Sophie – The great warrior

“Keep running!!! Don’t look back!!!”

She was wakened up in the middle of the night by her mother, dressed up quickly, bow placed over her shoulder and put on the horse. Mother knew it’s the only way to save her, give her time to get stronger.  The best thing she could do for her is to put her on that horse and let her go. She told her where to go, where to seek shelter, and just hoped she will make it before he will come and take her.

The horse was steaming on this freezing night giving an impression it was a machine and not an animal. Running through the woods with an enormous speed, omitting all the obstacles on its way. Sophie knew the sanctuary is not more than a day ride, but she felt his heaving breathing on her back and could not afford the comfort of resting, not even for a second.

When next day was heading towards the end, and she could barely hold the horse. Just about the time she started to lose hope, finally in the distance she saw the doors of the orphanage. Few more minutes and with last of her strength she rang the bell. Last thing she saw just before fainting was a monk opening a big wooden door.

“Finally, I feared you will not make it”. Said the monk to himself while carrying her unconcise to the room. He put her to bed, allowing to rest for a while before preparing for next day. As he knew they need to be ready for his arrival.

Early in the morning they heard loud knocking on the door. “In the name of Sir Can, I ask you to open the door!”

“How, can I help?” Asked the monk, opening the door.

“Make way, for the Lord.” Guards pushed him away, opening wide the entrance to the courtyard.

Minute they were inside they started to sniff around like hunting dogs looking for its prey. The courtyard was small, empty square, with nice gallery surrounding it, which lead to the monks’ rooms. Above them ware orphanage’s windows, where you could see little children peeking, and trying to understand what is the rumor about.

“Gather them all here, and make sure no one is hiding!” Order Sir Can to his guards.

Soon after, all the monks and children were standing next to each other on the courtyard, and the only difference telling who is who was their height. As all of them were dressed in the habits with their heads hidden in the hoods.

“Take them off! One with the curly, red hair is the one.” Sir Can order to the guards.

They took off children’s hoods to search for the little, red hair girl but to their surprise each time they took off a hood they did not see any red hair, they did not see any hair. Just bold heads, one after the other.

She was standing in the line, waiting for her turn. For a second she took the hand out of the habit to look at the small lock of her red hair cut day before. Cut by herself to blend in with the rest, to make sure he will not have an easy job spotting her. She looked down on the floor when guard took her hood off and waiting till he passed her. Luckily, he was not spending too much time looking at her before he moved to the next child.

They finished with the last one, fifty children standing next to each other, all of them bold, all hardly recognizable. There was no chance to spot the one they were looking for. Little, beautiful red hair girl. No chance to get his promised one, which drove Sir Can into madness.

“What is this!?!” He yelled and screamed. „Where is the red head one, where are their hairs! I know you’re hiding somewhere in this crowd! Step out or I will kill one of the monks!” He walked back and forth trying to spot little Sophie.

No one moved, all were standing like little stone statues. No one even dared to make any noise. Sir Can came to one of the monks, took out the knife and slip his throat. Monk fall on the floor and the rest just look at him dying, but no one moved, not even blinked to betray the precious one that was amongst them. As they knew that once she will have a chance to get stronger, she is their only hope against him, against his tyranny.

“I will give you last chance!” Sir Can spoke with calmness and firmness in his voice. “I will give you 3 months to grow your hair, and come back to take what is mine. When I’ll be back and see you all bold again, I will kill you all! Knowing that one of you will be her. This is your last chance to spare your lives and give me her instead.”

Sir Can turned on his toes and left the courtyard assisted by his guards. When they left everybody breathe a sigh of relief.

“We don’t have much time, and I know you are young and should be spending time on playing with other kids rather than learning how to fight him off. But you don’t have a choice, so let focus our minds on training you.”

Little, bold girl look at the monk, he was the same who open the door the other day, and with fear in her heart she just nodded, to show that she agrees.

Time was passing by quickly and with each day Sophie was learning how to hold the bow, aim properly, and shoot to hit a bullseye from far distance. From the early morning till late night, with freezing fingers she was practicing and practicing. And there were days where she wanted to give up, just give herself to him, but soon, she saw a picture of her loving family, of dying monk, and this was giving her back the motivation she needed.

Sophie was learning fast, and started to shoot with high precision from longer distances, she even manages to hit the bullseye on the moving target. This gave her confidence that when he will be back, she will stand a chance against him.

“You are very talented, and learning fast.” Said her teacher. “But this is still not enough to beat Sir Can. We will start now our last phase of training.”

The monk opened right hand and showed her piece of cloth that he was holding. He blindfolded her and said. “You will not see him, you will not hear him and you will not feel him. He will come in most unexpected moment, and will attack you with his full power. Now you need to learn how to sense him with your intuition.  Know where he is without any of your senses, as this is the only way to beat him, only way to win with him, so he will leave you once for all.”

Hair grew longer and longer on her head, remaining each time, she looked in the mirror, that she has less and less time to master the skill of blind shooting. The beginning was very difficult, Sophie could not even hit the area outside the target, shooting arrows in all the directions. The monks asked children to avoid courtyard gallery, to ensure that none will get hurt.

“This is the end. I will never master that.” She wept.

It was any time soon, when Sir Can was to arrive again, during one of cold night, when She decided not to go to bed but practice. Her teacher approached her.

“Please take off your blindfold.” Asked her quietly, almost whispering. The gallery was lit by torches placed round main square, giving a magical appearance to this place. When she looked again she saw first flakes of snow coming down from the sky.

“I have asked one of the girls to draw his effigy. Take it and place it on the target. Stand there for a while and try to remember how he looks, what you felt the day you saw him. Try to remind yourself how he walked, talked, what emotions were coming from him. And place all those feelings to this target. Let your heart guide you.”

Sophie came back after a short while. “Now close your eyes. Spin and stop. Don’t shoot! Wait a second. Bring back again that picture in your mind, bring back all those feelings, and don’t aim. Now, clear your mind, shoot before thinking.  Let the arrow find the target.”

When she opened her eyes again, arrow was sticking from the bullseye.

”But how? Did I?” Sophie asked surprised, not fully believing that it was the same arrow that she released a second ago.

