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At the Oncology Ward

Updated on July 18, 2017

Ward 48 - Public Hospital

Ward 48 is a suspiciously serene place.

In the day, you hear a consistent flow of work chatter, sound of wheels rolling by the corridors and light steps of the people all the time. No one is especially loud in this ward, whether in tears, laughter or anger.

Most of the patients here are coping with symptoms of advanced cancer, coupled with side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. There are six patients in this room of the ward and all of them are sleeping most of the time. It looks so peaceful that you forget fatigue is one of the symptoms of stage 4 cancer.

Occasionally, a patient will try initiate talk with the others but that usually ends quickly. Organs are failing and the bodies are in the process of shutting down. Energy for having conversations are reserved for loved ones.


Pain Management

Pain will be the least of a patient's worries because he/she gets an endless supply of Fentanyl or morphine. These pain relief doses are so powerful that it will probably knock a normal person out once the effect kicks in. But to the patients, it can help them to:

1) move and speak normally;

2) sleep peacefully;

3) maintain dignity while confused or dizzy

And when they suddenly open their eyes, it is usually because they need to vomit, pee, poo, or the nurses tell them that they are going to change their dressing, take their blood pressure, etc. Some cry every time they vomit. Others try to stretch their hands or shuffle around the bed in those moments they are awake.

The Nurses

The nurses are amazing in this ward. They smile gently even for the most difficult patients. At times, they cannot help it but try to correct a confused patient that the blood pressure and blood glucose levels are not the same. If the patient is willing, they chat with them when they can too. More often then not, they are being questioned why they didn't respond to the patient's call of the button fast enough.

Thankfully, majority of the patients will try keep their cool and not lash out at the nurses.

Just another day

On occasions where you see a patient pushed out of the room on their bed, it's usually for scans and checks. All eyes of those awake will fall upon him/her while the patient being wheeled out will just close his/her eyes.

A happy patient gets discharged and go home with a box filled with packets of Resource nutrition drink and a big bag of medical supplies. She recommends another patient to use Vaseline for her dry lips and ginger candy to neutralise the metallic taste in her mouth.

Suddenly, a group of young doctors gather at a bed and speak in urgent tones. Nurses swamp in with machines and someone kind enough will draw the curtains for privacy. Family, friends, or loved ones appear thereafter and the crowd disperse as suddenly as it appeared - together with the patient. Few hours later, a new patient enters the room.


Some patients have a battalion of visitors throughout the day. Some have their loved ones with them a few hours everyday. Others are mostly alone all the time with 1 or 2 visitors every other day. Children are seldom seen in this ward.

Meal times

Meal times are supposed to be most joyful. The aroma of the food fills the air. Patients get a normal adult portion size, served soft, full, finely chopped or finely minced. Most cannot finish their food and it's thrown away. Some left their food untouched. Someone forgot if she had eaten and asked why she is given food again. I wonder why they don't give a smaller serving.

And that, are random afternoons at the Oncology Ward

© 2016 Yvonne Teo


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