CANCER KILLS KINDLY SPREAD CANCER AWARENESS
On Friday, I received a call that is still ringing in my mind, days after it ended. The call was from a mother of a 16 year old young man who has been battling cancer for the last one year- 8 months of which have been the most painful any parent would want to watch their child go through. Since Friday, I have not had the energy to write or even want to remember what happened. In fact, I have been trying to find ways to recover from the call. This is what happened. Last year, around November, I had been introduced to this young man -James.
The young man- only 16, had a visibly aggressive tumor on the left side of head surrounding the ear and the lower part of the neck. From the little time I have spent interacting with people with these type of conditions, I knew this was already a dangerous stage. However, I had hoped something miraculous would happen. We aggressively mobilized and got him tested and worked on. He seemed to make good progress. However, the tumor gathered deadly speed and suppressed every effort.Some time back, the family was given the news no one wants to hear- James’ health had badly deteriorated. At best, it was predicted, he could only stretch for no more than a month. The tumor had spread to almost every part of the head and neck. The young man could no longer swallow through the natural path. The intensity of the tumor was making every part give way. As you can imagine, no amount of preparation gets any parent ready to burry their child. James’ mother prayed, hoped, and did everything little thing her mind could think of to extend James life. She left her job, and dedicated every second of her life to caring for her son. I never saw a family as united as James’ in his time of need. Every family member pulled their best to make the last mile of his life, decent and worth living. There is always something about the last days which we can only piece together after the fact.
Although there seemed to be a visible progression of the illness, there was no serious sign to indicate that James would pass away on Friday. In fact, on Thursday, James asked the mother to call all his friends. James had been out of school for the last one year. However, many of his friends would still make time and come to check on him. He seemed to draw immeasurable joy from their company. Despite the dark cloud that seemed to hang over his head, he carried a sense of rebellion. He had plans. He spoke about his love for medical school after he recovers. He spoke about caring for his mother when he gets a good job after school. He didn’t seem beaten by the disease. He bore it with courage and hope. His resilience in the night of adversity was extra-ordinarily admirable.
On Thursday, he had called for all his friends. Some turned up while others were to come on Friday since some schools were breaking off then. I am told, on Thursday night, he was very jolly. There seemed to be an acceptance of some sort. He seemed to have made peace with his condition. Some of his friends who had not seen him in a long time found it extremely hard to reconcile his condition with his joy. There was something wrong. There seemed to be a resignation, an acceptable , a letting go of something. He seemed to be at peace- when his body was at war with him. I am told on thursday night, he mostly listened to stories from his friends. He did not share much except his appeal to them to pursue medicine and help more children suffering from cancer. This has often been the last appeal of most children I have come across in this situation. On Friday morning, when I saw the mothers call, my heart skipped a beat. I knew something was not right. She told me to try and leave everything I was doing to go and see the son. I retired what I was doing and made my way there. A thousand thoughts rung in my mind. On such calls, I am always thinking about where I am going to quickly mobilize money for the emergency. Usually, I have just finished a fundraiser. How do I go online again, in such a short space of time and do another? I decided not think about that. Around 10am, I got there. The room where James lay was half lit. His bed sat in the shadow cast by the curtains that stood in the way of the light shooting through the window. On the side, sat his mother whose hands gently rested in James left hand. His father sat by the front side of the bed. The young sister, about 10 sat on James bed. Sandwiched in the loved of his life, James lay there- only his eyes moving. His mouth was dry, eyes pale, and the pain impossible not to feel. I did not know what to say or do. I simply looked at him and took my share of the pain. For minutes, silence was the only thing speaking. The room was dead silent and yet there seemed to be a noise. The pain was not silent. We all seemed to be sunk in it. I tried to make some last minute calls to Doctors I knew but they all said not much could be done. They knew His condition too well. I was just advised that the family maintains the treatment they had been given. It was simply to manage the pain and ensure he does not feel a lot of pain in his last hours. His mother called him, James! Your friend Henry has come. At least say something to him. He slowly moved his head, turned and looked at me. His lips moved, but no sound came out. You could see that his spirit and body were distant from each other. We stayed there for a while, all of us speechless. Time seemed to be moving slowly but also fast. Occasionally one moved out to try and refresh or try to release the pain. James remained peaceful throughout out the day. I kept moving away to attend to other emergencies. In the evening, I settled back. Somehow, he had regained- I guess, his last energy. He told the mother, ‘Thank you! and JAMES peacefully LEFT. The room was immediately filled with a coldness. The mother was inconsolable. The father frozen. The siblings out of breathe. It is hard to describe the situation. Just like that, right in front of all of us, the young man slipped into eternity. It was something very strange. His body lay there- as peaceful as James was in life. I could not fathom that the young man who, minutes ago, had been alive was no on another side of life- death. At 16, cancer had taken him so young. A part of me felt James was now free from the pain he had endured for the last one year. Apart of me was so sad to see a mother lose a child. A part of her had died with him. CANCER!!! I know for sure that the THANK YOU was for each of you that helped this stranger through the many appeals we made. Be blessed and be rewarded with what means the most to you. I have learnt, with humility, that what matters to people in those last hours, is that they have been loved and shown compassion and decency in their last hours. It means so much. Let’s keep our humanity.
credit Henry Mutebe