“Yes, you. Now, go to sleep as I sense he will come tomorrow.”

Late evening, they heard same knocking, which disturbed their peace over 3 months ago. This time they let them into the main dining room. This was the place where each day children ate before and after hard work. Everybody was already standing in two parallel lines right next to the walls. Room was lightened by torches hanging from the walls. The monks were standing next to each of those torches having the children stand in front of them. There was a dense silence in the room. Everybody waited for what was about to happen. Sir Can entered accompanied by his guards. “Take them off!” He yelled. They were uncovering their head one by one. Each showing short, freshly grown hair. Sir Can walked close to each one of them, making sure he will not miss her. When they were close to the end and still none of the children were showing those beautiful red hair, he turned around, and as he was about to say something, she walked into the room carrying a bow and arrow in her hands. She stopped right in the center of the room, opposite to the Sir Can, uncovered her head to show her beautiful hair and look deeply into his eyes. In this right moment the monks, blew out all the torches making the room completely dark. You could not see even what is at the extend of your own hand. Complete silence was building up the suspense, as Sir Can knew, that even small noise will reveal his position to the girl.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the noise of three arrows bursting through the air and sound of body falling to the floor. Followed by the noise of guards trying to scream, make a sound, but their voices were quickly disappearing. When the torches were lightened again, everybody looked to see all of the guards laying on the floor dead. In the middle of the room, it was him, Sir Can laying on the floor with three arrows piercing his heart. The silence was present till next morning, as nobody dared to say a word. Everyone knew that they need to take this secret to the grave.

Soon after Sophie returned save to her mother, who anxiously awaiting her. Her heart was full of confidence and courage, that whatever evil will come to her, she has strengths and skills to fight it off. Her mother was happy to see her, have her finally back in her arms. Still with all the happiness she saw that her heart changed. Her heart from now on will always fear, that this may happen again and she might lose her for good.

Round Six – High hopes

„This is unacceptable!!!” Captain Blind entered our room and tossed the recent test results on Szymon’s bed. “We put so much effort in making sure your Son will make an early cut! We have listed him into European Space program, supported with Neupogen, in between chemotherapy injections, to ensure proper tumor growth, and all for nothing!! Instead of growing his tumor shrank. Now it’s almost half of the size it was when you were listed. Marrow is clean and bones are showing much lower presence of cancer cells…”

“Yell, scream… spill all that anger on me. The second you leave the room those words will bring me to tears… but for the first time in the long time those will not be tears of sadness, those will be tears of joy…” I looked at her trying note all what was she saying but my mind suddenly went somewhere else. To the place where I wanted to be for a past few weeks. I heard her voice but second she told me the good news, rest was not important.

“…this puts us back in the whole training program. If this will be his way of reacting to the training I am not sure if he will make the flight at all!!! Do you hear me!?! There is a risk he will be cut of the program!” Captain Blind stop for a second to catch a breath. “It doesn’t make sense anymore. I had such high hopes in you and you ruined it all.” With much calmer voice, hearing here ambitions just collapsed. “I need a break… long break. I am going for an annual leave.” She paused for a second with her thoughts wondering off to some other place. “Your test results are not showing any risk of sudden change. You can go home for couple of days. We will inform you who will take your son when you will be back. Thank you! And have a nice trip home!” She left the room.

Mag and I looked at each other and fall into our arms. We waited so long to hear something positive, to have some proof that our prayers are being heard and it finally came. Our hearts finally felt a relief. Huge burden was taken from our shoulders and tears, which fall on our cheeks, were not coming from sadness but from happiness.

“We are going home!” Szymek shouted and energetically started to pack his things. He looked so adorable, bustling round, lifting his hands up and down, showing how much he is busy with packing.

“Yes, we are going home!” We replied looking at him with all the love we had in us.

“And Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday and aphooo”. Szymek looked at us smiling.

 “Yes! And birthday cake!” Mag replied with a smile. “It is our new tradition, to have birthday cake each time we leave the facility! And blowing up candles”. She lifted him up and I finished picking up our things, so we could head to the car.

We walked the corridor to the elevator and suddenly saw this place in much more cheerful colors. Warmer, sunnier tones, feeling that not only terrible thing can be encountered here.

We left for home, having Captain Blind’s words in our hearts. We left for home much lighter, much younger, and full of hope. Hope, which for the first time, was something more than just our wishful thinking. Hope giving us first signs, that it is possible for Szymek to be cut from the program due to lack of any signs of cancer in his body.

Close to our home we spotted Granny, Bunia – Szymek greatest companion, walking back home from grocery store. As we stopped to ask her if she would like to ride with us those couple of meters back home, it was good reason for Szymek to get anxious and get out of his seat. It was also a good reason for him to ask if he can fulfill his new passion, which was driving a car while sitting on my laps. I took him on my knees and we slowly drove those few meters to our driveway. And as much as I tried to forget the nightmare he was going through, pretend for a second that we are just a normal, typical family, as much as I loved seeing him having a time of his life, turning the wheel left and right, as much as I tried to take the most from this very moment, I could not quiet this one horrific thought, which hunted me in past few weeks. The thought telling me, that in a year or so what currently brings me so much joy and happiness, what is so much important in my life – time spend with my son, in few months’ time may just be another memory of him cherished in my heart. Memory treasured so deeply and constantly return too, as this is the only thing I have of him. The only thing I was left with from the day he flew to heaven.

“Why are you crying?” Mag saw my tears and asked.

“I am stilling memories. Trying to store them deep in my heart.  If we will not succeed those will be only thing I will have left of him…”. I replied.

Her tears came without asking for permission…

We have entered the house, decorated with balloons. Soon cake with lit candle was waiting for Szymek to blow it. And for the first time with joy in our voices we sang birthday song.

 “Happy birthday! Happy birthday!” Szymek tried to sing with us.

”Dear who?” We asked.

“Shiimek!” he replied with a big smile.

Smile hidden deep in my heart and warming me up during cold winter nights.

