A Day in the Cancer Ward

Hospital-Ward-1While amusing oneself with a sand clock, a person feels his influence over the fate of sand particles. If left undisturbed, each particle will fall in its specified time but when interrupted by human hands, everything changes for those particles. We as humans are nothing more than those sand particles in the hand of God. He lets us live a routine peaceful life until the trails in our fate take the driving seat in our lives and in a blinking of an eye everything changes completely forever.

The incident that I will narrate entirely changed the perspective of life for me. Not only did I acquire experience about life but it also played a vital role in decreasing the love of this world from my heart.

Four years back, I was a student; a hospital trip was planned by our institute. The aim of the trip was to train us for Dawah work in hospitals.As young girls you could imagine, we were laden with different kinds of emotions. We were exceedingly motivated as we were doing something that would gain us reward. We were excited as no matter where you go, trips with friends also mean fun and enjoyment. We were also curious as what would we see there? We had made Dua cards and gifts for the patients with immense enthusiasm.

It was a cancer ward. There had to be cancer patients in it, and cancer does not see who its host is. Is it a young girl with motivational dreams about her future life or a wife who looks forward to a beautiful relationship or a mother who has to take care of her children.

Finally when we arrived at Jinnah Hospital Karachi, a new kind of feeling over took us. Was it sadness, sympathy or just soberness? Especially at government hospitals, the misery of the patients is two-fold. When we reached, our class was divided into three groups. It was decided that one of our groups would visit the suicide ward, one would visit the TB ward and the third one would visit the cancer ward.

I don’t know the reason for this, but most of us wanted to visit the suicide ward. Maybe because we wanted to satisfy our selfish curiosities, as mostly suicides cases are surrounded by dramatic stories. To my disappointment, I was chosen for the cancer ward.

As we were advancing towards the cancer ward, I was visualizing the image of the ward: severely ill people, who were physically weak, with gloomy eyes, low spirits and depressed faces. I was also thinking about the sentences I would utter, as fear of the unexpected had crept inside me.

Along the corridors of the hospitals we were still chattering, talking slowly to each other, making sympathetic remarks whenever a patient came our way.

If this life is so unreliable and we are completely in darkness about our future then what is that Allah (swt) wants from us? He wants us to live each day at its best. The most important day of our life is the day we are living. 

When we reached the ward, to my astonishment it was just a normal hospital ward. It was well maintained .Clean white sheets were spread on beds. Silver side tables with medicine and food items laying on them. It was a female ward, so as usual, ladies were busy talking to each other, and it was very peaceful. Patients were fine looking people, having bright eyes and cheerful faces. The severity of their disease had not broken their spirits.

We started our work, talking to these patients, making them memorize Duas, and telling them about the Sabr stories of Quran and the reward one has for Sabr (patience). We also told them that Allah puts to trial those people whom He loves. Along with that some of my friends were also applying henna on their hands. We also gave them the gifts we had brought. Our fears had vanished and we were working composedly, until!

A young girl lying on the last bed of the ward caught my attention. The woman accompanying her (who was her mother as we came to know later) had seen us. When I saw her, her face was making a request to us, to come towards them. I asked one of my friends to go to her. We went towards them and gave a cheerful Salam; their reply was very feeble.

Why have been I living in this false delusion that I will be living a long life? Why I have been fancy dreaming about my future when I have no surety about my next breath? I have been living in a wonder land where death only exists for others. But today! I felt I my eyes were functioning properly for the first time.

The woman and girl both smiled but nervousness could be seen on their faces. We could not dare ask the patients what was wrong with them, so instead we just talked about their life. This family had come from the outskirts of Karachi; they were underprivileged innocent people, also not well literate. The girl was Mariam. She was probably 15 years old. She had given her Matriculation exams. Her mother told us that her brother’s marriage was about to be celebrated and they wanted to go home as soon as possible .She also informed us that my daughter wants to study more and wishes to become a doctor.
I smiled and replied “Yes, she will Insha’Allah.” “She was perfectly fine, just at times she used to have pain in her legs but a few days back it became very severe” her mother said.

Continuing her story, “We came to this hospital yesterday morning and in the evening they sent her to this ward.”

“Do you see this medicine?” She handed over the tablets to me. “Please read, what is this medicine for? What is wrong with my daughter?”

What’s wrong with my daughter? Her question started echoing in my ears. Momentarily I was taken aback by her question. Her question struck my heart like something dreadful, traumatizing my emotions. Explosions of thoughts were occurring in my mind but I could not move my lips. I was scared to speak. I tried to force a false smile and said faintly, “She will be fine Insha’Allah.”

Is this the reality of life? In a single day you can be diagnosed with a deadly disease breeding inside you. From the safety and comfort of your home you could be shifted in a ward where death is more certain than life.

Her mother wanted to talk, but I could not stand there. I did not want to cry neither wanted to speak, I just wanted to apprehend the new picture, life had formed for me for the first time.

As a reader you must be thinking why was I so shaken. It was a cancer ward. There had to be cancer patients in it, and cancer does not see who its host is. Is it a young girl with motivational dreams about her future life or a wife who looks forward to a beautiful relationship or a mother who has to take care of her children. Roots of cancer clench to the body where destiny has written for them to be planted. Then why was I so startled? I was surely shocked at the uncertainty of life. Is this the reality of life? In a single day you can be diagnosed with a deadly disease breeding inside you. From the safety and comfort of your home you could be shifted in a ward where death is more certain than life.

Only in my imagination I placed myself in her bearing; I felt a shiver in my body and was over whelmed by fear of Allah (swt). Only a single thought encircled my mind and it was causing pain in my heart. Why have been I living in this false delusion that I will be living a long life? Why I have been fancy dreaming about my future when I have no surety about my next breath? I have been living in a wonder land where death only exists for others. But today! I felt I my eyes were functioning properly for the first time.

If this life is so unreliable and we are completely in darkness about our future then what is that Allah (swt) wants from us? He wants us to live each day at its best. The most important day of our life is the day we are living. The future is unforeseeable and the past has been locked in the books that would only be opened with our death.

On our way back home, silent prevailed in the bus. Grief prevailed in our hearts, yet each of us had learnt a lesson that we would carry all our lives.

This story was submitted to “A Life-Changing Experience”, a story-writing competition organized by Hiba Magazine in 2013.