Tuesday, December 24, 2013

cancer people

Today at the chemotherapy day care centre the youngest patient was 7 years old. He has leukemia. He was quiet and shy and smiled at all the nurses. But he didn't say a word. He fell asleep during the chemotherapy. It must be hard to be so young and spend your winter vacations feeling tired and sick. It must be hard to sit still in hospital for hours at a stretch, doing chemotherapy while your friends run and play.

He came with his father. His father kept quiet and sat opposite him and stared at him the whole time. He didn't say a word either.

Father and son spent 5 hours today, sitting across from each other, not saying a word.

But what is there to say? Chemotherapy teaches you that words can be empty. When the silence is filled with so much meaning then there is no need for words.


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Each patient at the chemotherapy day care brings at least one other person along with them. At least one. At the hospital we go to, there is no outer limit on the number of people a patient can bring along to keep them company on their chemotherapy days.

Patients themselves are silent creatures. Most are too tired to be noisy. 


But the noise levels escalate.

One boy who had come to keep an eye on his father declared within 5 minutes of entering the day care center, "The noise in this place is like the sound of drums. My ear drums are beating drums."

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The bravest woman I saw today had breast cancer 7 years ago. Now the cancer has resurfaced, and this time it is growing on her kidney. This time, because the cancer is on her kidney, the oncologist has refused to do a surgery. She needs to be treated with chemotherapy alone.

Her daughter said they do not know yet whether she can be treated successfully or not. The doctors haven't told them anything yet. This time around, for the cancer on her kidney, she has had 15 chemotherapy cycles so far.

Chemotherapy is hard. You have to watch someone you love doing it know exactly how hard it can be. I've seen 3 cycles so far and I can tell you it definitely doesn't get better with practice.

Her daughter is my age. She was calm and composed and matter of fact as she talked about her mother.

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I know exactly what that calmness feels like. I know exactly how much effort it takes to treat the fact of death like a fact of life.

But I have no idea what this girl told herself this time around, 7 years later and with no words of hope by the doctors.

No words of hope except the words you speak to yourself inside your mind.