Monday, April 18, 2005
I was temporarily working in the children’s cancer ward. I was still discovering my job as a counselor there, while noting the distress parents went through for their children & the sickness concerned. Not a great position for you to be in, when people are carrying fragile lives in their arms with pleading eyes to save the greatest treasures of their lives. No one could retain the lives Lord had decided to place into heaven quickly. It was a difficult situation nevertheless. One day a girl, more familiar to the place than me, was wheeled in. She kept crying without consolation. The entire team gathered around to tend but she wouldn’t stop, fearing that the chemotherapy would cause the hair-loss & ruined her skin etc. I listened patiently & tried to console as much as I could. I later learnt that she’d been in therapy since 3 years & had developed the cancer at the age of 12. I also learnt her name “Kanwal” meaning ‘flower’. She was from the east, perhaps Indian. She turned out to be my favorite & she started to really like me because I always went to ask her & give her time. Not trained enough in those days I didn’t understand the procedures such as the Lumbar puncture (which was to extract a little of the spinal fluid & investigate for various cells for diagnosis of the stage & type of cancer) & others. It just amazed me to see the will these patients had to hold on to life. That was when I really learnt to value all that I was blessed with. Just a doctor(actually a student in a white-coat then) going up to someone to ask how they were, to stand for 5 minutes & listen to the patient’s feelings & fears, to be there to give a hand to console for just 2 minutes meant so much to her. In those eyes I learnt what fear of dying was like. I could not extent her time on earth. I could only try to encourage her to live better in the time she was allowed. Perhaps she understood. She always felt better after talking with me. She asked for me when I wasn’t around & anticipated my visit as soon as she arrived. I reciprocated the feelings to a great extent. She taught me the value of human compassion. Then one day I hoped that she would come for a check-up so I could give her this rose I’d been saving for someone worthwhile since years. I knew she was the perfect candidate. My working period in that ward was over. Fortunately she came. She felt a bit shy at first then took it, with pleasure gleaming in her usually sad eyes-the eyes that longed to see better days. She held my hand for a few minutes & then had to be taken for her tests so I didn’t get a chance to see her again. I watched her being taken in the examination room as they made her change into a gown. Morosely I whispered a sotto-voce goodbye. I knew my voice couldn’t mange to break her heart that I wouldn’t see her again. I left the building that day, ambivalent about the situation. There was a contentment that she’d remember someone sincerely cared about her. On the other hand equally sad that I was leaving her alone with her dreams of dressing up & braids. I would never return to those gates, would never know if her dreams came true & whether she won the battle of life or surrendered to Heaven.