1. Flashbacks and Hope
September 1, 2014 10:20 AM Saint Marcus Hospital There is always a glint of hope in a sea of despair, always a light at the end of the tunnel. And these same rules apply to life. In this world full of hardships and pain, there is always something good and pure. Ah, sweet but ignorant aunt Lucy. Although my tutor would beam at the beautifully composed analogy and bathe it in long, weird-sounding words of what would mean ‘praise’ in normal English. The words I personally think would describe those sentences are ‘ignorant’, ‘cliche’, and ‘true to some point’ . OK, the last one’s a phrase but who cares. True to some point because it’s true that there’s always a glint of hope in a sea of despair. But not completely true; some cases just are meant to be damned, without any hope, any possibility. Like falling into a very deep deep hole alone, or being buried alive in a stiff coffin in the deepest part of our Earth, or having your own bloody cells turn mad and start replicating until-boom- you have cancer. '’But sir, her parents stopped paying the dues eight months ago. And besides, her body refuses to respond to chemotherapy and antibiotics aren’t enough. The only thing that separates her from the realm of the dead is her faint heartbeat.’‘the nurse groans. '’I agree. The poor girl’s more dead than alive.’‘ I wasn’t scared anymore about the prospect of dying, like the healthy people outside are. Nor did I fear pain. How can you fear something that’s always been with you for as long as you have memory of, aside from white-clothed people that always seem to pinch me with needles? While other children received a toy for their fifth birthday, I received my diagnosis and got a bed at the Special Children part of a cheap hospital. While my older brother, Jacob, was in kindergarten graduation ceremony, my parents were sitting next to my cot, sobbing and whispering that everything would be OK. Nothing was ever OK. I used to be daddy’s golden girl, excelling in piano, chess, ballet, maths, reading...I was basically the perfect daughter. With the aid of this cursed memory, I remembered how impressed my parents were when a doctor told them I had an IQ of 260. Then, how agonizing their expressions were when, when I was days from turning five, the doctor proclaimed something that would change everything: March 8, 2003 ‘’Mummy, you forgot Sirius!’I pointed a chubby finger outside the window. My beautiful Beauce Shepherd, a puppy, was following the car some feet behind, her long tongue swaying outside her snout. ‘’The hospital doesn’t allow animals inside, Debbie.’‘my mummy said. I didn’t need her to remind me. I already knew that. The only reason I said that was to make her feel guilty. Poor Sirius. Named after a bright star, and still left behind just because of stupid rules. How unfair. The muscles in my face try for a smile, and fail. How little I knew. Unfair. There was no such thing as unfair. It was life. I sucked on a grape-flavored lollipop, knowing that it would later make my mouth and tongue look blue and I’d look creepy. But I only had lollipops when I was at the hospital. For some reason, they made me feel sick, even though I always felt full of energy. The white doctors wore and pale blue and purple nurses wore was enough to make my stomach feel queasy. Because I knew they dealt with blood. And, although I knew the crucial role blood played in supporting and delivering oxygen and other key nutrients to our organs that would make our body function, it still made me feel as if the world was spinning when I saw it. I tried reading Grey’s Anatomy to fight off the dizzy feeling blood brought me. But when I finished the book, I felt the same. Pretty silly, fearing blood. ‘’Mr. and Mrs. Evans, please take a seat.’‘a man with no hair said politely. My parents obeyed. Even though it was rude, I couldn’t help but stare at the way the light of the white room made the doctor’s bald head shinny and polished. Or did he polish it at home? Like polishing shoes? I had so many questions. I always had questions. Ever curious about everything, even about polished bald heads. ‘’From the results of the scan we did of her brain...we found a tumor.’‘ It was like he had said the world was ending. My mother’s light green eyes, so much like mine, brimmed with tears as she clutched me closer to her chest. Daddy was furious. He was yelling at the bald man something about mistake, but I couldn’t hear over my mother’s wails. I knew what a tumor was. And I knew what was coming next. But, strangely, I didn’t panic. My intellect was light-years away from an average five year old, yet, on the emotional level, I still didn’t take things too seriously. ‘’Please Mr. Evans, let me explain.’‘the doctor pleaded. After ten minutes my parents calmed down. ‘’We noticed that the tumor in her brain in still too small to be very complicated. With a surgical operation, we might get it out before it turns to cancer.’