“Where’s mum?” I asked my older brother Collin.
“Uh-I don’t know, Ade. I think she’ll be around soon.” he replied.
Well, I wasn’t feeling any better. I hoped that they would soon find a way to rid me of my fatigue. I hadn’t eaten in days. I just didn’t feel like it. I wanted to know if they had found something out. I prayed it wasn’t something crazy, that I would get better soon.
My mum had enough to be worried about. Singlehandedly raising two children after our coward of a father left us, was a daunting task. With Collin going to college next year, she was already under a lot of stress to finalise the details of his higher education such as his fees and accommodation. She didn’t need any more on her plate.
Meanwhile, the doctor spoke to Adrian’s mother in a low, calming voice.
“Ms.Keane, I have the results of all of Adrian’s tests. I must say, it doesn’t look good.” he hesitated slightly. “Your daughter has lymphoma. Lymphatic cancer.” he paused to let the implications sink in. She reeled. She didn’t cry, she just looked shocked. It was a full minute before she spoke.
“What stage?” she asked evenly, not looking at the doctor, but down at the floor.
“Not a very advanced stage, I must say. It is unlikely that, if left to natural devices, she would expire within three years. However, we can treat her and see where it goes. It may work and it may not. But we could start immediately.”
She looked horrified. She held her head in her hands and started to sob. She couldn’t afford this scale of treatment. She knew it. She couldn’t save her baby girl. The doctor watched her with empathy.
“I think it’s best if I talked to your daughter as well.”
The doctor entered the room and smiled. “How are you feeling, Adrian?”
“Terrible. Where’s my mother?” Mum entered the room right after the doctor, looking exhausted and upset, like she had just bawled her eyes out. My whole body tensed. What had happened?
“Adrian, ” the doctor spoke directly to me.
” I think it’s best if you knew. You have lymphatic cancer. It’s not in its final stages but you have three years. Maybe more if you were to start treatment now.”
What? “What are you saying? There has to be a mistake! Mom-” Collin turned to face mum, who had started to cry. He then turned to me with a pained look on his face.
My head was swimming with all kinds of thoughts. But the doctor wasn’t done yet. “We could start treating you right now. It would be really costly and very painful. And we aren’t sure how you’d respond to it, so there’s no guarantee it’ll really work. It’s a game of chances here. And, ” he looked at mum “because of the nature of the treatment and your situation, you can make your own decision. You do not have to defer to your mother. Treatment or no treatment. Your call.”
I don’t know what I was thinking when I said “Give us a minute, please.”
As soon as the doctor was out of the room, I started to wail. I had never, ever bawled this much in my entire life, and I cried by myself. I didn’t even bother to see the expressions on mum’s and Collin’s faces. I didn’t care. I let the tears flow. I couldn’t believe it. How had had this happened? I had just three years? I would never see the next FIFA World Cup. I would never see Amsterdam. I had just…three years with my family. With my friends. My room. My life. I was going to die soon. I tried letting that sink in.
But it didn’t work. I was in denial. I created a racket. Hands encircled me. We were all in a family hug, crying over my fate. Then, when we were spent, we lapsed in to silence.
Collin and mum glanced at me, waiting for me to break the silence. I, instead, thought about my life.
When my father left us, I threw a tantrum that shook the house. I didn’t care that mum was raising us alone. I became more of a spoiled princess, taking out my grief in the brattiest ways possible. I spent like I was Bill Gates, I stopped listening to everyone and I acted up all the time. Collin, on the other hand, took matters in to his own hands and stoically worked to make all our lives better. I had been a huge financial burden on my mother for the past three years. Now was the time for me to repay all those dues, I chuckled inwardly.
I had heard stories about the horrors of chemotherapy. How it is so painful that you’d rather die than face it again. I knew someone who had survived cancer and decided that even if it relapsed, she would never, ever endure treatment again. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to become that living corpse. I didn’t want to wake up everyday just to die again in excruciating pain. I didn’t want to go that way. Ever.
“Mum…I don’t want treatment.”
She looked up in horror. “Adrian, what are you saying?”
Collin butted in. “Adrian. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about the money, aren’t you?”
Mum turned to me. “Honey, don’t worry about that. All the money in the world isn’t worth your life. We’ll work something out, dear. We could-we could-”
“I won’t go to college for a year.” Collin supplied. Looking at our faces, he went on. “If I do that, we could fund some of your treatment. And I’d get a good job right now, anyway. It’s always been my dream to work at McDonalds as a side job.” he gave me a watery smile, eyes glistening.
“Hey,” he extended his hand and held mine. “I know a lot of organisations that fund cancer patients. We could get their help. And-and, you know, if you were treated right away, you-you’d be cured! You’d be able to go on that tour of the world you keep talking about. We could go see the Auroras that we spoke about when were kids. And-”
I smiled. My family. Loving me for the brat I am. Giving up their happiness for me. I wiped away a tear and said resolutely, “No. I don’t want to go through that pain or suffering. Collin; you’re not going to give up college for this.” I said sternly, my eyes boring in to his.
“Don’t you remember Mrs.Smith? She hated it. It was pain until the very end. I can’t handle that. I can’t handle you guys watching me suffer through that.” I turned to mum, my eyes brimming with tears, but my voice steady. “I have three years. I’m going to live them to the fullest and spend more time with you guys. No, Collin, this is my decision. It’s my call, remember?”
They looked at me. Defiant yet understanding my plight. Ready to comply with anything to make me happy/
Again, I let the dam burst. But, sobbing in the arms of my family, I began to accept my situation. I was a guest in this world for just three more years. I was going to make the most of my stay. I smiled to myself.
Honestly, guys and gals, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who’s battling cancer right now. My intention isn’t to endorse the policy to give up cancer treatment. In fact, I think it’s so amazing and inspirational that so many wonderful humans have won their battle against this monster. Keep fighting and never lose hope. Whatever you choice is, make sure it brings you peace.
Hope this made you think!