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The ultimate question...

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Hamed Fakhro


“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory”

– Albert Schweitzer

It was time for a shower. I took off my T-shirt and stared blankly at the mirror. The grey bloated creature with dark rings under its eyes and a belly (where a six-pack used to be) peered back intently. I once had a beard and a proud head of hair, but not a black speck could be found anywhere on this bald thing. The cold buzzing fluorescent lights didn’t make me appear any better looking. Hospitals need to work a bit more on their interior décor, I thought to myself.

The shower seemed miles away, and I was even farther away from home: In Saudi Arabia all by myself. I refused to allow my family to see me in my weakest state, and my best friends were only allowed to drop me off once because they firmly insisted. This time I drove myself, and I would drive myself back to Bahrain after the chemotherapy.

I took a last long look at the alien in the mirror and made my long trek towards the bathroom. Standing was tough, and walking was near impossible. I knew I had a few valuable minutes before I’d be out of breath and things would start getting dark so I hustled quickly into the shower without even waiting for the water to get hot.

The expedition to the bathroom exhausted me. I crumpled into the bed and covered myself to my nose with the warm blanket. It was almost seven at night and my chemo cocktail still wasn’t ready. I’d been waiting for it since morning, but the pharmacy was excruciatingly inefficient due to the number of patients. Besides, mine was a custom combination designed by the Germans and had to be concocted with care.

My German doctor said they were going to hit me with the hardest known chemicals, and that I was going to hate her. Even though it was tough, I had nothing but love for Dr Julia. Besides, she was the only one who really understood me.

Strangely enough, I looked forward to any sort of medication, tests, or injections. They were the only things that broke the monotony of sitting around waiting for time to pass (until the next treatment). Six months was a long time to be locked in a house with nothing but death and my thoughts for company.

The next morning, I woke up groggily and tossed a few painkillers in my mouth. That should keep me in one piece till I make it back home to my bed and TV. As I started the car, I saw patients escorted by their family members to the hospital. I was so glad to be leaving and not going back in.

The warm sunlight caressed my face and I took a second to bask in it. I wondered when I would feel that sun on my face and not worry about it causing a secondary cancer because of its interaction with the chemo. On the drive home I saw a poor man sweeping the street. I was jealous of him. He had health. Despite all his poverty and problems, he could go anywhere he liked, eat anything he wanted, and wasn’t tied to the routine I was forced into. If I left my routine it could only lead to one certainty, and I certainly wasn’t ready to leave this earth just yet.

I saw people trapped in traffic with miserable looks on their faces. I saw people trapped in routines oblivious of their gift of health. I laughed at my memories. I laughed at how I wanted so much more from life. More money, more success, more vacations. How foolish and stupid I was.

Now I just wanted one thing. Most people are aware of the gift they have but (foolish humans that we are) forget quickly and easily. Would you rather be a sick billionaire, or healthy and broke? I know the answer.

I hope you take five minutes today to answer that question for yourself.

Have a nice day.

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