Invictus

You are a formidable foe. That we will admit. For five years we bask in the glory that we have defeated you. That we have eradicated you!

Or so we thought.

But you came back. Even with a vengeance. Now your are in a stance to take what was denied of you for the past five years. You are so ready to take your kill. You are again victorious.

But you are wrong!

You did not defeat us. We did not cower in your presence. We have fought a good fight. We looked at you in the eye and in spite of you always lurking in the shadows, we lived our lives to the fullest.

Our faith grew deeper. Our hope soared higher. Our ties grew stronger. We laughed. We loved. We lived!

And that you cannot take away from us.

So tell your friend, Death, that we are not afraid of him too. “O death where is thy sting, o grave, where is thy victory?”

The body may be broken, but not our spirits. As for you, Cancer, you never conquered us! slide.001 * Invictus is Latin for unconquered. It is also a poem by 19th century English poet William Ernest Henley. He wrote the poem while he laid in a hospital bed battling a life-threatening illness.

** Dedicated to my mother, on her last dance.

A Perfect Day

I was on-call last weekend. It was not particularly busy that I was drowning in work, but enough to keep me occupied in the hospital most of the days during the weekend. I had more toxic calls before, so I really cannot complain.

I was making my rounds in the hospital and making headway on my long list of patients to see. I have seen all the ICU patients and working on the rest of the patients in the hospital. On my way to the other side of the hospital, I passed the crossway that overlooks the center garden of the hospital.

I stopped for a while and gazed longingly at the garden.

our hospital's central garden

our hospital’s central garden

It was already early in the afternoon. It was sunny, but the temperature outside was not hot, nor was it cold. It was just right. It was early September after all, when summer and autumn are in their crossroads.

It was a perfect day to be outside.

I could have been outside. I could have been sitting outside in that garden with the beautiful flowers in bloom. I could have been outside shooting hoops with my son. Or could have been outside having barbecue with my friends. Or could have been outside riding my bike on some engaging bike trail. Or could have been outside just lying on a hammock under a tree. I could have been outside……

Instead, I was inside the hospital walls. Working.

The next stop on my rounds was the Oncology floor. I entered the room of our patient who has history of rectal cancer and was treated several years ago. But now found to have his cancer come back with vengeance, spreading to his lungs. I was suddenly reminded of my mother who has the same circumstances.

My patient was having difficulty breathing. It was quite obvious that even with high flow oxygen he was struggling. Every movement was an effort. He has been hospitalized for some time now, with no clear indication of when he can go home. Or will he ever?

As I entered his room, he was looking at the window. He was looking at the same central garden that I was looking at, a little while ago. Perhaps he had the same thoughts that I had: I could have been outside enjoying this beautiful day.

But he can’t. And perhaps he never will.

That’s when a thought dawned on me. There’s a reason why I am not outside. I was placed here inside these hospital walls, for a sacred duty to care and give comfort for people who cannot enjoy a beautiful day outside, just like today.

It was a perfect day indeed.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)