I resolved two years ago to participate in as many charity events as possible. Any of these tasks included accompanying ill patients in hospitals and assisting in many areas, such as keeping the sick company and simply attempting to raise their spirits. For a long time, I had imagined what it was like to be diagnosed with a terminal disease. Lung cancer took the life of a very dear uncle of mine. Later, it was revealed that he was aware of the short amount of time he had left but refused to tell the rest of the family. The idea of resigning to one’s fate seemed hard for me to fathom. This speech shall feature an experience I had that helped me gain a much needed perspective.
About two months ago, I a group of guys on a trip to the local hospital organized by a local charitable organization. We were about a dozen in number and the goal of the expedition was to spend time with the patients, make them feel at ease and cheerful. The patients had a designate relaxation area that facilitated our meeting. The relaxation area had patients of various age groups each with different health cases and thus we were supposed to mingle and interact with them at our leisure while ensuring that we gave our time to as many as we could. However, in my case, one particular interaction made the whole experience worth it. In the course of interacting with the patients, I met a middle aged woman named Martha. Martha was a mother of two kids; a girl and a boy and was undergoing palliative chemotherapy as a treatment to control Metastatic Melanoma.
As we talked more, I became aware that the Metastasis was at stage four and incurable. The Melanoma had been detected earlier and treated but while she was in remission, it came back undetected and spread much faster beyond the point of being treated. What struck me about her was the fact that she seemed to be more positive about it than I was. I think she probably saw my horror at the thought of living with an incurable disease and knowing that death was almost around the corner. She was very straight about it and her attitude about it helped me save face and got rid of any awkwardness that could have ensued in the rest of the conversation.
I asked her to elaborate more on the disease and she told me it was basically a variation of skin cancer that spreads to the rest of your body and in the process acquires it ‘metastatic’ name which roughly translates to advanced skin cancer. As she went further, I asked whether she had given up or not. She told me that she had hoped she was done with it the first time and that it took much of her strength to fight it. When it came back the second time, she knew it was not going to be the same as the last time. And true to her suspicion when the doctors had evaluated the test results, they realized that it was beyond the point of being cured and that she had about a year to live at best. She was put into a treatment regimen meant to control the effects of the cancer.
It took her a while to come to terms with the fact that she was going to die but eventually she came around, accepted it and decided to fully embrace the positives in the remaining time she had. Upon doing the calculation in my head with the information she had given me, I realized she had about six months left and I wondered whether had told her next of kin. I wondered whether they knew and were there to support her; something we couldn’t do for my late uncle as a family. She told me she did and that her kids together with her husband always came around to visit and that they would even be back on that afternoon. This brought some happiness inside me and I smiled. I remember she had joked that finally I had shaken off the distraught look that made me seem even more miserable than she was and we laughed.
As we were talking further, she explained that the support and company of friends was what kept her going forward and took her mind off the stress and anxiety of the future that awaited her. She thanked me for taking time to visit the patients and that it was a good thing to do as it adds positivity in the face of the stress of being sick and also for asking since talking about her condition to someone else who cared also encouraged her to be brave.
The experience help me resolve some questions I had carried with me since the demise of my late uncle. On the other hand, it also made me wonder whether if he had disclosed his condition to the rest of the family, our support would have made his final moments better or even encouraged him to fight the disease. Nonetheless, it was a worthy experience that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.