Losing Hope

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The following is an excerpt from a book I am working on about my daughter's battle against her diagnosis of Ewing's Sarcoma which is an aggressive bone cancer most often found among the young. My daughter was diagnosed in 2001 when we were in the process of emigrating to Canada from our native Poland. We stayed in Poland while she was treated. This story takes place in Poland, the country of my birth, the country where I would grow up and marry and the country where I would eventually be left widowed with three children to raise. Each excerpt is told as much as possible in the moment and it sometimes seems very bleak but it is in the end a journey of hope. We live in Quebec, Canada now and my daughter is a bright and vital junior in High School looking ahead to college where she hopes to study Architecture.

Losing HopeI glanced at Natalia every now and then while I sat beside her. This time when I looked I was faced with an image that haunts me to this day. I had been drifting in and out willing myself to stay awake. I had started to drift off and then had awoken with a start and looked her way. I could not believe my eyes. Very slowly I moved closer until I was face to face with her. The image would go away. Natalia's face was covered in mold; she was starting to decompose.

In panic I ran out of the room, shouting for a nurse, outside the hallway was well lit and empty. I was frantic. No-one heard me and I became even more panicked. Then a nurse came running out a room down the corridor. She tried to calm me down,

"What's the matter?" she asked me.

“Natalia — her face — it’s not normal. You have to save her." I said.

She looked at me with a shocked expression for a moment and moved toward Natalia’s room. I grabbed her sleeve and crouched behind her. I felt like a child at that moment as I looked over her shoulder at Natalia. She turned on the light and saw her asleep. There was nothing there. She was asleep as before. I realized then I had had a hallucination. The nurse turned her attention to me.

“How long has it been since you last slept?” she said.

“Three days and three nights” I said.

"Ma'am, you need to rest." She told me. "You need to conserve your energy or else you will not be able to help your daughter beat this."

I waited that night. In the morning Darek arrived. I told him what had happened and we cried together. And then I called my mother in law to ask her if she could take my place at Natalia’s side while I was away and she agreed.

I felt strange at the thought of leaving Natalia. It would be the first time that I was away from her since she was diagnosed with cancer. I liked the idea that I could return home for a while and see my sons but at the same time I felt unease. I was not sure of what I could do.

I then recalled that I could take care of unfinished business. After my husband’s death I had been receiving financial assistance from the coal mining company for which he had worked. He had paid insurance all the years that he worked and this money had helped support us when I had left my job to take care of Natalia; however, it was contingent on filling out the necessary forms. This was work that had to be taken care of.

The office was on the way to our home so we went there first. The people in the office were aware of our situation so they spared us many of the bureaucratic hoops that were normal in these circumstances.

We were on the way to our home when the phone rang. It was my mother in law. She was crying. "You must come Natalia is dying." she said.

I told her we were on our way. I was numb. I wanted it all to end. Hope had left me. A pall of despair hung in the air as we drove back to the hospital.

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About Kasia Lanucha