The sound of distal air

“Hush! Let the music play. Just close your eyes and pretend that this sound is something else. Let the violins, trumpets, cellos and clarinets lull him to sleep. Please, allow it, just for a second, to make this world perfect again, make this world more beautiful than it really is. Please be quiet, don’t say a word, let me submerge into the music of beeping pumps and pretend it is something else…”

From day one, when you walk on the 7th floor’s corridors, you are overwhelmed with all different sounds. From children’s laughter, caused by them playing on the corridor, Captain’s consulting their cadets among each other, Corporals teasing themselves, to loosen up dense atmosphere caused by stressful work, to less pleasant sounds coming from the treatment rooms, where children, who needs to have a new needle inserted to their port, are crying, screaming, asking to make it stop. And from time to time you can hear sobbing parent, well hidden in the corner so that his child will not see him having a break down. All of that gave a unique master piece, a symphony of sorrow. When I sometimes sat outside of Szymek room, to rest a bit, and closed my eyes I felt like it was penetrating me up to my bones.

On top of that, there were those beeping pumps, standing in all the rooms. Those pumps, to which most of the cadets were connect, to take their meds. And even though they all looked the same each beep was a special one. Each beep was associated with a child, your child, therefore you listen to it, like it would be his or her heart beat. Reacted to any abnormal behavior. Fear caused by the fact that pump might malfunction was high, therefore each time you saw an error you ran to a corporal ensuring nothing wrong is happening, nothing which would harm your little one.

From the start, you are instructed what to do, when the pump is jammed. “Close the clip, mute the error beep and ask for our assistance.” Corporal said, while showing how the pump works. “Most common error is caused by either pump having a small amount of air in the tube or the meds are over. In both cases, as I said, key is to close the clip, so that blood will not float back to the tube, and ask for assistance. Otherwise we will need to clean the tube and it is not that easy.”

“What?! She is talking about the air in the tube with such a calm voice?!” I though. “They teach you in school, that air injected into your veins will kill you and she is saying like it was nothing?!”

We were freaking out each time we saw “Distal air error” text on our pump. Closing the clip immediately and almost running to the corporal saying, that something wrong is with our pump. And could not understand why they are taking this so peacefully, something even with a bit of the smile.

“No problem Mr. W. Let me just finish distributing the meds and I will come to your room.” Corporal responded with warmth and smile on her facing. It shocked me a bit that she is not seeing that as potential life threat, but just a normal, nothing to worry, error, and will come in few minutes. So, I just turned around and went back to the room.

After few weeks, we realized that it is so commonly occurring thing, not causing anything bad, that finally understood why corporals do not react with panic when we report this to them.

Unfortunately, there is one sound that makes Captains and Corporals run. I saw it twice, both cases pressed by accident. Frist time by Szymek playing with the buttons on the wall, and second me, when I leaned against the wall – life threat Alarm. It was then, when I saw them coming to the room, at least three people ran. Hoping to see him flying, hoping to help him on the way. What was a disappointment on their faces, when I told them it was just a false alarm. An accidental push, which we promised not to do again…and we kept our promise.

“Hush! It’s night again. Lights are dimmed and little ones are asleep. I can quietly walk the corridors to hear it heartbeat. Its music full of pings and beeps, distal error sounds, combine with parent’s snoring. Music no one would want to hear but me. As this it is free of cries and pain..sleep little ones tomorrow comes another hateful day.”

The nightmare of letting go

“I will walk you through the path of fear and sorrow, holding you by your hand. I will gradually prepare you for what is inevitable, so when the day will come, your heart will stay calm, as you will watch him received the greatest gift one could get – eternal life.”

“Amm! Amm!” One of the worst things we had to cope with was a sound of Szymek begging for food and us saying “no” as he needed to be on an empty stomach.

“Amm! Amm!” From asking, to begging, to angry yelling, and finally ending with despair. “Amm! Amm!”

Seeing him falling on the bed with eyes closed, as he has no more strength to keep them open, emotions aroused in us. Emotions, you try to control, to have your mind clear. The anger mixed with helplessness, pushing you to your limits, as you would do all, just to end your child suffering. At the end, you know all you can do is just wait and watch. Wait for hours, as we needed to refrain from feeding him from midnight the previous day, to sometimes even 2 p.m. Each testing day the que of cadets waiting for their turn was long and not much we could do to speed up the process.

The reason for all that suffering was a fact, that cadets could not move during the tests, not to distort the results. Therefore those, who were too young to understand it, like Szymek, were put under sedation. And for an anesthesia to work properly, he could not eat nor drink eight hours before the test. Since nobody knew exactly what time the test will be conduct, we need to be on this horrible standby mode until Captain’s performing the test called us in. For us there was nothing worse than telling Szymon, that he can not take any food or drink. Telling our two-year-old child, who suffered enough already, that we can not do anything about his hunger or thirst.

“Ammm. Ammm.” This time with much weaker voice and tears in his eyes, while he was trying to point to the cupboard standing next to his bed, where normally he could find a sandwich, pretzel, or boxed juice. Now all was hidden from him, not torture him with the sight of the food.

“Just few more minutes. Soon we will go for a quick test and then there will be amm.” Mag tried to calm him down, which in most of the cases just made him even more angry.

“Szymek, your turn” Said the corporal entering the room. “As always please take a blanket with you, as it can be cold in the corridors.” Mag took Szymek from the bed, as he did not like to travel in it. And we walked to the elevator pushing his bed along the way.

Road to the testing room begins with a labyrinth. Leaving the elevator, we need to cross almost whole basement, constantly making right or left turns, passing by doors to either technical rooms or, lost in the depth of the basement, Captain’s clinics. Once, one of the corporal admitted to us, that after two years of working here, she still, from time to time, gets lost in this little maze. The final turn and we are at the straight, long corridor where at the end, on its left, there is glass door leading to the testing area.

Szymek never liked going through this corridor, especially when he needed to travel is his facility bed. Due to lose tiles, the beating wheels were making him nervous and he preferred to pass it in Mag’s arms where he felt safe. The look of this place was also not helping. Although on the left side there was a wall full of windows, giving a bit of natural light inside, old paint on the walls, dirty windows, and those loose tiles, were making an impression like we were in b-class horror movie.