‘ September 1, 2014 10:30 AM Saint Marcus Hospital Lies. All lies. My parents poured in their entire lifetime savings, even borrowed some. Mummy sold her prettiest necklaces and rings, Daddy sold bonds with some company. Jake even gave his entire piggy bank from summer earnings into the bunch. I never knew exactly how much money the operation cost. But it was enough to leave my family practically bankrupt. In the end, the operation didn’t work. Chunks of brown curls began to appear on my pillow in the mornings, and inside the hoodies I wore. I felt weaker by each passing day, immersing myself more and more into books. Although I didn’t tell my parents, the real reason I started my avid reading was to avoid thinking of the pain I had started to feel, the throbbing headaches and agonizing spells I was subject to at random moments. Cancer progressed, and before I knew it, I found myself living in a hospital, surrounded by rushing doctors and faux-cheerful nurses. Nothing in life came free, I realized, after my third day eating shitty food and gulping it down with water from a plastic bottle. I had an eidetic memory, a rare case of eidetic memory. I could remember everything in detail, recall conversations and the funny faces my parents made at me when I only months old. I never asked to be the one with the highest IQ in a thousand mile radius, that has an unhealthy interest in mathematics and literature and has freaky perfect memory. I never asked for it, but it was given to me anyway. But, somewhere up there, God decided I was becoming too much of a snob, lecturing respected scientists and correcting mathematicians in their calculations regarding the exact nature of pi. So, he gave me cancer, my beautiful brown locks as a price. But now...now that I overheard Dr. O’Conner, a small little butterfly fluttered inside my chest. Hope. I didn’t dare get my hopes to high, but...I couldn’t help but already plan my reunion with my parents again-whom I haven’t seen since I was eight. They had left me in this hospital, only sending gifts on my birthday. I should have been angry with them, for leaving me here just so they could start a new life without having to look at me in pain. But I could only imagine the many hugs and kisses I’d give my mum, the various philosophical reflections and intellectual debates I’d have with daddy, and just get engulfed in those bear hugs by Jacob. But also, I was scared at what the world would treat me. Life isn’t nice, it isn’t all pink and pretty. It would be foolish to think I would be welcomed warmly by the rest of the people. I was an outcast in kindergarten, my classmates thought I was either a freak or a show off, because I always got the answers right, and I brought to school thick books with no pictures. My heart starts to pick up, the machine that records my heartspeed starts beeping rapidly. Dr. O’Conner turns from his conversation with his colleague and smiles a bit when he sees me trying to make eyecontact with him. ‘’Hey there Debbie.’‘he smiled warmly, patting my blue beanie that hides my bald head, affectionately. ‘’I heard.’‘my voice sounded rough and my tongue felt dry. Either because I had refused to drink my apple juice this morning, or from excitement. ‘’We think there’s a fair chance this problem is going to be solved.’‘he knelt beside my cot, looking at me square in the eye. He knew what my brain was capable of. And he knew I liked things blunt, straight to the point, no sugar coating. ‘’Debbie, you’ve survived eleven years with a tumor in your brain, in this boring hospital room, next to kids just like you, that sometimes move on with their lives, and kids that eventually loose the battle. But you,’‘he grasped my hand, which I clung onto tightly.’‘You are the bravest, smartest, most strong-willed girl person I’ve ever met. We’ll get that thing out of you, Debbie, and you’ll be a new person.’‘his words were barely a whisper, and I held them as close as I could. I’ll survive. ‘’OK, missy, help me here, please.’‘Dr. O’Conner said, holding a pillow. With my eyes squeezed shut, I forced myself to lean forward. He quickly slid the pillow under my back. ‘’We decided to give you a treatment of Temozolomide-’‘ ‘’Why now?’‘I crossed my arms. ‘’It was risky before, but now, after this operation, we’re almost positive this treatment will lower the rate of the cancer cells reproducing. Temozolomide is in a class of medications-’‘ ‘’-Called alkylating agents. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in your body. Yes, doctor, I know. One capsule a day, dry.’‘I finished for him. He nodded, smiling at me. ‘’Now, where did you know that?’‘he asked, although he already knew the answer. ‘’I skimmed through your medical books four years ago, July 15, when you left them here by accident.’‘I replied. He chuckled and pinched my nose.’‘Clever girl.’‘ I watched as he took out a pill, greenish, from a small box. ‘’Here.’‘ Obediently, I took it. We’ll see it if works.