Every October the big question is, “Where are you going for Halloween?” I hear people answer with their favorite trick-or-treating neighborhoods or hot spots to dress up and admire other costumed characters on parade.
When I was nine, the place to be was Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children. At that time I was getting chemotherapy for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and planned to go trick-or-treating with my best friend Lenny.
Lenny was a year older than me and we shared much in common, including the same diagnosis, same doctors and similar treatments. We spent a lot of time together in the hospital watching Transformers on TV, building things with Lego bricks, and playing tricks on the hospital staff by locking our doors or singing into doctor’s stethoscopes.
On the morning of Halloween 1985, I went to Lenny’s room for breakfast. He was so excited to trick-or-treat that he stayed up all night and was ready to go in his penguin costume. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to pass, but he wouldn’t hear it. He left the room and returned with a wheelchair and surgeons uniform. I’m really not sure where he got everything from, but with Lenny, sometimes it was better not to know.
As I changed into the outfit, Lenny started to laugh. I turned to look in the mirror and understood why. I looked ridiculous dressed in an oversized surgeon’s uniform, complete with a pair of rubber gloves, hair cap, and surgeon’s mask that covered most of my face.
I got into the wheelchair and Lenny drove me around to different parts of the hospital, yelling “trick-or-treat” to everyone we saw. That Halloween, the X-ray lab, prenatal care ward, cafeteria, and tons of other hospital staff were harassed by a giant penguin pushing a pint-sized surgeon in a wheelchair begging for candy.
At the end of the day, we returned to our rooms with four full bags of candy and other treats. Lenny was exhausted, so he went to his room for a nap but never woke up. A few days later he quietly passed away.
At the time I was sad, scared, confused and lonely. But as time passed, I was able to remember the good times and how hanging with Lenny made me forget we were patients in a hospital. Looking back at that day, I can truly say it was the best Halloween ever.