The testing area was divided into two sections, waiting room – well known to many parents, and two cabins with the testing equipment. When we arrived there, we needed to wait for few minutes, for the previous test to be over and then they called us in.

The testing cabin is a huge room, with lots of equipment. Funny how all this new, high tech equipment was kept in the old, not renewed for years, building. They kept low temperatures inside, so that once everything will be turned on, the heat will not get to unpleasant levels. We laid Szymon on the big bed, and while holding his hand to keep give him comfort, prepared ourselves for the worse.

“Mrs. W we are ready to start the sedation. We will start with a small douse to make him sleepy and then once he will shut his eyes inject the rest. He should be sleeping for next 30 to 40 minutes, while we conduct the test.” When Captain finished explaining us shortly the procedure they started to inject the meds into his veins.

The nightmare of letting go, preparing you to your worse fear. Allowing you to get use to the thought of him flying to heaven one day. I saw it only once and this was already an image that hunted me for long, but Mag was expose constantly to it. From day one of our presence in the facility, she had to see how he passes away. And it’s not looking the same to just falling asleep, not with little scared child.

This one time, when I was present during the sedation, he was holding Mag hand, calling her constantly to make sure that she will not leave him. Looking with his scared eyes and hoping that she will end this. Take him far away from this horrible place and will not allow for any test to be performed.

“Mum! Mum!” Szymek was trying to call her when it happened. He started to lose his voice, it sounded like his lungs would fill up with water. Sound that was giving an impression, that he was drowning. Like he could not catch a breath. “Muuummm! MMMMMmmmm…”

He started to mumble, slowly closed the eye,  and soon silence is the only thing you could hear from him. Firm shake became loose, as his body begins to be flaccid. Our hearts started to pound and fear paralyzed the body. Is this it? Has he flown to heaven? We were nervously looking for any sight of life. His hands were still warm, and soon we could see chest moving. He still breaths! What is so obvious to a side observer, for us, for some reason was covered with dark cloth. We knew, that he was just asleep, but for those few seconds, those few seconds, which lasted a life time, we wanted to scream, yell for help, as it looks like we just lost him. We lost our beloved child.

For those few seconds, you can not force yourself to think rationally, you don’t think at all. Just allow panic to take over whole your body. As to all, after a couple of sedation, Mag slowly got used it. The routine and knowledge what to expect next, help her to cope with it somehow. But fear never went fully away. It was just hiding behind the glass door and waited for a good occasion to come back.

“We are good to go, you can release his head and hand and proceed to the waiting room, we start the test soon.” Few words coming from anesthesiologist, reassuring us that all went fine and Szymek just fallen into deep sleep. They hooked Szymon to respirator, to assist him during the test to hold his breath for couple of seconds. This was also part of the procedure. This was the image you see when you leave the room.

“I lead you through the dark times. Guide you, so you will not get lost on the way. As you are blind now, but someday I will show you the plan, I will make you see.”

The doors opened and captain came out of the room. “We are done. See, nothing to worry about.” Said a Captain with a bit of a smile on her face. “Please stay here for couple of minutes until he fully wakes up.”

So innocent and vulnerable sleeping on his bed, like all those things that just happened were just a bad dream…just a bad dream…from which you can not wake up.

“AMMMMMM! AMMMMMM!”

Celebrities are also humans

“You are all equal in my eyes, you are all special in my heart, as each one of you is unique in its shape and form and I will treat you all the same. Giving and taking back what is the most precious to you, life, and no one can change that.”

„Did you see it?” One of the mothers stopped me on the corridor and whispered, not to be heard by others.

 “What?” I asked with slight disorientation in my voice.

 “In one of the rooms lays an actor’s child”. She continues with discretion in her voice.

“Who?” Now I have asked with a bit of curiosity.

“Not sure if you know them, they played in one of the TV series. Nevertheless, they have their own private room, not like the others. And he is always walking with a cap on, not to be recognized. Like people would not know that it is him.”

I went back to our room and started to get course, nervous and at the end even jealous. After a while I was not proud off all those emotion but they were too strong for me to battle from the start. Questions roaming in my mind. “Who are they? Can I spot them? Can I touch them? Can I? Can I?” Or even worse. “So, there are equal and more equal people… we need to be in the room with two or three other children, while they have their own room.”

Luckily, I shook off from all those feelings and realized, that being here is no blessing.  No matter how famous you are, how rich, it will not save your child. May give you a bit more chances and comfort going through this nightmare, but that is it.

I watched them for few days, just to see how they cope with the whole situation. And it was then, when I started to feel sorry for them. It was then, when I realized, that they are not really in better situation from us. Fact, that they were constantly being watched was giving them one more stress to battle with. Stress which already you have too much to deal with. I saw people looking at her, when she was walking to the kitchen, to make a meal for her son. I saw how people gaze at her, when she was asking for new bedsheets as her son, same as any other child, vomited and she needed to change them. Just by herself, with no help from any servants. I saw him walking on the corridor with cap on, hoping that nobody will spot him, take a picture to sell to the newspaper. Or be harassed by paparazzi trying hunting for cheap sensation. I saw desperation in their eyes, knowing what is at the end of this path. And it was then, when I felt good to be anonymous. Where I can have a dreadful day, even cry and nobody cares, nobody judges me, nobody outside my close family notice it. I can hide in the shadows and no one will come and hunt me with the light. While each of their steps, actions, moments were at the spotlight. I can not image what additional pressure they felt, what burden they needed to carry, and all just because they were famous. I no longer felt bad for having to share a room with others, and thanks to that, we met wonderful people, had a chance to talk to each other, cheer each other up. While they were left just for themselves, alone in that room, as no one dared to talk to them.

Later in the week I tried to make an eye contact with them, just to share a smile. Just to show them that people here are swimming on the same boat. Wish them well, but they avoided any type of interaction besides, please and thank you. And still, there was no situation, where you could feel, that they think of themselves as someone better.

After a while, I was told what it means to have a single room, just for yourself. It is not that you are famous, but a bit more special. Special like everybody else might be some day. Special due to your child soon flight to heaven. And they give you a comfort of spending those few days, that you have left, alone. Give you slight feeling of intimacy, they can provide. Without anybody looking at you, anybody talking to you. Just the closest family, loved ones. This was the day I said to myself that I never want to be that special parent. To have a room just for my family. And it was the time when I prayed for them, so God will give them strength to pass through this miserable moment.

