“This is totally opposed to what we expected. Her kidneys and liver have shut down, we can’t proceed with the chemotherapy anymore, and we need to figure out something else as soon as possible to avoid the collapse of her other organs.”
The white ceiling fan kept on moving, I could easily detect the black spots on the wings. Such an extravagant hospital and they cannot keep a fan clean. The coral ceiling was an amusing contrast to the black and white fan. ‘Gosh, it is moving at snail’s pace! The fan at our grandma’s house is faster than this one.’
“How much will the surgeries cost, doctor?” I heard my father ask.
Despite constant diversion, I cannot repel their conversation from reaching my eardrums “I have taken enough loans and people refuse to lend me anymore.”
‘The fan is a pathetic distraction, Sofia,’ I think to myself.
Leaning against the headrest, I closed my eyes. It had been a long day and I was exhausted. Sitting beside the full-length window, I could feel the scorching heat of the sun entering into my veins through my bald head. The thin scarf could not prevent heat from infiltrating.
I can still visualize that day when it all began. The pains in my head were recurring quite often during those days. Presuming they were my usual migraines, I carried on with my over-the-counter tablets. The severe nausea and head-spinning were presumed, by my mother, to be a result of the exam stress and accompanying physical weakness. On the last day of my exam, while leaving the hall, I felt an excruciating pain penetrating my brain. Unable to remain upright with the dizziness, I faltered and did not know what happened next.
Upon opening my eyes, I found myself in the hospital bed. Languidly, I tried lifting myself up from under the covers but the tubes caught me. A nurse entered the room and asked me to stay put. “Your family is on their way, child. Don’t move or your IV might release itself.” Adjusting my pillows, she added “The doctors have ordered for CT and MRI scans. Relax. The pain will not return for another 24 hours”
With that assurance, the gentlewoman then left my room.
‘CT…MRI… what? I need to get back to my home. This was my last exam, man! The tyranny is over. What am I doing here? I have to party all night today!!’ Dazed, I could not grasp that the situation was real.
‘It was just a normal pain. Why are they putting me through all these complications?’
I was indignant towards myself. ‘I should have been strong. Why did I fall? Oh, why?!’
“Sofia!” Mama’s voice fetched me out of my ruminations. “Oh! Look at you! You are not studying anymore, enough! What happened? They are saying you’re going to be under those machines. But my baby is just fine. Aren’t you?” Mama kept on going breathlessly. “Look at you. You look so pale. Talk to me beta. Say something.”
I tried smiling at her. Still feeling quite flimsy, I gestured for her to sit down. We then talked about the fainting episode. I told her that the pain, this time, was unbearable. It was something different. My mom was quite upset when she heard about it. Adding to her distress, the nurse briefed us about the mechanical procedures I was going to have and how they were vital in determining the source of these recurring pains.
That day went by in utter desperation as I wanted so bad to go out and party rather than be lying in this bed surrounded by the stench of antibiotics. All my friends must have been celebrating the end of exams in posh cafés and here I was, being transferred from one room to another for multiple tests.
The next day, I was less feeble and felt completely assured that the doctors would be releasing me that day. What was to come was entirely different from all my expectations. The chief of surgery came in and asked my parents to come into his office. Upon their return, I could see gloom written across their faces. As per the doctor’s instructions, they broke the news to me gently. There was a malignant tumour in my brain. It would require extensive chemotherapy and surgical procedures for a complete cure.
The news shattered all my hopes and plans into bits instantly. Bells began to ring in my ears and I could not control my tears. They all advised me to keep up a brave front. Only my willpower could help me come out of this phase sound and healthy. But I couldn’t. ‘I so cannot! Why does this have to be me? Where did I go wrong in my health routine?’ – I thought to myself. I was a vegetarian and took my multivitamins regularly. All through my teenage years I hardly suffered from a cold or fever then how could such an illness strike a perfectly healthy person? No one, not even the doctors could answer my queries. Fate – they all labelled it as that. ‘But I have got so much to do with my life…’ To become a renowned writer was my ambition. I had the plot of my story already settled in my mind. Guess, there was a plot twist waiting in my own real-life story.
Thoughts kept flowing into my mind for two days. They kept me under observation and recommended chemotherapy. The tumour had enlarged and the first step must be to reduce its size. After the induction of calcium supplements, I had my first chemo inoculation. What remains in my memory about that day is bizarre and foggy. I kept on puking all through the night. The day was shady and I dozed off repeatedly. The weakness did not even allow me to cry or whine. After two days of complete darkness and lacking consciousness, I finally got back to my senses on the third day. By this time, I found that almost a third of my hair had fallen off. Bald patches could be seen easily from a distance. I cried a lot that day. ‘Why did Allah (SWT) do this to me? He is the Most-Merciful? Where is His mercy now? He loves me seventy times more than my mother, where is His love now? My mother would never let any such harm approach me. What is this?’
I was released from the hospital and had an appointment for the next chemo session that would take place after three weeks.
READ PART TWO HERE
Anoshia Riaz is 25 years old and lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She has two kids, working as freelance writer for some clients and local religious magazines. Anoshia is currently studying Masters in English Literature and also studied Quranic Tafseer and Tajweed from a renowned Islamic Institute.