MD Anderson is kind of famous. Not in a Page Six, InStyle celebrity kind of way, but in a “we kick the crap out of cancer” kind of way. It’s also huge. Like college campus huge. My brother, sister-in-law and I rolled in to Houston shortly after lunch and hunted for parking while our stomachs growled louder than the tires squealing in that garage.

We found what looked like a garage we belonged in, pulled the red sedan into the space and stretched out long and tall. We had all been on the road way too long for too few days. Now, when you start college, they have cute little sophomores close by to show you the way. When we arrived at MDA, we were pretty much on our own, left to decipher the hospital jargon the best we could.

After some really good meandering around the “campus” we finally found where we needed to be and headed off to see mom and dad. Ok. Here’s where it it started to hit me. As we turned the corner by mom’s room, my stomach fell. What would I see? How would she feel? How would she look? Like a banana? She was jaundiced at a hefty 100, on a scale from 1 to 10 afterall. (Yes, I use comedy routinely to help get through things.)

She was awake and somewhat alert when we walked in. Happy Mother’s Day! we all exclaimed as we each hugged her gingerly. She seemed to light up a bit, as much as she could, when we arrived in the boxy white room.

“How was the shower?” she wanted to know. Her voice was small. It gave me chills. She didn’t want to talk about the elephant (aka Big C) in the room, but rather happier things.

“It was good, but we missed you,” I said. “I know, I wanted to be there,” she replied with a wistfulness to her voice now. We chatted for a bit about her comfort level, how the nurses had been, etc. And then one or more of our stomachs grumbled.

“Are you hungry at all?” my brother asked. “We were thinking of getting some food.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. We would learn she just wouldn’t eat much in the hospital, but at this point grabbing her some lunch felt normal and familiar.

“Dad, do you want anything?” I asked him. He mumbled something about a sandwich, and with that, the three of us were off in search of food. Since none of us were familiar with the big campus, we stopped at the first stand we saw, grabbed some boxed sandwiches and salads and yogurt of some sort and stocked up on beverages. Mom had mentioned word of a smoothie, but since we were unable to locate one, we hoped the fruit and yogurt would be ok. And then we made the trek back to our white box.

As we each sat in every available chair in the room and ate our lunch with the sound of daytime television running in the background, I couldn’t help but have this unsettling feeling. This would be my everyday for awhile. White room, white styrofoam food containers, and really bright white lights.

Hospitals are not comforting places, no matter how amazing they are at curing the Big C.