Time, that’s all she wanted, more time. She wasn’t ready to give in or quit. She still had plenty of fight left in her. She had promised her family she wouldn’t give in. She was going to keep that promise.
She collected herself as she stood outside the door to the doctor’s office. It had been a harrowing year for her. No promises were made, no hope was given. They had discovered her illness at its latest stage.
It had snuck up on them without warning. She had endured ghastly treatments with the requisite side effects, but they did nothing to stem the tide of her illness. They had gone through transfusions, a form of chemotherapy, and many alternative treatments. Nothing worked as she lost her hair, her appetite, and her stamina. They were running out of options and hope. Every time she submitted to x-rays or blood tests, she expected the doctors to tell her that she was done, to go home and be with her family as there was nothing left to try.
She was determined to get through this, to live to see her children marry and have their own children, to keep the promise she made her husband…to grow old together. It didn’t matter what she did or how it would happen, but she was going to do this.
The final treatment was a trial – it showed promise, but would be more taxing on her than the traditional treatments. It was going to severely test her strength and her will, but if it worked, she would be well again. The side effects were known to be horrific – what she had previously endured would not compare to the pain, the hallucinations, and toll it would take on her body. She was desperate to try anything, even though her family wasn’t sure she would survive it. It was going to be a long year – that’s how long this trial would take and again, they made no promises if it would work.
She had made it through the year of “horribles” as she called it. Today was going to be the defining moment for her. She thought back over the past months and hoped the recurring dream she had, which started midway through the trial, was a gateway to her future and not just wishful thinking.
The dream always started the same. I would be sitting on a park bench reading, when an old woman would approach me. The woman would sit down on the bench next to me and for a while would say nothing. After a bit, the woman would turn to me and ask her “if I was feeling better yet.” I would look at the old woman and tell her “No, but I’m almost there.”
The old woman would then wave her hand, almost as if she was brushing my concerns aside and would tell me “you will be ok, I promise.” “There is plenty of time left.” The old woman would then go on to talk about the things that were happening in my life. My treatments, my children, everything. It always startled me that she knew everything. I would look at her incredulously and ask her“Are you a guardian angel or are you part of my imagination?” Each time, the woman would reply “I am neither, but someday, you will know the answer.” With that, the old woman would slowly get up, and in a brilliant movement of light, she would be gone. I would continue to sit on the bench, with a feeling of peace, and then I would wake up.
I told no one of these dreams as I’m sure I would’ve been told that it was a hallucination from the trial medication. I like to think that perhaps it was the fear of giving up that made this woman appear in my dreams. I needed something to hang on to. Maybe I did conjure up the old woman, to help me cope. I really don’t know. I do know that the old woman made me feel better every time she visited.
She had made it to her last appointment. She had made it to the end of the trial. Today was it. There had been promising hints of her illness abating over the past couple of months, but the specialists were guardedly optimistic. Every trial has these moments, some more than others. They didn’t want to give hope where there was none.
She took a breath, stood up straight and opened the door.
As I lay on my deathbed, the old woman came to visit me one last time. She had not visited since the end of the trial. The old woman sat down next to my bed, looked at me and smiled. “I told you there was plenty of time left, didn’t I?” “You accomplished what you set out to do. You saw your children grow up. You saw them marry and have their own children, and you grew old with your husband.” “You had the life you wanted, that you were going to do anything to have.” With that, the old woman stood up and gazed at me. She smiled a familiar smile and then she said “it’s time dear.”
With the remaining breath that I had, I again asked her if she was a “guardian angel or hallucination.” While it really didn’t matter who she was, I thanked her for not letting me give up all those years ago.
“You still don’t recognize who I am,” she said. Looking at her, it finally dawned on me who she was. I was staring at a mirror image of myself. .
Perhaps it was a hallucination after all, but the old woman from my dreams of long ago, was me.
Photo credit: Saarbrucken Daily Photo