A Memorable Visit

March 20, 2009
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The walls were painted bright yellow with large farm animals stencilled clumsily across the room. The nurses were smiling and laughing and masses of neglected brand new toys lay unused on the immaculate floor. Gleeful screams from young toddlers broke the painful silence above the beeping machines. Despite this display of happiness, depression weighed down the room. Beneath these badly applied masks were desperately unhappy children. Children who knew that tomorrow they could be dead.

It was impossible not to stare at the unfortunate children as I walked across the room. I remember one child, aged about six, vomiting violently into a cardboard bowl on his own, without any family or friends there to aid or support him. Some children were smiling, trying to deceive their relatives into thinking that they were content. Others had given up all pretence and the tears seemed to burn their pale, thin faces. Privacy was not an option. Some children were looking in the mirror with shock, stroking their bald heads and screaming, a moment which should surely be private but they had been forced to share with the rest of the ward. Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I was healthy. These children would give anything to have a life like mine and I felt as if it was my fault that I was able-bodied.

After what seemed forever, but in reality was about two minutes, I reached the bed of my friend. The curtain was drawn and as I went in I did not notice the immobile body, but the small room. A collection of 'Get Well Soon' cards stood rigidly, as though regimented like a rank of soldiers on his small bedside table. A slightly misshapen mountain of gifts from friends was leaning against the only wall. Stuffed toys, games consoles, DVDs and plastic figures lay peacefully along the wall, presents from people torn with guilt. Photographs of friends and family were blue-tacked around the room reminding him of the good times in his life. A laptop rested beside his bed, the website I had set up for him to contact people open, kind messages of hope filling the page. A balloon was tied to his bed-post, although half the helium had been sucked out of it and it lay wilting, rather pitifully, near the floor.

I turned to face Josh* and immediately I had to try and contain my shock. His body was extremely frail and brittle. He was unable to walk, his vision was severely blurred and it was painful whenever he uttered a word. His head was bowed in shame and embarrassment-he thought it disgraceful that I should even see him in this awful state. His hair was newly grown and fluffy like a brand-new duckling with tiny tufts of blond hair sewn unnaturally onto it's bony body. A bald patch was attached to the back of his head to haunt him. A small scar trickled down the back of this patch, a harsh gravestone, marking the spot where the cancer began to gnaw on its victim.

After about a minute of silence he glanced up to me and tried to smile, though it came out as more of a grimace. As I smiled back he knew that I had seen through that feeble smile, but we both tried to keep the pretence up. Having exchanged this understanding between us, we sat silently in the room for a while. He was unable to speak and I was just rendered speechless.

'So how are you?'
The silence was almost unbearable.
'I'm awful,' he answered.
This was the answer I had been dreading. Since he had started the chemo six months ago, he had never once admitted this to anyone but his parents. He always stayed cheerful and tried to look on the bright side of things. It seemed like things had finally become too much for him.
'I have been sick four times already this morning, I have to go for another CT scan because they think the cancer might have returned and I'm in a wheelchair at the moment,' he managed to slowly croak at me.
The room was struck down with silence yet again.
'I'm so sorry,' I replied. The reality that these words couldn't do anything for him hit me harder than ever before.
Pain was suddenly etched onto his face.
'Is there anything I can get you?' I asked panicking.
'Water, please,' was all he could manage.

I quickly traced the tiny cubicle with my watering eyes and caught sight of the water jug. I poured a small glass of water and helped him to drink the it. He took small sips at a time, coming up for air every time and I realised just how much energy this small task was stealing from him. Although his flimsiness was strikingly obvious, I tried to ignore it, not mentioning or showing my concern.

After a while he finished the water and seemed in slightly better health. I adjusted his bed for him and we began to talk. It wasn't like old times. He had lost his spark. The twinkle in his eyes had disappeared and I didn't know if it would ever return. I joked with him, but each silly joke seemed to highlight the severity of his situation.

An hour later and Josh was asleep again. My visit had almost destroyed him, leaving him more breathless and vulnerable than before, but hopefully happier. I left him sleeping as I wrote a note saying goodbye and then tiptoed to meet my Mum at the entrance.

As I walked back across the ward I did not notice the other children this time. All I could think about was Josh. The whole visit made me feel selfish. I hadn't even noticed the tears which were foolishly dribbling down my cheeks. As I walked outside the heavy rain drenched my already wet face, but I did not seem to notice it. I caught sight of another patient as I ran desperately to the entrance, he was sitting in the freezing cold, a drip and an oxygen mask attached to his body. I could do nothing.

Weeks after this terribly memorable visit, I can still recall the whole hour. Visions of the morning would drift into my mind. But those eyes. They haunted me for weeks afterwards, constantly in my mind. Pale blue specks drowned in tears. Desperation. Pain. Sorrow. He didn't want to talk about his ordeal to me, but his eyes spoke volumes. His eyes told me the truth and no matter how much he tried, he couldn't hide them from me.
He felt ashamed and scared.
He felt insignificant amongst thousands of other patients.
He felt like a stranger.
He felt alone.


*-Different name has been used.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Annie777 said...
Mar. 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm
Hey.
OMG this is AMAZING!!! My dad had cancer last year and I remember how horrible the first visit was. I love the imagery you use.
Keep it up-this is incredible!
xx
 
morgie7<3 replied...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm
i agree with Annie777...amazing job! you really created the scene and gave me something to think about
 
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