The hospital has become my every evening chill out place lately. It has taught me how to appreciate my health and life in profound ways. I am starting to get used to the fact that death is a close reality. But my boy is all good. There is CAN in CANcer, he says. And so he can handle it.
I recently started keeping a diary for him. When the storm is all over, I plan to tell him how much of a difference he has made in my life in the last couple of months. He has taught me how to love, laugh, and endure. I have learned how to care. After the prognosis, I was at a loss. We all were. Cancer had struck right home. I cannot say that I have had a moment’s peace after that. Most of the time, I am on the net reading about bone cancer, and cancer in general, how to deal with it, what to eat and what sort of talk the patients want to hear. He has lost weight considerably over the last months and this hurts me. Just the other day, I started online tutorials on how to give a massage: my daily duty to him! And while at this daily duty, every single day, I look at him and realize just how fast things can change.
His name is Bob! My favorite peer cousin and a cancer warrior. The tumour has been getting worse by the day. Massaging it has been getting harder by the day, it scares me even. Nowadays, I faithfully wear glasses to conceal my tear struck eyes most of the time. He is now comfortable with me tagging my friends along. Sometimes, he scrolls through my phone pics and asks if I can tag a specific friend next time, and I do. Always. Despite the pain and the strain that he is going through, he still affords us jokes. He wants us to talk like all is well. I forgot to mention, but he is admitted in a sick ward! Patients here die every day and he dreads it just as much as I do.
Before the clock struck midnight yesterday, he left for home. For palliative care…
The day between yesterday and today, I picked a diary entry extract. Of the day after his vein raptured and tore the skin. He bled to near death. I went to see him the next day.
Tuesday 11th October, 2016.
I barely slept yesternight and my eyes are tear struck. Yesterday, his vein burst open, he lost a lot of blood. He is now back in the hospital. I can’t imagine how he is. Is he in pain? Has he eaten? Has he gotten blood? Is he still bleeding? And a lot of why’s fighting at the back of my head. I can choose to stay here and pretend that all is fine or find a way around it. I take a leap of faith and leave the office. At the hospital, I find him holding up quite well. He is happier than I have seen him in a long time. Talks about his stay home and the kind of pain he has gone through away from the hospital. What is palliative care without a doctor by your side? He glances at his thigh, then at my shy hips and back to his thigh.
“You know this tumour is bigger than you hips now?!” He teases. He adds something to the effect that the stomach has changed its alignment to only feed the cancerous leg and that’s why it’s growing like an elephant. I don’t get it, but I pretend to. As I feed him, he complains that the ward is full of old men. He feels like his life is 30 years ahead, some diseases are not for the young.
Then out of the blues, a priest comes. He has come to give him the sacrament of anointing of the sick, it’s a sacrament for the dying.
“They think I am dying.” He says almost inaudibly. I look at him in shock, struggling to keep it together.
“C’moon, I don’t think so. It’s just a matter of time and you are back on the pitch”. I know he misses football a terrible much.
“Then why would they be giving me this sacrament now??” He asks, both firmly and with a faint stench of anger.I know him well enough to understand that he is angry with whoever it is that has lost faith in his battle, and at the priest for giving him a premature annointing.
I am also at a loss. It’s the first time reality strikes me real hard from my bubble of blind optimism. The first time I ask myself the what if questions… what if he succumbs? What if he doesn’t make it…what if. Stage 4 might be deadly, but not for him. This whole process and period hurts me he has no idea. But I trust the process, and even more, I trust in his fighting spirit.
Texas cancer centre came…
Out of all the hospitals you have ever been to, this one has been the most challenging for me to visit.
Either way, I come: still, every day. Cancer patients are special. Next to you is Apolonaire, a fairly old Burundi man. His wife never lets him out of sight. Sometimes we converse in French. She is uncertain that he, Apolonaire, will survive. But all she can do is hope. This kind of love is pure bliss. But she worries more about you, you can barely turn without help. She is sad that cancer started the fight on you at such a tender age. She thinks you are amazing, you talk and laugh despite everything, you breathe positive energy. It’s a ward of 4. Two patients have succumbed in the last few days. But you are determined to live. Chemotherapy just started.
I have been stealing a lot of time to try understand how chemo works, and what options we have. I also seek medical advice from M., he answers all the questions I ask. I call to ask what is wise, and what is not. Sometimes, I sneak out of the room to talk to him. Ask why you are sweaty, and in pain, and grumpy. What to do, how to do it and when to expect your tumor to disappear. Will it really disappear even?He understands both of us and what we are going through.
But chemo has made you a grumpy boy. I can no longer pick or make calls during my visiting hour. You don’t get why I can’t give you 100% attention. So I choose not to make or receive calls at all. I have been tagging more friends for the evening visits. Nowadays, we all pray together before leaving the ward. We all have faith in you, we all want you back on your feet. Chemotherapy has given you a kind of pain we never knew existed and it breaks us apart. You tell us that it is burning your entire body in a sort of fire you cannot quite explain. And it also gets you tired and sweaty all day. We come, see you, get weak but feign strength. But as soon as we step out, we lose ourselves in near despair. How can we not when pain, sweat and more pain is all what we see in the patients?… And now, you have repeatedly told me that you now want the leg amputated. Anything is better than this kind of ache. Then you ask if I will help you get a girlfriend if you only have one leg, petite like Chi preferably. I promise to.
Things were all good yesterday And then the devil took your memory.
And if you fell to your death today I hope that heaven is your resting place I heard the doctors put your chest in pain,
But then that could have been the medicine,
And now you’re lying in the bed again.
Either way I’ll cry with the rest of them…
…I could look into your eyes Until the sun comes up and we’re wrapped in light and life and love.
Ed sheeran’s Afire Love has been on replay mode for more than an hour.
Seated by a corner window listening to this jam, over and over again. The sun decided to set in the morning today…and I have to deal with it. I received the news of your demise with repulsion. I feel nauseated and weak….and no, I have refused to accept. Maybe it’s a lie. You are a fighter.. The flight is taking forever, all I want is to get to the hotel and lie down. It will be a tough assignment this one. I uneasily scroll on my phone, back and forth. Our latest photos, our latest chat. But why do I call them latest? Those were the LAST chats that I’d ever have from you, last photos! But how did this happen? It was just the other day.
It feels like yesterday, just the other day when you were recovering from the second surgery, limping and in pain, but recovering well. We both were in agreement that the tumor could not be carcinomas. Your Dad let you drive his car around then, and you behind the wheel looked all good. Then life changed real quick. The swelling started, the admissions started, the complications came and you could not walk anymore. It’s an uncomfortable kind of a memory. I won’t lie that I will be fine, or that I will get used to you being gone, and me being here. It will be a lie. I feel betrayed to the bone. Death betrays. He ought to have prepared me psychologically that the last visit at the cancer center was the last. Will acceptance of your untimely demise replace denial of your absence?
And tomorrow, you will be laid down to eternal rest. I will try get accustomed to the fact that I do not have you anymore, that I will not have evenings fully booked by you. I will find a balance between remembering you as a lovely memory of hope and resilience: and a sad memory of the sort of pain I saw you fight with undying strength. But until then, until I know how to reconcile between your absence and the hopeful anticipation of seeing you again, I will only hope that you found your resting place.
Appreciation to everyone who walked the journey with us. And to my visiting partners, Cii, Drew, Chichi, Lily, Faith, _Serah, Josh, Winnie & all..you made the last days a whole lot more meaningful. To the medical staff, every effort is deeply appreciated.
Hopefully, we will all find the grace to believe that God’s timing is the best.