The words seemed distant, and resonated as though spoken in total vacuum. There was a gasp. There was crying, there were hands lifted in the air, and the room choked with the hysterical crying of a woman who had raised a child for 23 years. A child whom she had loved, nurtured and cared for, a child she had watched grow up, and older, a child whom she had taught how to read before he’s even went to school, a child whose eyes lit whenever she made his favorite food, and for whose pains she’d stayed up nights never-ending, trying to soothe them, and ease them. That child now lied in a hospital bed in front of her, helpless, while being told his life was slipping away.
“We caught it early though. We can take out the tumor if we operate soon enough. It hasn’t spread too much yet.” Said the doctor in a comforting attempt.
But Karim’s mother was still crying, and almost choked from her tears. One minute she would stand up and raise her hands to the sky asking God why he had done this, the other she would sit in a chair, her elbows on her knees and her head buried in her palms. Her words were muffled in the flood of tears.
“My child, my only child. He is my only child oh God!”
At the sight and voice of his mother, Karim’s insides were ripping into pieces. He did not quite register the fact that he had something growing inside of him. Something that was eating him up, and something that would eventually kill him.
“And the risks? Will there be risks if you operate?” His father somehow maintained his posture, and inwardly Karim thanked him for it. He did not need another set of crying eyes. He needed someone to confirm the denial he wanted desperately to keep.
“There are risks, yes. Due to the tumor’s location, any nerve could rupture during the operation, causing paralysis, or most probably progressive intellectual impairment. There is a high risk that the part of the brain responsible for his memory and concentration may be affected, causing short-term memory or even permanent dementia–“
The full load of what the doctor had said hit Karim suddenly. There was risk that his brain might not be able to function fully. There was a risk his memory, along with most of his mind faculties to shut down. There was a risk he would not write ever again.
“Wait, wait…” Karim closed his eyes and gulped. It was still painful for him to speak. Everyone looked at him “What– does that mean? I won’t be able to write?”
His mother’s sobbing had subsided and she sat in her chair listening with tears still caught between her lids.
“The risks are high, Karim. I know that, but there is a chance we will take out the tumor, and the cancer will be gone.”
“Are there options?” Karim could not imagine living a life where writing is not an option. It was incomprehensible to live an eternity without it. It was what defined him. It was his gift, and he was not willing to give it away. All of his life he had known that he was meant to do it. All of his life he knew his destiny was to be great. And if there was an option that would buy him time for him to be the great writer he was. He would take that option, no matter what the cost was.
“Well, there is an option. You can go through chemo-therapy. But the chances of the cancer returning are pretty high. It’s better if we take out the tumor to be on the safe side, and hope that there would be no complications.”
In a flash of seconds, while the silence and the smells serene they seemed to take over the hospital room, Karim remembered. Random pictures ran through his mind, the mind that was under the threat of a surgeon’s knife, pictures of childhood, of colors and ease, where the world reeked of wonder. He remembered his parents, who once were loving, and never fought. He remembered the laughter between them, the hugs, the kisses and the passion. He remembered the blissfulness of a child whenever lost in words that created worlds. He remembered growing into a man, and Karen, who gave him all the safety he ever had needed. All the freedom he had required, and all the escape she had provided. He missed her hand enclosed in his. Her optimism and her smile, and he wondered where on earth she could be. He wondered, what soothing words the love of his life could find, for she always found them.
Karim felt his life had been nothing but lapses of consciousness, one minute he’d be awake, aware and wheeling himself to the destiny that awaited him, and in a flash of seconds, with a thundering stroke, the world seemed to be rolling itself out of his control.
“No?” Karim’s father was looking down at him in confusion.
“You won’t operate. Chemo it is.” Karim’s eyes were still closed. The pain meds had lost their effect completely, his body ached, and a headache was now throbbing against his temples.
“You will, Karim! What on earth are you talking about? You will have the operation.” His mother was glaring at him.
“No mom. I won’t… I want to write. I have a book to finish.”
“This is all you’re thinking about now? Your writing? Your life is at stake here, and you’re choosing writing over it?”
“Writing IS my life, mom. It is my gift. I can’t give it up. You know this.”
“Bullshit!” his father suddenly cut in, “Writing my ass. You’ll find another toy to play with when you get to keep your life. You will have this operation. – okay doctor. Karim will go through with the operation.”
“NO! I WON’t!” Karim’s temper was rising. “Ouu–” A jolt of pain suddenly hit him, as though a lightning bolt had just struck him. But he ignored his pain. “It’s my decision. I want to write. It’s not a toy. It’s a gift, it’s everything. I will go with chemo.”
His mother stood up, her knees shaking and voice cracking.
“Karim, please.” Her eyes were pleading.
Karim’s heart broke to hear his mother ask so pleadingly. As he lied with his eyes closed, he could feel the tears swell within the eye lids. He could feel the single tear that broke through them and trickled down his temple. He could feel it splash on his pillow in the harrowing silence. It hurt him more than anything to say his words, but he hoped with all his heart she would understand.
“I’m so sorry mom… But I choose my gift.”
[…to be continued]