Sandra’s Last Days
Published by Luis Smietanka at Shakespir
Copyright 2017 Luis Smietanka
She had woken up that morning to the beautiful sunlight, the alluring aroma of her mother’s pancakes and the exciting desire to search through her parent’s store where they kept old things for an important school project. She shoved aside the boxes in search of something thrilling to pain from. She needed some inspiration for her new art painting which was meant to be the theme for her exhibition in school the following week.
Sandra knew just how well her parents had the knack to box away valuable things and she felt they might have done the same for some inspirational art figure she could paint.
Thankfully, the boxes were labeled according to their contents, thereby limiting her stress to a good level while she had to battle with dust and cobwebs from every angle. She brushed away some from her lips while taking note of an unmarked box just in the corner of the room. For her mother who had the compulsive need to mark and label things, even the label maker, she felt it odd and it bewildered her.
She approached it and gently lifted it from the corner of the room to the table where there was enough illumination from the overhead light. The box was empty and it felt unlike the rest which contained old cutleries or car parts which her parents had grown fond of and just could not see themselves throw away. It was the perfect definition of odd and it intrigued her.
She let rip the tape slightly clinging to the top of the carton to reveal an escape of dust into the air. She coughed slightly and closed her eyes to let the dust disperse without getting into her eyes. The carton was old and seemed like it hadn’t been touched or made use of in a pretty long time. She helped herself to the top flaps, parting them aside to reveal the dark insides of the carton.
“What do we have here?” she whispered to herself.
She dug her hands into the box and took out some files dusty, thick and old. She laid them to rest on the table and began perusing through them slowly. Some had their edges chipped off possibly by meddling cockroaches and rats, while others remained intact without being damaged. Some of the papers had her name on it, with the consistent name of another hospital she was well aware and acquainted to.
It was the hospital she spent the entire time visiting as a sick child and often times found herself visiting close friends from the neighborhood too. She knew the place like the back of her hands and seeing her name scribbled across the pages made her both curios and concerned. She began with the first, which was a blood test performed on her as a child, and had some unexplainable words scribbled underneath it by the doctor in charge.
She did her best to understand it, but found it confusing until she flipped to the second page and things began to get clearer. She gasped upon realizing what she was looking at, but kept her courage ongoing and her desire to find out what exactly the diagnosis of the various tests scribbled across the pages of the doctor’s reports were. They were disturbing but she managed to keep her calm and read through.
She hadn’t realized it but her hands had begun to tremble, and her eyes felt heavy with pain as she stared at the terminal illness she had been diagnosed with. She hadn’t any idea about anything of such, and it made Sandra squirm with concern and of the possibility of its authenticity. She decided to look through the box thoroughly and she found other hospitals where her parents had decided to carry out tests so as to ascertain how true the first hospital’s diagnosis was.
“You found it”, her mother’s voice said to her from behind, prompting Sandra to freeze in shock.
She couldn’t let go of the last file she had in her hands. She couldn’t see past the fluid of tears suddenly filling her eyes. She didn’t respond to her mother’s words immediately. She couldn’t conjure the right words she would have loved to tell the woman while she struggled with letting go of the paper. The information on it spelled the end to a whole lot of things for her, capping with her life in general.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she finally spoke.
Her mother walked closer to her with her hands stretched to take away the file from her. Sandra couldn’t bear to look in her eyes as she let down the warm beads of tears. All she had learned was discomforting and definitely troubling. The secret had been one they kept from her for the past seventeen years since she was born and she had to find it out through sheer coincidence.
“How can you not tell me I could die within the next seven years?” Sandra asked her confused feeling mother.
“We didn’t know what to say honey”, Martha said to her daughter. “We just couldn’t deal with the news when we got it and chose to shove it away and continuing praying for it to be untrue”.
Sandra wasn’t buying the excuse. She felt she deserved to know about her illness sooner than she had to find out by herself. It felt wrong and pretty disturbing in equal.
“We were going to tell you honey, but we just couldn’t imagine you not living a full life as you ought to”, her mother said to her in a rather hurting tone.