Round Five – Routine

Rapid Coject – cisplatin [C], vincristine [O], carboplatin [J], etoposide [E], and cyclophosphamide [C] – code name we heard constantly for past 5 rounds. While the intention is to quickly attack the enemy, I sometimes wonder if it’s not just a lame joke, which somebody played on us. Hiding under complicated acronym the real meaning, which is nothing more than just – “You will get rapidly bold to impersonate, Lieutenant Theo Kojak. Our role model from the 80s TV series”.  All delivered in eight short, 10 days, but exhausting rounds – A, B, C, B, A, B, C, B.  At the beginning we had our fears, but also high hopes that it will get easier further down the line, while the truth is quite opposite.

Round five, back again to dose A. We knew more less what to expect, since we already went through all the stages and side effects of all those chemo injections. This help us to calm down a bit and slowly get used to our new home, new life. To things, which were terrifying at the beginning, now seen from a bit of a distance as they were becoming our daily routines.

“Hello Mrs. W, how was the night?” Mag wake up to a pleasant voice of the corporal. “Can I have last night fluid balance?”

Mag half-conscious picked up a notebook from the windowsill. It was 5:45 in the morning. “400ml drank and 200ml peed. And he wet the bed in the night.”

“Thank you” Corporal replied and left the room.

 Mag closed her eyes again. Those were these few more minutes of sleep everybody tried to grasp to have a little more rest.

Balance of fluids

From day one, with first dose of chemo injected to your child’s body, you need to keep track of all the fluid that are going in and out. In our case, as Szymek was still a baby that was using diapers, we need to bring from home small kitchen weight and each time he drank anything or peed into the diaper, write down the amount in the notebook. Keep the books like a good accountant. Additionally, any vomiting and diarrhea, which happen often during the injections, were noted down. All to control Szymek’s kidneys and digestive system. Every 6 hours we have a visit from a corporal, who takes down our balance and later reports to our leading captain. In case of any anomalies, which sometimes happened to Szymek too, certain meds are implemented.

“Szymek just vomited again and I did not manage to catch all of it.” Mag welcomed me with words I always hated to hear. “Can you please bring new bed sheets?”

It was devastating, seeing his ghostly pale skin and lack of strength to keep his eyes open. Without saying much, I turned around and went to the small storage room located in the middle of the corridor for fresh bed sheets. Turned the key, left in the lock to allow parents pick fresh bed sheets once the Sergeants are done with their shifts, and looked for fresh covers.  Pillow covers top shelf, children size, quilt and bed sheet in the middle laying right next to each other. There were days when children size was all out and I had to take adult size just to have clean one. Parents knew this room very well, I would say too well.

“Here, I will change it.” I said to Mag coming back to the room. “I will give you Szymek, so to make it quick”. I have picked him up from the bed and placed on Mag’s chest. She was sitting next to his bed on her camp-bed, exhausted to the limits one can take.

“I could not sleep at night, worried that while turning he will wrap the cord around him causing the needle to come out.” Mag read at the beginning of our training program, that it rarely happens causing chemo burns, which are very painful for a child. She tried to minimize Szymon’s suffering as much as possible therefore each time the injections were happening she was in the standby mode ensuring that in case something happens she will intervene immediately.

Those were times when I had to do best not to make any eye contact, especially with Szymek, so they will not see me crying.  I bit my lips, to cause some pain in me, just to take my mind off it.

 “I need to fall asleep for a while, can you please take care of him?” Mag asked when I was putting Szymek back to bed.

“Yes. Rest, I will keep quiet. “

 „BREEEEAAAAKKFAAAST!!!!” Sergeant’s scream spread out thought the corridor walls informing everyone that breakfast awaits in the common kitchen for cadets to pick up.

Art of feeding

From early days, when we slowly started to introduce other foods into Szymon’s diet beside breast milk, we made sure what he eats is healthy. We knew how much food can have impact on your well-being. We were buying ecological vegetables and fruits, straight from the village, and try to avoid anything that had too much of preservatives. Water instead of sweet drinks. In general, tried to protect him as much as we could to ensure we support his healthy growth.

When we entered the 7th floor for the first time, and went to the dining area, we were genuinely shocked. We knew how important is to properly nourish your kinds during the training to give him all the necessary vitamins, so that he can fight back himself the cancer. We knew that low fat diets and no sugar is a key to sabotage the mission. Instead when you looked around most of the plates had French fries, hot dogs, sandwiches with Nutella, sweet yogurt and desert on it. All full of nasty preservatives.

“What ta hack is happening here?” Mag whispered to me. „Do they know how much they are harming those kids by giving them this type of food?”

“Maybe this is what they need to eat during the flight and they are trying to adopt them as early as they could?” I was also confused by what I was seeing.

Soon we realized it’s not their will but reality, which forces those parents to give their loved ones this kind of food. Seeing how dramatically cadets are losing weight, to be as light as possible for the flight, you don’t even think about healthy anymore. You just give them whatever they willing to put in their mouth, just to have something in, hoping he will digest at least part of it, before it will come back. Even Captains were telling parents. “Your child has high potential, soon he will finish the program and fly away. It would be barbaric to take away from him the pleasure of eating junk food, or with all the other suffering he takes forcing him to eat healthy.” And soon we began our battle too. 

Coming back to the routine. When you enter the program, Sergeant, responsible for the nourishment, conducts a survey with you. It is to know if your child needs any special diet, is allergic to anything. She emphasizes the importance of proper feeding, giving you an impression that food here is top level. Soon you realize that this was just a good marketing.

Every morning, round 8 a.m. breakfast is distributed. Plates are nicely laid on the shelf right next to the entrance. Each containing 2-3 slices of bread and cheaply looking sausages, accompanied with small dice of butter. Honestly, I often thought prisoners get better meals then cadets in the facility. For sure tastier and much healthier. And biggest irony of it are candy bars as part of dessert, full of sugar, and given to trainees with cancer. So, when Sergeant called, for most parents it’s just a sign, reminder, that it is time to go to the kitchen and from plastic containers, their brought from home, pick up something eatable for their children. It is common practice for parents to bring their own food to the facility, prepared either by them or grandparents. Once you enter the common kitchen/dining room area right next to it there is a small room, full of those storage containers, where parents prepare these meals.

