Having cancer sucks. Without having any experience in that field, I can tell you that it 1000% sucks. I can give you medical facts and statistics to prove my point, but no heartfelt reasons because I don’t know what it is like. I’m just saying what other people say.
Suffering from cancer sucks.
What I can account for though, is that knowing someone who has cancer sucks. I know what that’s like. Having a family member or a friend who happens to have a terminal disease screws you up in ways that cannot even be explained. You watch them degrade in front of you. All the medicine you’ve read about in books actually comes alive. You literally watch the cancer suck the life out of a person.
Watching someone suffer from cancer sucks even more.
Why am I telling you this? Well, clearly I knew someone who had the great misfortune of having cancer. I watched him die in front of me. I watched his heart stop. I watched his hair fall off in clumps. I watched the treatments fail. I watched his parents lose hope. And it has messed me up in many ways. I hope to gain some closure, some relief by writing about this. Something that I can hold onto when nothing makes sense.
I doubt that’s gonna happen, but here we go.
I learnt three new words – ACUTE MYELOID LEUKEMIA.
A friend, let’s call him Happy, hadn’t come to T.T. class for almost a month. The first day he came back, he looked different. He was, of course, happy. But something was off. He looked weaker, less enthusiastic and pale.
Fast forward to three hours later, I get a call from another friend, let’s call him Annoyance. He sounded terribly robotic as he said, “Happy’s got cancer.”
I spoke to him for almost an hour, trying to understand what exactly had happened.
This is a rough summary of what entered my head:
Cancer; AML, a type of blood cancer; diagnosed quite late and at a time when Happy already had a pretty bad infection; Stage IV; terminal; 6 months without treatment; 2 years and a slim chance of survival with very strong chemotherapy; good candidate for trial stem cell transplant.
This might have been the moment I became obsessed with medicine.
It was a day before our school’s annual day dress rehearsal. Visitors were finally – after a week of isolation to reduce risk of infection – allowed to meet him. Annoyance, Equality and I were super excited to meet him.
Happy was in post-op after his second transplant surgery. All his hair was gone. The color had been leeched out of his face. His veins protruded in unhealthy ways. And yet, he seemed as happy as ever.
The adults went to the cafeteria to grab a snack while four of us caught up. We had a great time, laughing and talking like everything was normal. Everything felt normal, if you could forget the hospital, the medical equipment and the wires connected to our cancer-ridden friend. But of course, nothing was normal, and something just had to go wrong for us to come back to reality.
Mid-laugh, Happy seemed to have trouble breathing. He started choking on something, and there was nobody around to tell us what to do. Annoyance froze, Equality pressed the nurse button and called out to someone while I brought an oxygen mask to Happy’s face. It was intense panic, as the Code Squad came in with the paddles and stuff you see on TV. The monitor started beeping and we were escorted out of the room.
We found out later that he had flat lined, just for 5 seconds, but flat lined anyway. They brought him back of course, but after a few tests concluded that his case was hopeless. There was nothing that could be done.
He had barely two months to live. Our friend would finally be out his misery.
How was I supposed to feel? I wasn’t quite sure. Should I have been relieved that all this was ending? Angry at the stupid cancer for killing my friend? Sad that someone who was an important part of my life was gonna be dead? Happy that at least he wouldn’t have to suffer anymore? I didn’t know, and I didn’t feel.
I felt empty. Like all the emotions I was supposed to feel cancelled each other out, zeroing out to null. I felt numb.
I wake up one morning to the news that Happy was dead. Peacefully flat lined at 4:07 in the morning, leaving this world with one less person to worry about. Leaving his friends one less person to hangout with. Leaving AML with one less person to torture.
Giving death a new friend, leaving life with one less.
It was a weird day. It took a while to settle in. No tears, no sadness. Just plain numbness and disbelief. When I told Ebe in the bus that day, it didn’t even feel like an actual thing. It was weird, to have someone just not be there anymore.
I still cannot explain how that feels.
It’s like someone’s playing hide and seek, and has hidden so well, you’ve given up on finding them.
It’s like someone has just gone missing.
Well, that was… something.
I hadn’t relived that in a long time.
I don’t really know how to end this.
All I can conclude is that watching someone die of cancer sucks. It takes the life out of you. Now, every cloud has a silver lining and all that so I’m gonna find a silver lining in this:
I can sleep tonight knowing that the cancer did not get the best of him. It made him weak and sickly, but his spirit was always bright.
And more importantly, the cancer did not kill him. He killed the cancer, even if that meant sacrificing himself for the cause.
He was a true soldier, and knowing that can help me settle my thoughts
Watching someone suffer from cancer sucks, but watching someone conquer cancer is something else altogether.