It felt like a silly excuse for Sandra and she looked around for a place to settle in for a sit. She couldn’t take the news so easy and it was far too disturbing to consider ignoring it. The fact she had to find out at a time like that was unfair to her. Everything had been perfect from the start until now. She had her dreams looking good and worthy of living for.
Her love for art had been her main reason for existence and had become her soul too. She was in her finally year in High School and was about having her final paper. She was going to head off to the university and achieve even greater things there through art.
“Lymphangioleiomyomatosis isn’t something you hide from you daughter mom!” she yelled at her mother before running to her room.
She had read enough about the illness in the files to know what it was. Yet, she hoped to find out some more about it once she got into her room. She raced to her laptop to surf the internet about the illness, and the revelation was disturbing and dreadful to even read through. It is a rare but equally fatal lung disease that affects only women and ends up becoming fatal for them within the age of 20-40.
It was said to affect fewer than one out of one million women. The only feasible treatment for her would be lung transfer, but the doctor had said her blood type and possibility of getting a donor would be close to impossible or would need a miracle to make it happen. She felt dead within without even dying yet. She felt like a shell of the previously enthusiastic self she was a few minutes back.
Her mother’s footsteps echoed along the hallway as she approached Sandra’s room. She didn’t want to see anyone at that point in time. Her life ended from the moment she learnt of the illness and only made her realize how much of a waste everything had been. The devastative effect of finding out the information was much more than she was ready to handle.
“Sandra honey, I’m sorry”, Martha said to her daughter. “You still have your life ahead of you”.
Sandra shook her head in disagreement. She didn’t see any reason living or trying to fulfill anything anymore. She decided to quit right there and then. She decided to let go of everything and live through each day knowing she could die at any point in time. She hadn’t really paid any attention to her health through the years, but the timely checkups and visits to the hospital finally dawned on her to be for one reason and one alone; her parents were trying to ascertain what her fate was, and how soon she could drop dead or at least that’s what she thought.
“I want to be alone now”, she said to her mother.
The woman nodded her head in acceptance and walked away in respect. She would grant her the freedom she asked for and probably come back with her father to try and calm her down as need be. Sandra already made up her mind on certain things though, and she was certain not to have a turnaround in thoughts.
She would put an end to High School, and not have her final exams. She would give up on her dream of going to the university and anything she had planned after that. She was going to die when she clocked 25 years after all and that was in eight years’ time.
She had nothing else to wait for but death, and she will gladly wait for it in her room whenever it was ready to do so.
It had been precisely a year since the painful discovery about her imminent death and fatal illness. Sandra had confined herself in her room and chosen never to go out again. That faithful winter morning, she woke up to the scurrying noise of something on her window pane, prompting her to turn around to see it was a lizard trapped in a web spun by a spider.
The lizard was little in size and not fully grown yet. The spider was considerably large as it slowly approached the lizard with the obvious desire to feast on its prey once it cannot move any longer. The lizard remained persistent in not wishing to die though, and fought as best as it could through the sticky threads but couldn’t find a way out.
She was fascinated by the sight and sat up to watch. The spider definitely seemed confident to make the kill until the lizard did something that would come to change her mindset forever. It cut off its own tail just to escape death from the spider and ran off as fast as it could. It fascinated her and brought a whole new perspective to things about her imminent death.
She raced out of her room and down the stairs into the living room. Her parents were just about preparing to head out.
“Good morning dad, good morning mom”, she gushed wildly to her parents’ surprise.
Since she decided to exile herself to her room, she hadn’t been the most cheerful daughter to them. They gave her the space she demanded and kept out of her way as best as they could. They provided the adequate support though, but she kept to herself mostly and it had become a norm for them in the house. She even cut herself off of friends from school who came visiting on occasions.
“What has gotten you in such good mood this morning darling?” her father asked from where he drank his cup of coffee.
Sandra looked at them both and smiled. “I decided to make the best of things to come and achieve all my dreams while I still can”, she responded.