Once the meal is ready, sandwiches for the breakfast, something more exquisite for lunch, art of feeding begins. Almost all the cadets, during the training, suffer from lack of appetite. Chemo make the food taste like cardboard, plus constant nausea and vomiting is not really helping. Limited resources, you have in CSD, is not helping also to feed your kid properly. From time to time you can see a parent running around the whole facility, asking others if they have certain food, for which their child asked, knowing that if he will manage to get it, there is a chance his kid will eat it.

„Did he eat anything?” I asked Mag when she woke up after a while.

“I tried. No chance. You know, that we need to wait for the injections to finish and antiemetics to start to work.” Mag replied. “He asked for a soup couple of times, but when I came back after heating it up, he just turned his head and said no.”

We tried our best but as we were moving further into the program his appetite was diminishing, slightly coming back once the injections were over, but still far from what he could eat before the program.

Captain’s audit

Round 10 a.m. everyday there was a small Captains checkup round where cadets, or in case of small children, parents were asked how was the night and what is general cadet’s state. Twice a week there was a general round lead by Major, who was having an eye on all the cadets to ensure nothing is happening without her approval. After a while we just waited for it to be over as we finally could start the day. In case of any questions we just went afterwards to our leading captain.

“As we agreed, not matter what are the results you will be able to go home to celebrate properly you 2nd birthday.” Captain Blind welcomed us two days after the chemo injection was done.

“Blood results are stable and not showing any signs of Szymek being ready for the flight anytime soon, so we don’t need you here. Just remember, same as last time, to come each day here for Neupogen shot, we will try again to stimulate those cancer cells to growth faster. Side effects as you know, growth of leucocytes, but let’s hope this will not happen this time”. Relief came, as we knew home is where Szymek feels much better, starts to eat and to rally. For Szymek, as he was already feeling much better, this was a cue to eagerly start packing. “I’m going home!” he stated with confidence and passion in his voice.

“Yes, take care Szymek, and happy birthday!” Captain responded with a smile and left the room. Soon after, with Szymek’s adorable “Bye!” shouted to corporals siting in the central counter, we were heading back home.

Injections

Next day, when most people were starting their lunch, I packed my family into the car and drove to CSD for the shot. Szymek after few corners knew where he was going, and became gloomy.

“We are just going for a short while and coming back home.” Mag tried to cheer him up. “Will you choose a price afterwards?”

Each corporal, to easy up the suffering, had a box with small prizes. After each procedure, child could choose one to cheer him up. Szymek also liked that and after a while he was saying. “Prize! Prize!” There was no claim in his voice, more of reassurance, that since he took the shot without crying much, he can take the prize now.

We put analgesic ointment 15 minutes before on his port to ensure needle will no causes any pain. And head to the room where the corporal from daily center were doing all the procedures. Once the shot was done smile on Szymek’s face was back.

“It did not hurt! It did not hurt! Mommy, it’s over!” He was laughing through tears and I just couldn’t help it, I needed to bite my lips again. The pain was helping me withhold from crying. On the way back, he was full of joy, as we kept our promise, that it will just be a minute and we are going back home. Szymek is unbelievably peaceful through all time. I often cried seeing, what he needs to go though, and I knew well, that he shows me how the real man should take it. This two-year-old boy showed me, grown man, that you may have a bad moment, vomit, etc. but once that is over, smile should be back on your face. No reason to cry, no reason to feel blue. Life is beautiful, life is full of love and why should we not be happy in it.

Routine

Vomiting, dizziness, weakness and powerlessness. Counting all the fluid, ensuring meds are fine, ensuring needle will not pop out, changing the bed sheets, changing diapers, changing the wet and dirty clothes, heat the food, force to drink, force to eat and Neupogen shots for desert. Another test, another needle into his body, sedation, nerve racking waiting for the him to be back, waking up from it and smile is back on his face. This child is blessing from God. His happiness and love is the only reason why we are still alive…please let it last.

Saint’s parade

“I saw him sometimes at night standing right next to Szymon’s bed. He often stroked his head spreading comfort and easing the pain. He never looked at me, as I was not the one for whom he came, but I was always glad that he cares for him, giving the warms and relief, which I could not give…”

First you seek help among the living, from captains to anybody who, without extorting money, is willing to support you. Soon you realize, that nothing what you encounter on your path to full recovery goes without permission from He, who is not bonded by our reality. Bonded by rules, you are restricted with, to have an illusion of stable, predictable nearby future. In short, superpowers, which people don’t have not to cause even more chaos in this world. You start to read about miracles, which are happening all over the world, people who should be long dead in accordance to our medical knowledge, but are still alive. And it gets you thinking. “What can I do, how can I help myself in experiencing God’s mercy on my soul? To whom should I pray to get proper intercession of saints? To be heard.”

You start to look through those stories and try to find which of those saints had the most of those miracles happening, which had the biggest God’s grace and cured people from dread diseases. You look for patterns, which link all those miracles, and hope that if you do the same God’s mercy will come down on you. Quickly you know, on the path of being called saint, you need to be first proclaimed blessed by church. And the whole beatification process needs prove of miracles. This got me thinking, I admit it could be seen as naive thinking, but you will try everything, so I thought maybe if I pray to one of them, he will have the proof of being saint by performing a miracle on my son.

