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PERSPECTIVE
Ahead of print publication
 

A mortal prosody


 Department of Radiation Oncology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission25-Sep-2020
Date of Decision19-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance19-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication21-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Anindita Das,
Department of Radiation Oncology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_1102_20




How to cite this URL:
Das A. A mortal prosody. Indian J Cancer [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2021 Apr 13]. Available from: https://www.indianjcancer.com/preprintarticle.asp?id=311632




“I'm going to die today.”

Grounded in the same hospital bed, pallor slowly claiming her face, livid bruises creeping up her arms, fluid seeping into her legs as if weighing them by the gravitational force of the impending loss – she repeated the same statement today. He stood by the wash basin, inspecting the shaving foam on his face.

The first day she had told him that a tired, harrowed looking figure wearing thick glasses was checking her lung sounds. She shook the stethoscope off her chest through that muffled, loud declaration. He had turned around abruptly, to suppress the sob that shook his whole muscular frame. Even though this news had been broken to him by the doctor a couple of days ago, listening to her giving words to the impending made it sound inevitable with a finality that he had not yet had the time to process.

“I'm going to die today.”

The second day when she had told him that, the figure from before was presenting about her to a group of attending consultants, in the middle of which her stream was suddenly halted by this half-defeated, mumbling declaration. He held her, harder this time, as if he could squeeze death out of her lungs. She gasped, she needed air and his weight crushing her was not allowing her to breathe. Her lungs- drowning in the sticky, oily fluid that the tireless factory of few million cells with an alien mutated genome were producing inside- were sending out their cry for air. Panicking, he left her, turned the oxygen higher. Slowly, she calmed down.

“I'm going to die today.”

The third day she told him that, she was half bent with her elbows over an overbed table. The figure from earlier was gloved, aproned today; she had just now drummed her fingers over her chest, then proceed to brutally stick in a long needle, and was now aspirating a big syringeful of ruby liquid, all the while trying to convince her to stay still, that it will be over in a few minutes, and that she will feel better after that. He was almost embarrassed at the way she would not listen and kept flailing around, he was profusely apologetic to the stranger turned daily visitor struggling to keep the needle in place.

“I'm going to die today.”

The fourth day she had told him that, he was reciting, chanting, in his mind the jargons he had heard from the now familiar bespectacled figure for the umpteenth time, just a few minutes ago. Pleurocentesis – intercostal drainage- transudative- exudative- malignant- lymphangitis- carcinomatosis- tyrosine kinase inhibitors- metastasis- progression- Pleurocentesis– transudative- exudative– lymphangitis- carcinomatosis- tyrosine kinase inhibitors- metastasis- progression- progression-progression-on and on and on in an endless spiral, till the meaningless words heard on Day 1 had now become dreaded, familiar sounds, that kept on playing inside his head, over, and over, and over, a record stuck in a loop till it doused out her once daily declaration of death.

He lost count of days. She lost track of time. But not of the fact that the evening stubble on his cheek the day he had literally carried her in among beeping monitors, was now barely letting his face be seen. He lost count of days. But not of the changing numbers on the monitor. Or their beeps getting progressively extroverted. Or the spreading bruises. Or the pacing breaths. Or the increasing frequency with which the spectacled figure now checked in.

“I'm going to die today.”

He kept shaving; she had finally gotten him to do it today after hours of pestering. He was almost done, when even to his ears accustomed by now to the false alarms of the tireless, intrusive machines that cried wolf every now and then, the beeps suddenly seemed more frantic, more fanatic. Or perhaps it was the agonized cry of his sixth senses. Unfinished, patchy foam sticking here and there on his face and neck, he rushed to her side.

She met his gaze, with a look far different from her fifty and one eye gestures he knew so well, and yet the one that will keep curtailing his memory of the others and come back repeatedly, to haunt him forever. Eyes wide open, as if in a final surprise at the alacrity with which she could feel the drift into somewhere else, she tried her last attempts. And then suddenly, she just did not. Wide pupils, as if trying to hold on to the last bit of light from any corner possible, until suddenly, there was only Darkness. Or perhaps, only Light.

That day's gloved, aproned figure has come and checked her heart, her breaths, her eyes. And repeated a few words which even after saying a hundred times to a hundred different people, never seem to get any more articulate. Life was never bound in words; one would assume at least death would be!

Outside, her father is wailing, beating his chest in agony, perhaps heartbreak over the death of a child hurts worse than when his heart had threatened to stop beating a few years ago, when she had nursed him back to health. Her mother, is slipping away into unconsciousness, waking up only to realize that this was not all a bad dream, and slipping away again, over and over and over. Her 3-year-old daughter, for now, is playing with some neighbors. Soon, she will ask, where is mommy? And in between all of this- he, how is he?

He is inside the room, with her. Holding her hand. Nothing has changed, except- why is it not warm anymore? Why is she not clutching it back? Is she angry, because he did not pay heed to her today when she said she is going to die? His torment shines through his eyes, his grip on her hands so tight it would have hurt her even a few minutes ago, but not now, not anymore, never again. He is telling the gloved, aproned figure from the earlier day - how he does not understand what her not being anymore means. How they were classmates. And best friends. How they had planned a second baby this year, by adoption this time. How the last year he had been trying to study at nights for a research position but she always had stories and discussions that distracted him and kept him from doing so. How he had prayed so hard. How he never hurt anybody. How she was so caring. How when today she told him that she is going to die, he did not even pay attention to her. How no one will disturb him anymore when he wants to study at night but how he would rather be disturbed a hundred times. How she found the gloved, aproned figure listening to all this too arrogant and aloof at the start, but really liked her later.

I am the gloved, aproned figure. Today, I do not have the gloves, the apron. But I am bound to keep this invisible mask. I am the Doctor. And the Doctor cannot cry.

But the lump in my throat, the knot in my chest

And my slowly fogging glasses- all tell me otherwise.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.






 

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