Her positivity shocked her parents and they both shared a brief look with one another. They weren’t expecting such a turnaround from her since she committed herself to exile in her room. It sounded really wonderful that she had come up with such idea and they were more than willing to encourage her through it.
“What brought about the idea honey?” Martha asked from the dining table.
Sandra approached her with her arms wide apart. She wrapped them around her mother and whispered into her ears; “I cannot live in fear of this thing and let it dictate my life”.
She raced over to her father and gave the man a warm hug too, before racing to the phone to make a phone call.
“Who are you calling honey?’ her parents asked at the same time, making the both of them shrug gently.
“I need to call my High School and tell them I intend to return to school to finish my finals”, she responded while waiting for the person on the other end of the line to pick up the call.
She needed to apply for the form and find ways to get her back into the system to finish up school. It felt odd, but it also felt like the right thing to do. She had had enough time to reflect on everything and it was time to act. She couldn’t continue to dally in the world of imminent death waiting for her and depriving herself of things she wanted to get done. She wasn’t going to succumb to death before it even comes to claim her life.
Two weeks passed, and Sandra returned to school like nothing had happened to her. Navigating through school without her colleagues was tough, but she got along just fine. Her new rule was to take things easy and try to enjoy everything as best as she could. She put in time and effort towards attending classes and acing her tests.
She became the surprise pupil in the school whom teachers weren’t expecting to be so full of life. She engaged herself in extracurricular activities and enlisted for several activities that were in the interest of the school as well as creating profound memories of her existence in it. She didn’t think about university just yet, but she would prepare herself for it when it came.
She improved in her art work and took extra classes on the various practices of arts around the world. She wouldn’t restrict herself to a single way and it was working well for her. She generated new friends within a short while and they were more than wonderful to her the entire time. She grew in strength and studied hard until her exams came.
She aced it in flying colors and came out top of her class. Sandra wasn’t going to stop there… She just wasn’t. She was heading to the university next.
She had no more than six years on her time to live according to the doctors who had run their tests on her in the documents she found about her health some years back. She hadn’t left anything to chance and went ahead like a woman on a battle field, acing and winning through every situation she found herself in. It wasn’t easy, but it brought her more joy.
She had learnt something important from the lizard that let go of its own tail to escape death, and it was that she didn’t have the luxury to act like others, or drown herself in self-pity until death came to deal her a blow. She just couldn’t be that person who would refuse to fight, and therefore surrender even before she had fought.
She had decided to allow herself have an experience of everything once, and getting it done right. Her principle had been founded on the basis that she wasn’t going to have the luxury or couldn’t afford to give herself the luxury of a second time like most people not in her condition would find themselves having. She couldn’t risk it and she would rather forge ahead through it once and make it work than having to fail or surrender.
She had gotten into the university just as planned and begun the semester with bright dreams and desires as ever. She had one time to make it right and she also kept in mind the other things she had the opportunity to get done just once. Things like falling in love, going on a long vacation, chasing personal fantasies she had always dreamed of as a kid.
She would get them all done before she clocked twenty-five.
“I should probably make a list of ten things I need to get done”, she thought to herself one afternoon while receiving lectures.
She began scribbling the things down on her notepad, and it ranged and covered an extensive amount of things she always wanted to get done. They were targets to achieve before she reached 25 and she made up her mind to get them done no matter what. She thought about everything and began picking them one after the other. She held her pen above the notepad and hovered thoughts through her mind.
Her list began with the need for love. She thought about the prospect of loving someone and someone only with the entirety of her life. She thought about how handsome the man would be and how much of herself she would give to him and what she would get in return. She penned the words “Falling in love” down and that was settled.
She moved unto the next, which was a lifelong dream, and it included having one of her personal paintings so she could acquire enough cash to get her little sister a pair of shoes and her mother a winter jacket. She penned it down and fixated her desires upon it. Her hand moved unto the next on the list and it had to do with her favorite friends. She wanted to spend more time with them.
She looked around the classroom and looked at them with a wild smile across her face. She hoped to have a proper vacation of fun with them and she penned it down too duly. Her list was getting on just fine. She continued with the list and extended it with all her desires to her heart content.
