Kamini Doobay, Class of 2017, wrote this mix of poetry and prose after joining the treatment team for a 10-year-old boy with cancer.
His parents called.
They called every now and then –
to share new stories, to ask about fundraising events
they could attend, or simply to say thank you again
and again for saving their son.
They often sent fruit baskets, holiday cards and photos
of Joe playing ball, winning awards or just giving us
that innocent smile – one we know so well,
one that barely left his face,
even when he was going through hell.
His mom thought it was a bad cold or maybe the flu,
that dreadful day – now more than 2 years ago,
when he said,
“Mommy, I feel sick.”
After a couple of days, Joe still felt ill –
fever, rash, shortness of breath, hip pain and fatigue.
Same kid who insisted on playing baseball with
a swollen ankle, who recited a poem for his class
with very sore throat, who liked being called
“macho man” because he was so tough.
It turned out that Joe didn’t have a cold,
nor did he have the flu.
The docs had to tell mom and dad that cancer
had invaded their macho man’s body.
They tried their best to deliver the news
with compassion, with heart and hope.
But, no matter the tone and softness of voice,
these words were ear-splitting.
Like a heavy door being slammed in their face,
like the sound of glass being shattered into tiny pieces,
like jarring, tuneless noise disturbing the music
of their lives, the diagnosis was pronounced:
T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
They did not know what these words really meant,
but they knew it wouldn’t be easy.
Their 10-year old boy had to now gather all his
courage to fight tirelessly.
With the enemy living within his own little body,
he had to fight long and hard.
His parents and the doctors acted fast,
but so did the cancer.
Like militant warriors, the cells wanted to defeat
and conquer Joe’s body.
Seeing the tears flow down mom and dad’s cheeks,
seeing the smile disappear from Joe’s pale face,
the doctors knew they needed to fight harder
with Joe, for Joe.
Losing his hair and all of his baby fat,
he would lay on the hospital bed holding mom’s hand.
He would pray with dad every night,
“In my little bed, I lie,
Heavenly father, hear my cry;
Lord, please keep me through this night,
bring me safe to morning light.”
Read Part 2.
Kamini Doobay is in ISMMS’s PORTAL program, as a MD/MSCR Candidate, Class of 2017.