„Alright! This is my final offer! I know you need this as much as I need it. I know you need this for a different reason to mine, but I know it lays in our mutual interests to make sure it happens.” He paused for a second and then rose his finger to the air. “One miracle! One small, or maybe for some of you big, miracle, and we are good. I need it for Szymon to stay on earth and you need proof of your holiness. We all know that without it nobody will believe that you are saint, and we know only saints gets the best seats there. This is my final offer, take it or leave it. Calling once! Calling Twice! Sold! “

Act I

Blessed Martyrs of Peru

Curtains

They were one of those we decided to turn into. It was one of those situation, one could call coincidence, but those who believe would see God’s finger pushing certain people on your path. Soon after we were listed, to our room in the facility, entered a couple with little girl. And with only few words exchanged, we realized that they came from the same city as my wife, and know same people from one of the prayers group my in-laws were going to.  And we did not need to wait long, when one of those people, from that pray group, said that there is no coincidence in life. And since we are both on the same path we should pray to two Polish Franciscan priests who were killed in Peru in recent times. They were proclaimed blessed by Pope Francis, and if God’s will is to make them saints, they need more miracles. I personally was not too convinced about this idea, so soon has forgotten of their existence.

Time passed and we started to have more and more opportunities to go outside the facility. We used those breaks in the training to travel a bit, close to our home, to escape from the city and sight-see close by towns. We also started to visit nearby sanctuaries to pray for God’s mercy. There was one not far from our home, that for some reason we preferred most. We heard about couple of strange stories that happen there, people got cured from disease when praying to Holy Mary for Her intercession. Church was beautifully, with huge figure of Mary in the center, right behind the altar. You could sense that there is something special there. It was the same place where saint Maximilian Kolbe was living before he was sent to Nazi camps and died giving his life for other man, who was sentenced to death. We thought that it will be an excellent idea if we ask those monks to conduct a mass to cure Szymon. Place where you could order a mass was just next to the church. There was a small booth with priest siting inside.

“Wouldn’t you like to have a yearly mass?” He asked.

“I am not sure if we have enough money for that.” We replied we a bit of hesitation in our voice.

 “Money is the last thing you should worry about.” He replied and asked. “What is your child’s name?”

„Szymon. Please pray for his health, and help in sabotaging his training.”

 Priest stopped writing for a second, looked up and ask us. “What is he training for?”

„He has a large tumor on his adrenal gland, making him unique and qualifying for a space program where they trained children to fly to heaven.”

Priest paused again for a second and grabbed from his pocketed small, foiled picture and handed to us. Out of the whole pantheon of saints he gave as picture with relics of Blessed Martyrs of Peru and said. “Please take it, these are third degree relics of two blessed Polish priests who were killed in Peru. You have huge drama in your family therefore please pray to them and maybe they can help you on your way.”

Tears came to our eyes, from shock and emotions. It was unexpected, very touching gesture, and clear sign from God that we should, at least, try to pray for his mercy with intercession of those two priests.

All we could say was “Thank you.” We turn around and started to cry like little children.

End of Act I

Curtains

My car my confessional

 

“Drop after drop falls on my cheek

is it rain or tears?

I will hide it in my small mystery

I will hide my big misery”

Night again. The stars entered the sky and the moon leisurely is making the scene. The breath of fresh air away from corridors filled with the smell of chemo penetrating my nostrils. At times, it’s making me feel like I am the one taking the meds by inhaling it. I exit the facility and head towards a parking lot. Each step away from that miserable place puts me at peace, at the same time each step away from them, knowing that I had to leave Szymon and Mag there, puts my heart at sorrow. This constant conflict tearing me internally apart.

Few more steps, parking lot, during the day fully filled with cars, now empty with only few cars left, and among those few awaits my best friend – my car. One who stands there patiently, no matter if it’s hot sunny day, which heats up its black paint to the temperatures making the car untouchable or frosty winter day covering the car with snow, so you can barely recognize it among the others. My companion on the way home…

 “If you would have had ears to listen, eyes to see, and mouth to tell me what to do… Well, maybe you do, but I can not hear you because it is me that is constantly talking.”

I heard once that some people believe that cars, as many other objects, have souls. They listen to us, react to our emotions, words, and if you will be mean, it will break on you in least expected, least favorable moment. I do not fully cope with this idea, but still there are times where I joke and talk to my car like it would have ears to listen and mind to decide. In current state, this is the best place for me to release all the tension. Let my emotions go. Allow those words laying deep inside of me to come out, and tiers to fall, well hidden behind the rainy windshield. This is one of those places where I felt save to show my weakness.

Door shut, engine started and the journey began. I said goodbye to the security guide on the way out of the parking lot, and left for home. There are nights when even he gives up and goes to sleep leaving the barrier open, so no one will wake him up when leaving so late. I love road back home, especially at night, when there are not many cars, and once you pass few streets, you enter quite long drive through the woods. Driving in the winter, when trees are covered with snow make this passage even more breathtaking. Or in the autumn when the road is hidden in the fog and I am passing by construction cars, working on the side. Mist make them looked like alien invasion seen on films.

“Dad, I know you can hear me although I can not hear you, see you. Please give me just one little sign that you are with us on this path. Please show me something, which will bring peace to my heart. Something, which will reassure me, that no matter what happens it is your will and nobody else’s. As I know you love us and want what is best for us, but please, I beg you, give me a sign making me certain, that it is not my delusion but your love spread to us.”

Those few minutes that I have in my car when traveling back home gives me a chance to pray, talk to God, ask this reoccurring question “WHY???”, or just say all those things I could not say in front of Szymon. It gives me a chance to cry out all the sadness as I don’t want to show him my powerlessness, which constantly hunted me. Those few minutes spend in the car gives me a chance to make all those little plans of what to do next, as I know that planning for more than a month would be just stupid. And sometimes I could just stay silent and listen to the music, just for couple of minutes, not to think of anything. Just look at the road and take my mind of all the problems I have, we have. I know that it was hardly possible to do but at least I try.

I love road back home, these are those few minutes where I can recharge my batteries for the next day, bring back smile on my face and pretend, or maybe believe, that all is and all will be good. That there is nothing to worry because all those horrifying stories, told about the others flying to heaven, doesn’t have to come true in our case.

“You will not hear me. You will not feel me, but you will know that I am close to you.”

Round Four – The Gang

“Welcome back! We are about to start the second half of our football (soccer) championship game between Visitors and Home. For those who have missed the first half, the score is one to nothing for Home, with the ball hitting the net just before going to the locker rooms. The weather is nice, sunny and warm, making this a lovely day with a family, here at a national stadium. After few minutes rest players are now returning to the pitch. Coaches grouped the players to share some last-minute tactics before the referee will blow the whistle and the second half of the game will start. As all of you know, it’s a game of two halve, therefore still much can happen.

