I sat outside the room, my mind a whirlpool of emotions. Inside, my daughter and son-in-law were meeting with the doctor. Staring blankly at the people in pristine white uniforms whizzing past me, I rubbed my hands nervously, desperate for the occupants in the room to emerge. “Yes. Thank you …” I heard the indistinct voice of my daughter, Lena. The door finally opened and the solemn looks on Lena and her husband, Nicholas, conveyed the news to me. I knew they all thought that I was clueless. “Is everything okay?” I croaked with a voice that sounded like it was going to break.
The doctor and Lena exchanged glances, and then looked at Nicholas. “You… you are …” the doctor could not finish his sentence as Lena clamped her hands over his mouth. “Dad,” she forced a smile, “Everything is going to be okay.” She sat down next to me, her head resting on my shoulder. Nicholas put his warm hand on my shoulder, repeating, “Everything’s fine.” Liar, I thought, then why would I be here? The doctor took his leave, glancing back at me – his calm smile did little to soothe me.
“I… I … want to go … home,” I struggled with my speech. What was wrong? Why can’t I speak properly? Lena supported me as we walked to the car, while Nicholas paid the bill. On the way home, I could not help but wonder why they did not want me in the diagnostic room. I was the patient after all. Upon mentioning this, Nicholas frowned while Lena looked down, avoiding my gaze. I decided not to further this line of questioning. Confusion and anxiety overwhelmed me, roiling in my mind. “What is going on?!” the confusion in my head demanded, “What is happening?!” “Is there something bad that will happen to me?” my anxiety chimed in, chattering in fear.
It was not long before I was back in the warm arms of my humble abode. Lena wrapped a blanket around me, and Nicholas played some classical music on the radio. The midnight sky brought even more peace, and the warm bowl of oatmeal given to me, with its comforting smell, was calming. Picking up the spoon to devour my meal, my weak smile twisted into a frown. Every time I picked the spoon up, it would escape my grip and slip back down on the table, refusing to listen to me.
Unfortunately, the recalcitrant cutlery fell onto the carpet this time, causing oatmeal to spill all over the woollen rug and staining it. Lena rushed to clean up the mess – but I stood up abruptly and blocked her way. “I … will clean … up my own mess! I … will … show you I … can!” my speech slurred once again, causing my face to heat up quickly. Limping away to grab a cloth, my vision suddenly blurred, and I nearly crashed into a table.
Hurried footsteps rushed towards me, “No! No! I will … do it … myself!” I insisted, waving my arms frantically. The footsteps cowered away, and they retreated back to the sofa. I could hear murmurs about some disease, and a lie? I did not care at that moment, for all I wanted was to focus on the task in front of me. How could I not accomplish such a simple task? Grabbing the cloth next to the sink, I hobbled my way back to the ‘disaster zone’.
That was when I realised I could not feel it. I could not feel the cloth. It felt just like grasping at air… I sighed and resigned to my fate. The cloth fell from my hands and I retreated to my room, trying to make my way there. Nicholas immediately hopped up from the sofa and guided me to my room. I shooed him away like he was a fly; the truth was that I needed some time alone to think. I heard the chatters from my room – “diagnosed … multiple sclerosis … what .. do?” my feelings darkened, and all I heard was the name of my nemesis, ‘Multiple Sclerosis’.
I knew what this disease was – it destroys the nerves. That explains why I could not feel the cloth in my hand earlier. I knew Lena and Nicholas could not afford the treatment for my disease. Help, is all my mind is screaming for right now. What did they mean “Everything’s fine”? Everything was not fine.
I now lie here staring at the crying faces of my children. An IV drip is attached to me, and Lena’s hand clutching onto mine. “Everything’s fine,” is an absolute lie. It is the last thing on my mind. My brain seems to be failing me, and the image of Lena and Nicholas is fading. “No! Please don’t … go…” Would you say everything is fine now, Lena? My heart stops.