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A Piece of My Mind
November 6, 2002

The Changing Room

JAMA. 2002;288(17):2091. doi:10.1001/jama.288.17.2091

Each morning I leave my stethoscope and beeper on the front seat of my car, grab my borrowed copy of Madeleine L'Engle's A Circle of Quiet from the back seat, and enter the Cancer Center. Walking by the abandoned reception desk, I head toward the treatment area, throw my coat and book on a green plastic chair, and enter a changing room. There are three changing rooms, each flanked with a double row of lockers. I always use the middle one.

The changing room is the size of a shower stall. Appropriately, a curtain serves as its door. A couple of hooks are missing, so the ends of the curtain don't stay flush against the walls, dispelling any hope of privacy. A wooden bench piled high with clean, folded examination gowns takes up most of the room. The gowns are the usual hospital issue, decorated with a tasteless assortment of geometric patterns and logos in faded pinks, grays, and blues, blending into one another, separated by an occasional solid pale blue or gray. I learn early that the gowns covered with gray and pink squares are the largest and come closest to feeling like a real piece of clothing.