Things Are Now Calm

2009
Jakda, Ahmed

We met just last year, when you entered my office, that inconspicuous walnut above your left structured clavicle.

It looked like a fleck, on your white young skin, jutting out from your frame, the frame so thin.
A passerby would keep walking, thinking nothing at all, but suddenly stop talking, as if unexpectedly stalled.

Hey buddy, is that something above your collarbone? It looks like a stone.

Yet your neck was anatomically correct, and your head sat atop undisturbed; like a candlestick with a bead, or perhaps a sunny dandelion, the weed.

The pain was bothersome, a nag that needed some attention; so, I did my palliative thing that I do, and relief was beheld.

You carried on with chemotherapy and I saw you periodically. Those chemicals pumped to kill, to kill but nurture hope.

Somehow or other, that hope permits one to cope.

Always alone, you always came alone.

At 23 years of age, you were so independent, so sure that this was a battle to be fought alone.

So we carried forward, we carried forward.

But, deep within me floated the truth of the doctor’s mind, and I pushed it in. I recessed it into the black core - away from the optimistic rind.

The lung cancer patients come in, 60 and 70 years of age. The breast patients also appear, of varying ages. While, the prostates wheel in, usually older than most. But, this devious rhabdomyosarcoma, it seeps in like a wicked ghost.

Then I met Sara, your blushing girlfriend, the smiles covering the anxiety. Following her was Julie, the commanding sister, ready to be the Captain Mighty. Should I spread your ketchup? Asked Julie to the independent you, and your temper flared, while the tumor began to flare too.

The hand went limp, then the arm itself. Those nerves were now snipped, crushed by the boulder at the neck.

The pain was scorching, like propane suddenly alit. The neck began to swell, and the vocal cord on the left slit.

Your voice became thin, and talking became hard; your smiling proclivity, now suddenly on guard.

Who says cancer does not rob? Why does this cancer make them sob?

Then the crises began, with phone calls laden with fear. In came the social worker, the Chaplin told to stay clear.

Who needs a Chaplin? That’s only for the dying. So we trudged along the way, the vultures now flying.

First was the thought of suicide, and depression was certain. Here’s a pill, my son, it will take a few weeks, and down came the happiness curtain.

Things became calm.

Second was the crashing wave, the steady crashing of pain. Sometimes so dull, so easy like a light rain.

Then, a force with a vengeance, laden with shark fins. So, I did my thing, that palliative thing I do.

Things became calm.

But, this was the final act, coming before us. It is the patient that knows, and the doctor so glum. Son, do you know you’re dying?

I brought in the parents, and darted room to room. Father crumbled, and Mother tried to deny the doom.

Is my son really dying, O Doctor, could you be lying?

Now the head became heavy, it cocked to the side. The tears began to well, the blinks doing their best to hide.

And so the family together huddled, and I left the room. The eyes were all red, at the apparent loom.

And the doctor and nurse all quieted inside, left to wonder, to whom should they confide?

The planning took place, end of life now in haste. A move back to Mom and Dad - welcome back young lad.

Jim, we love you so much, this family of yours, and our hearts are all conduits, like open doors.

So the science of medicine now fades, and the art rises to the top.

How lucky are we, this privileged medical team, as we go room to room, with our compassionate mop?

Jim passed away in peace, his family all around him. The suffering has now ended, and now we hope the hearts will be mended.

One life is gone, yet so many remain, the memories so long and fresh, in all of the hearts, a seared stain.

This prose is for Jim, a brave young man, who sailed the rough ocean and carried his tattered flag. The treatments are all done, love has been renewed, the tears have now dried, but the flag still flies high.

Things…are now calm.

Theme: Death and Dying | Décès et le mourir
Theme: Family | Famille
Theme: Patients | Patients

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.

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