HOPE: I could hear children singing happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. The party had already started. As I entered the room all the children looked up at me with their expressive eyes and their undying smiles. Any person who entered that room would easily forget that those children were victims of a life threatening disease – cancer.
The first thing you would notice is their larger than life spirit. Their parents were present, we danced with the children and played musical chairs with them. When I felt that it was the time for me to take a backseat and let the kids enjoy themselves, a chubby little boy stood in front of me.
I asked his name but he didn’t answer. I was on the verge of giving up. I thought he wanted to be left alone but then he suddenly made an effort to speak vanga (come) he said. Then I understood that there was a language barrier. I put to practice the little Tamil I knew and managed to find out his name, his age (five) and that he likes to eat cake.
I felt like giving all the children a big hug but I saw some crying even when someone touched them as they were very weak. I could see the pain in some parent’s eyes as they could not hold their children the way they wanted to.
Most children at the ward were aware when children in their ward passed away and some cry. But most of them toughen up and realise it was the end of that child’s misery and pray for them to be looked after well in their next birth.
As the children got together to watch a cartoon, a girl of about eight stroked my hair. I didn’t know what to say. She only had a few strands of hair left on her small scalp. I started thinking what must be going on in her mind then? She then placed her hand on my shoulder and smiled.
Nothing was said but that was enough for me to realise that she wanted me to know that she was going to be ok. I started wandering around the room when a nurse led me towards another room. “Look here,” she said. She showed me an album which had a photo of the girl who stroked my hair. She looked the same but she looked thinner now.
“There is no cure for the type of cancer she has. She only has one month to live,” said the nurse. My whole body turned to jelly. I couldn’t let her die. Why is life this unfair? I visited these beautiful children as they wanted to see me. They saw me as a hero of the outside world. Little did they know as they have never experienced the outside world.
I felt so inferior next to them. these children were full of determination, full of hope. They were mature. They handled themselves so well. Any parent would feel so proud. These children are true heroes. I saw and felt strength in them that I’m still trying to absorb.
An experience I will never forget is that a nine-month-old baby boy whom I carried died after two months. The memory of holding that baby in my arms is still there. I wished that I could see him grow up.
I was asked to sing for the children. When I finished singing I realised that I brought hope. But hope was not enough. You have to love. These children live to love and to be loved.
It was time for me to leave yet. I didn’t want to say goodbye to these heroes. I didn’t want them to feel abandoned while they fight in the battlefield called life. I exited quietly. As I was leaving I looked through the windows. This was the longest moment I have experienced.
No words and no breaths in between. Just memories being played back in my head with the sound of their laughter and their cries in the air.
Cancer can affect anyone at anytime and at any age. Early detection can help the spread of cancer. Let’s not let cancer win the battle. I would like to encourage every citizen to do anything in their capacity to help these victims of this life threatening disease have permanent, undying smiles.