By Ramzi Twal
I was not sure what title can aptly to describe this sad story, but I had hoped to be able to find one during the writing.
I called my partner at work regarding a business deal we are working on. She ignored me for a couple of days although I had called many times during the day and in the evening. It was out of character that she would ignore my calls.
I tried again this morning and was lucky she answered my call. I, indirectly, indicated that I was a little upset she ignored my many calls. She apologized with a tone I had only once heard before. That tone was when she informed me that her 6 year son was diagnosed with cancer. She said she had been in and out of the hospital for the last week. Immediately I asked about her son who is now 8 years old. How was he doing and how well is he responding to the treatment. “Oh, he is fine, the cancer is in remission and today they are going to remove the contraption that was used to administer the chemo”.
I showed satisfaction with the answer as I knew what the woman went through during the past 2 years. But still did not feel the tone was that of elation.
She kept up the pace of work while looking after her husband and 8 year old daughter as well as attending to all of the medical sessions, tests, treatments, examinations and x-rays etc.
She is a diminutive five foot tall woman whose looks are those of one in her late twenties. Her hair is always smoothly flowing barely touching her shoulders. Her dress is always stylish and her smile exudes beauty and confidence. She went to college as a young mother of two little children to forge a career and gain financial independence. Her husband had gone astray with spending money on gambling and they lost the house they had worked hard to purchase. She had quit her job to look after the children and ended up penniless, and destitute.
She left the husband and moved some 300 KM away to stay with an older sister. She worked at different odd jobs to sustain a living for her and her children and pay part of the expenses her sister was incurring during this time. Two years taught my work partner to never depend on a husband. She toiled and went through the business courses required to qualify for the job.
She came to our office and I met her at the time and was impressed by her demeanor and could sense her determination to succeed. Her husband had gone several times to beg her to come back and she agreed for the sake of the children. She did not want the children to suffer the paternal deprivation many of the children of broken families suffer from. She swallowed her pride to provide a normal life for her children.
Two years ago, she talked to me with a voice I had not heard before. I realized quickly that something was wrong. I thought the husband went back to his old habit and she was going to leave a second time. “No” she said. “It is Achi, my son”. He had what they thought was a cold and it turned out to be a tumor in behind his sternum. It was a gland we are all born with that became cancerous.
I went a couple of times to visit the boy in the hospital and once when he was discharged to begin the long arduous journey of chemo therapy. He needed to be treated for the next 78 weeks after the therapy that shrunk the tumor.
I saw him at my office as I asked his mother to bring him along. He was a thin boy of 6 when I first saw him. His mother used to bring her two children to the office if it was necessary to be there after school hour. Achi, I noticed, became a little chubby because of the treatment. His sister became a little taller but still a cute girl who looked like her mother but was tall like her father.
I became aware that the boy admired a magnifying glass I used to help me read the fine print. Dee, the mother brought the two children to the office. I gave his sister a doll as she was a little neglected. Her brother was the family’s center of attention during his treatment.
When he received the magnifying glass, his face brightened up and I could see the surprise and gratitude.
Today should have been a very joyous day for Achi and Dee, his mother. She was not happy. I sensed the sadness in her voice. “No it is not Achi”, she said. “It is me”
“What is the matter with you?” I asked. I received the shock of my life. She informed me that she had cancer. Fourth stage which I assumed was more advanced than the first. It went into her liver and the doctors gave her a maximum of 6 months should the treatment not shrink her tumors and stop the spread throughout her body. The woman is in her early forties. Colorectal cancer usually hits people after 50. She is too young to die. Her children are still preteen young.
I asked the question as to why had she not gone the get treatment earlier. She told me that she was waiting for her son to heal. Her illness can wait although the bleeding was getting worse. She told me she had no time to go to the doctor.