2010: The year my mother didn't die

My mom's fight with cancer this year taught me about the gift of hope - and there is still time to make 2010 special.

Amna Khalid December 17, 2010
The eve of a new year brings hope and the promise of positive expectations to all. There is a chance to believe in dreams again. A hope that the resolutions left unfulfilled last year may finally be achieved in the new one.

I was also excited about the year 2010. It would be the year when I would go back to my beloved Pakistan after completing my higher education in the UK. I was excited about meeting my family and rediscovering my home city , Lahore from the eyes of someone who has been away from home for so long and has learnt to treasure all the quintessential Lahori qualities. It was a happy beginning. But life is unpredictable.

My new year's nightmare

My mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer in the leg in February. What followed was a nightmare of conducting tests to ensure the cancer hadn’t spread. We were recommended by a family friend, who was a highly renowned surgeon, to get the malignant tumor removed by the head surgeon of a reputed hospital-whom I will refrain from naming. The operation was conducted in March, and the tumor removed successfully. On further lab results, we discovered the tumor had been wrongly diagnosed and it was in fact benign. We were in shock. God had listened to our prayers. A miracle was the only explanation we could fathom from our experience when so many different tests had all pointed to one thing: a malignant tumor.

The wounds time would not heal

We brought Mom home and looked forward to her healing and returning to normal life. We eagerly waited to see her energetic, tiny frame bustling through the house. And we waited. And waited some more. But something was amiss.

The pain wouldn’t go. My mother’s health deteriorated as she stayed awake night after night in severe pain, which the surgeon explained was due to the tumour’s proximity to the Sciatic nerve.

Time waits for no one. The days swept by as we tried different medicines and tests hoping to ease Mom’s pain. It was soon July. We finally decided to change doctors. What the new doctor told us shook us all.

Hectic running around and numerous tests later, our worst fear were confirmed. The operation had not removed the tumor at all. It was now three times larger. But how could such extreme negligence ever be possible? The mind sometimes refuses to believe what it doesn’t want to. But that’s only possible if you have the luxury of time to ignore the inevitable.

A tumor that was never removed

The surgeon had been the head of one of the best hospitals in Lahore. This was supposed to happen only in movies when operations were conducted by inexperienced doctors. This was not supposed to happen to anyone - in my life, and especially not my mother. I needed explanations but those would have to wait. Right now, it was pertinent that we got the right treatment.

I don’t think there is anything more traumatic than waiting for test results of this nature. Yet, God is kind. The tumor was still only in her leg. However, they would now have to amputate Mom’s leg from the hip joint.

If the previous surgery was successful-this would not have been necessary.

The end of the year

This time we took our mother to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. To ensure Mom’s comfort we tried to procure a room-but there were no single rooms in the hospital. There were double beds, separated by curtains to make sure doctors treated rich and poor patients equally. I had never before heard of a hospital having no single rooms and I deeply respect the concept.

The operation was successful and Mom’s leg, along with the tumour, was removed from her body. My mother was finally cancer free.

I sit and ponder on the events that defined 2010 for me. I believe that underneath all the pain and troubles lies a beautiful lesson. I remember as I sat with my mother in the operation theatre before her operation, an old lady sat with us whose grand-daughter was awaiting chemotherapy. The girl was 10 years old but she could easily be five. She was stick thin, bald and very weak. However, her grandmother was happy that at least she was getting treated, since they had assumed that due to limited resources, all would be lost.

What touched me the most was how many young children were suffering from such a deadly disease – which can brings adults to desperation. I can only salute their courage and that of their families. But wait…is that really all I can do? Is that really all you can do? The beauty of being human is the power to make change happen. And what better way than bringing hope to someone’s life?

The gift of hope

There is still time for us to make 2010 a special year. Personally, I would like to do that by trying to bring hope in the life of one affected by cancer. An easy way for you to do the same is through an SMS. I am going to copy paste the following from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Page on Facebook:
A life depends on your SMS; Send a blank SMS to the number 7770 to donate Rs. 20 (+tax) through any network in Pakistan at anytime to support the treatment of poor cancer patients of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre.

2010 has taught me that life is short and it is important to value each moment. To help our loved ones, make life meaningful and best case scenario - create the miracle of hope in some one’s life.

I believe if even one of you reads this and donates then my 2010 has been extremely meaningful and fulfilling.
Amna Khalid An economics major from LUMS, with a MSc in financial economics from Cardiff University. Khalid currently works in London. She blogs at http://surreallist.blogspot.com/
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