Sandra was absent minded about the occurrence in the class while she took one long stare at the list and realized there was possibly one of her heart desires which she would definitely not be able to fulfill. It was one about falling in love with the right man and getting married to him and bearing him adorable kids while they watch them grow. She always fantasized about how much of a wonderful mother she would be, but the dream seemed extensive and she couldn’t see it happening.
She was never going to experience the glamour of a wedding and she felt saddened for that. She decided to cast the gloomy thoughts aside though; she had other things she would definitely do before she met her death.
The first three years in the university had rolled by, and Sandra’s decision to find the best possible man had come to cost her. She had declined a host of suitors, and cast away even the most elegant because she was in search of Mr. Perfect. He wasn’t coming though and it was beginning to wear her down. She needed someone to love truly and who will love her in return.
Amidst the reason for missing out on the men was the fear she might end up hurting herself by falling for the wrong one.
She was in her final year now, and things needed to change. She decided to experiment with someone she had come to detest and have a dislike for through the years they’ve been in class together. The good looking boy who was opinionated by nature and always had a different opinion to her artworks was the one person her mind throbbed for.
She glanced across the cafeteria that sunny afternoon and decided to approach him. He didn’t see her coming, but her presence was surely felt from the moment she arrived at his table.
“Steve how would you like a date with me?” she asked bluntly.
He looked shocked and without understanding of what was going on. He tried clearing his throat and not choke on his words before responding. His heart pumped an enormous amount of blood through his veins, and his forehead became sweaty immediately. He had always had a thing for her, but they ever saw eye to eye about anything all through the years. He never thought they might in fact.
He finally nodded his head and agreed without realizing it.
“Friday night would be nice”, he said to her.
She agreed and walked away. She wanted to experience what it would feel like to have such affiliation as the one called “love” for someone. She simply wanted the experience and she looked forward to the appointed date, as did Steve.
Things had ended up progressing way better than she had expected with Steve. Their date had started out on a rather rocky note with the boy bringing up some of his opinions about her art, which eventually leaded to a slight argument and thereafter, some fun which she hadn’t expected it to turn into. He was a different person to the one she had in mind and his demeanor was mesmerizing too.
She came to find out he had fallen in love with her since their first semester together, and had hidden it behind his constant annoying opinions against her style of art. He had hidden his true affections well enough and she hadn’t seen it the entire time. He was the perfect artist and not just in his actions but with his skill too.
They spent an awful lot of time together, and she began to feel what love truly was. She fell in love with him and he did with her to the point they felt inseparable. His drawings were mesmerizing and his style was beyond reproach. He painted the pictures in light of his heart, and put his soul into them always. Sandra enjoyed his art and always made him know.
They enjoyed walks by the beach and shared in each other’s past experiences, but she kept her secret from him. She wasn’t going to let him in on it and it bothered her because it meant she couldn’t be with him forever. She couldn’t enjoy everything she hoped to with the young man she was in love with and he wasn’t even going to know why they couldn’t.
Their dreams to make it big bore a whole lot of similarities though, and his patience with her was more than comfortable and accommodating. Steve was the perfect gentleman and he had never for once thought of her breaking his heart. He had always held her in high regards and her dreams had slowly become his through the months they were together.
Steve believed in a future with her in it. He made her know and it began to scare her badly. It troubled her that they just couldn’t end up together. It sent ripples of torment through her soul and forced her to act upon it one cold night while walking out of the bar they had just enjoyed some drinks in. Steve had her hand in his before feeling her ease hers out of his.
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If you knew that all your efforts today would become meaningless tomorrow, would you still wish to do them? Finding the motivation and meaning to live the dreams you are pursuing is difficult, but it is much more difficult to maintain those aspirations and motivations in a long time. You can smile today and be ready to fight against all the coming difficulties, but the biggest one is actually yourself. You can win over everything, but in the end you will realize that the fear inside you can beat you whenever the limitation is reached. You are the strongest opponent of your own life.