiar, friendly relationship; close acquaintance; intimacy. 3. an absence of ceremony and formality; informality. 4. freedom of behavior justified only by the closest relationship; undue intimacy.
Some of the synonyms include: awareness, fellowship, intimacy, relationship, and understanding. Also, friendship, camaraderie, agreement and partnership.
These definitions resonate with me because while there for treatment and when I visit now, I never Feel like I’m alone. Familiarity on so many levels is exactly what I Feel. I can see and sense that others are in their own battles. Treatment was (as I can only imagine) akin to a war zone. I liken it to being on a battlefield and our kids (and us as parents) were the front line soldiers. In a way, I Felt as though we belonged to an army of sorts and it was a united one at that. I experienced incredible and meaningful connections with people that may never have occurred in usual conditions/normal life. Some of these connections and Feelings remain and occasionally resurface while I’m there. As I ate my lunch in the hospital cafeteria yesterday, someone beautifully played “Pachelbel Canon in D Major” on the piano (the piano in the cafeteria is a new addition). Of note, the cafeteria is a shared eating area for both staff and patients. (An intentional plan so that the staff and researchers don’t ever lose sight as to why they are working against this deadly disease and still attempting to find better cures with less devastating side effects). Brilliant, I think!
As the music softly played, my eyes welled up with tears. I wanted to openly weep with amazing gratitude for the gift of my daughter’s continued life on this earth. I wanted to weep for the children and the parents whom I met and came to love along my journey. And then, I also wanted to weep for the shared pain I innately knew and Felt in the cafeteria as I looked at the patients who were obviously currently being treated. (There was a teenage girl, in a wheelchair, connected to an IV with a dull beige hat on and then there was a little boy who was on crutches whose lower limb was amputated). I think it’s very difficult to shut out pain while in the midst of it. Still, I try to attempt to do it. The part that gets so confusing for me is believing that most people want me bury it. I think society has a general intolerance for acknowledging, accepting and being ok with people expressing emotional pain. I’m wondering if expressing at least some of it, is what we ought to consider/is what we really should be doing? I don’t profess to have an answer, I am simply posing the question. My own natural tendency is to “suck it up” and “get it together”, squelch the desire to weep and forget about it. I rarely, if ever, see people crying at St. Jude. Certainly, the hospital promotes HOPE and given the statistics on cure rates there is no reason not to have an abundance of it!
In closing, I am posting several photos of various St. Jude sites with descriptors.
One of the many statues of St. Jude on the hospital grounds
A few photos from the new Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration-I was very impressed and Found the space very inviting.
I think the last two photos I’m posting summarize today’s blog best. The first is a picture of a piece of artwork from a teen art wall within the hospital:
This last photo is Marit’s. Unsolicited, while I was picking up prescriptions for her on our way out the door, she sat down and began writing: “St. Jude Rocks-” Then she went on to write: “Let’s find a cure for cancer!”
I couldn’t have said it better!!!
If you’re out holiday shopping and you get asked to donate by a retailer to St. Jude-Just know your dollars are going to what I believe is the most magnificent hospital on the planet! You’re helping fund treatment and contributing towards valuable research that may contribute to completely curing cancer in your lifetime!
Thanks for the very moving trip to Bountiful redux. We are all so blessed to be part of your journey.
Greg-I’m flattered you have read and liked this. I love your blog posts! I am enjoying the once a week self imposed assignments. You are so amazing to get something published daily. I love your pics too. I need to try to get more creative with that. I only know one way to post stuff. Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Thanks for sharing your journey! It is so inspiring!
Thanks for reading this and caring! I thoroughly enjoy getting the “stuff” that swirls in my head out on virtual paper. It helps me process all. Happy Holidays to you and yours with Love from me!