Cao, Hong – Surviving Mesothelioma

Cao, Hong

Coming along with the breath of the darkness is her sob. She is just crying in silence to not wake her roommate up. Right at this moment, she needs a shoulder to cry on, but she knows that is impossible. Her sob sounds like the question “why does it happen to her?” It can never be answered, just know that it is the truth. She has never been bothered by any sound while studying or sleeping, but tonight the sound of her roommate’s breath is just like a provocation to her. Today, her doctor told her that she was going to die within a year because of mesothelioma.

She wishes that night lasted forever, so she would not have to wake up to suffer the pains and find a way to tell her family and friends about her “long-term” plan. After crying intensively, she falls asleep. She starts dreaming. In her dream, she meets her grandfather who died when she was nine years old. He is waving and smiling with her.

When he was alive, she had never been his favorite granddaughter. However, this did not upset her because he still loved her and right now is welcoming her to his world.

It is interesting that this place looks like a hospital. She is questioning herself: “so everybody is right when they say although Grandpa now belongs to another world, he is still a doctor and even has his own hospital. Should I tell Grandpa about my state? He probably would know how to cure me.”

Then his patients see her and him talk to each other for a while. She looks much better and seems to happy than before. It is likely that she has found something after the conversation with her grandfather.

It is six in the morning now. Normally, she is not able to get up this early, but that strange dream somehow changes her from a hopeless person to a completely hopeful person just in a few hours.

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive tumor arising from the mesothelium, and is usually associated with previous exposure to asbestos. The incubation period of asbestos-related mesothelioma is estimated to be approximately 30–40 years.” She is reading on the Internet and whispering to herself: “How come this thing happens to me while I am just eighteen? Nobody can foresee that there is a day when I have to use this library system to do a research for myself, not for an assignment.”

The more she reads, the more confused and frustrated she feels. All the information that she has found about the cancer is unlimited and overwhelming. “Chemotherapy with cisplatin and pemetrexed can improve overall survival but has a toxic profile. Substitution of cisplatin with carboplatin may avoid some potential side-effects.” Now she understands how terribly a cancer patient has to suffer. All these chemical things are toxic. But if she does not take any of them, she will not have enough time to do what she needs to do. Most importantly, she still needs more time to overcome the stress, the fear of dying and to be brave enough to tell her family and friends that she is going to die. It is not “will die,” but “going to die.”

While she is trying to calm herself, she happens to remember she is having two tests tomorrow, a paper due, a meeting and so many other things. She talks to herself: “there is only one person in this world that knows about my current state is me, so I still need to do everything as if nothing is wrong. I have cancer, but it does not mean I am useless. It is true that I surely have about one year to finish my freshman year. I do not want to die and leave this first year incomplete and unmeaningful, which is embarrassing. Moreover, I would waste my money if I could not finish this year.”

Some days later, people can see her enthusiasm in everything. She is excited to do anything. She smiles to anyone she meets. She is happy to go to the cafeteria everyday and does not hesitate to compliment to the team members on the food there. She is trying to make people feel her energy and positive attitude to everything.

However, that is just her day-time life. When she comes back to her room, she can feel the loneliness and starts to fear it. Every night, her roommate still sleeps well and does not seem to know that she still cries in silence. Her day is likely to be longer because she gets up very early each day and goes to bed at one or two. Sometimes, her friends ask her why her eyes look smaller and red. She just tells them because she slept too much.

One morning, she gets up early as usual. When she turns on her cell phone, there were about twenty missed calls from her doctor. She is asking herself: “is there something urgent? Does the doctor remind me that it is time for me to make a decision what kind of treatment I want? Or do I have to have a surgery to extend the time of survival and then choose a type of treatment?” She is nervously calling back her doctor. Thirty seconds later, it is quiet from both sides. Then she bursts into laughters and tears at the same time. She laughs and cries so loud that someone is trying to call her name, but she does not seem to be able to hear it.

“Wake up girl! You slept for a whole day.” She opens her eyes and smiles to her friend. This time, she really comes back to the real world. She wants to say this dream was a nightmare, but that nightmare is the most interesting nightmare that she has ever had. All of a sudden, she jumps out of her bed and turns on her laptop. There are just five minutes left for her to submit the essay to the scholarship committee board…Two minutes later, “essay attached, send.” She feels like these five minutes could take her breath away, but finally, she really can take a deep breath now.

Works cited Li, Louise, Albiruni Ryan Abdul Razak, and Andrew Hughes. “Carboplatin and pemetrexed in the management of malignant pleural mesothelioma: A realistic treatment option?.” Lung Cancer 64.2 (2009), 207-210. 25 February 2010.

Okio, Hino, Shiomi Kazu, and Maeda Masahiro. “Diagnostic biomarker of asbestos-related mesothelioma: Example of translational research.” Cancer Science 98.8 (2007), 1147- 1151. 25 February 2010.

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