And there it is! The referee started the second half. The Visitors are not wasting any minutes, knowing they are playing not only against Home team but whole crowd who is screaming and cheering for their players. Everyone knows that with this kind of support you can move mountains. The Visitors can feel that pressure coming from tribunes hence they need to score a goal until they will not run out of motivation. As with each minute passing by this game will be more and more difficult for them.

Nice cross by the one visitors trying to reach Tymek. The ball slightly misses him and he needs to catch the pass. Oh no! Quick slide done by Boldy and the Home is back in control. Long pass to Szymon, what nice tackle, he passes one player, two more, and there is only him and the goal keeper left! Will he manage to score? What a suspense. Crowd is getting louder while Szymon stopped for a split of a second, looked into goal keeper’s eyes, twisted his lips into adorable, disarming smile and shoots! Gooooalll!!!! Did you see it?!?! He puts the ball in the net! The goalkeeper just stood there and could not do anything about it! The game barely started and Home managed to score another goal!

2-0 may for some may look like the game is over, but let’s not lose hope. There is still time for at least one goal for the Visitors. One that will raise them from their knees and put back into the game. Visitor’s goalkeeper kicked the ball. Cross went to midfielder, he started his run, passing two defenders. Oh, I think we will have a chance to see a goal for Visitors. The midfielder passed the ball to the attacker. He allowed the ball to pass him. He followed the ball with his eyes while turning around and when the ball was in the perfect position, he hit it with full strength. “Yes?!?…Yeess?!??…Oh nooo!!! What a save!!! Have you seen it?!?! The goalkeeper jumped to the ball, that was heading toward upper right corner and with just a split of the finger he managed to push it away from the goal. The referee whistled and we are going to have a corner. Both teams are battling in the Home’s penalty area trying to win best spot to score or defend the goal. The whistle blown by the referee and the ball is heading straight to the center of the penalty area. All the players are in the air trying to reach the ball with their heads. Yes?!?Yeees?!?! The ball is heading towards the net, kicked by one of the players from the Visitor’s team. Oh no!! how much bad luck you can have in one game?! Everyone saw this ball heading straight to the net, but it took this strange turn just at the end and hit the woodwork! The crossbar is what they need to satisfy with! “

“Don’t stop… never stop…” Voice whispered in my head. ” Please, if this is how our life will look from now on, let it be, but make it last. Last as long as it can be… I want to see him running, laughing, having fun with other children… There is nothing more pleasing to my heart than his happiness… It spreads warmth into my whole body and puts huge smile on my face. I know it may mean that he will not have a chance to live a normal life, like any other kid, but please at least give me those kind of moments… They help me to forget, forget where we are…”

The Gang – bunch of kids, different age, from 2 to 14 years old running around in small groups. They were making lots of noise but no one dare to reprimand them, silence them, as this was what kept this place alive. This was breath of fresh air, which this place gained each time The Gang met. And you could see that for some kids, like Szymon, not having a chance to play with peers, as it was too risky to go to kindergarten or school where you could get deadly infections, the gang was the reason why they smiled on to the way to the facility. The smile, which was healing our bruised hearts from consciousness that we need to bring him back there. To the last place on earth you would like to drive your child too.

The Gang did not have a leader, but Boldy being the oldest was having the highest authority in the team. Szymon, who was treated like his younger brother, were given much more attention and sympathy. This gave me peace in my heart that even if I lose sight of him Boldy will take care of Szymek. Even corporals when they saw those kinds playing, showed sparks of joy in their eyes. They were sometimes yelling to slow down, walk, don’t run, but it was only to keep them safe. They knew that some kinds should not force their heart so much, due recent chemo injection, which still might be weakening their body. “…I beg You! Don’t take this away from me…. don’t take him away from me…”

 “10 minutes to the end of the match. The Home team is in possession of the ball. There is not much time left, there is always not much time. Let’s see what they can do! Short pass and the ball is going to Kacper, who passes to Maks. Just look how he sprints with the ball! He is running towards the goal, slows down trying to catch a breath, looks around and sees Szymon running on his right. One tackle, and two more defenders ahead of him. “Here! Here!!!” He could hear Szymon screaming on his right. One more tackle and Maks and Szymon are left with the goalkeeper. Maks looked at Szymon and though, “He is younger, I will give him this satisfaction to score another goal.” He passed the ball to Szymon, who did a quick slide to reach it, stood up and shoots… Goooallll!!! GOAAAALL!!!! Everybody screams, everybody smiles. “What a day!” Stated the commentator. “3-0 to Home. With only five minutes till the end of the game nothing will take away their victory, nothing will take away this joy of winning the game. They are almost there!”

“Boldy! Boldy!” familiar voice yelled from the crowd. “Come on, your meds are ready! I need to hook you up.” It was one of the corporals ending the game. “Ehh” Boldy turned around and headed towards the corporal knowing that there is nothing else but just to end the game 5 minutes before. “Just 5 minutes?” He asked with high hopes in his heart. “Ok, I am waiting for you in your room. But just 5 minutes, as I will be late with the others!” Corporal responded with a smile on her face. She also knew that nothing bad will happen if she will delay the meds by 5 minutes but lots of good will come out from them playing a little longer.

Those corridors have magical power of changing to whatever those kids have in their minds, could imagine. One day they are football pitch, the other racing tracks. Those little bold heads running, screaming, laughing made this place much sunnier, less gloomy. And seeing Szymek playing with them, sharing the joy of being among other kids, made my heart swell with happiness.

“Please stay tuned, as next week we will host for you last race of the season. Find out who will go home with the World Champion title and who will just have to settle for a second place!”

Competition

Life teaches you to have distance to situations you come across. Poor are those, who were given such a lesson and they did not draw conclusion from it, meaning did not change their attitude. For me, one of the key findings in those days was that, drama can take on different faces, and that point of view depends on where you sit. What will look like an end of the world for one will be just a minor issue for the other. Your childhood crisis looks funny to grownups, love related issues would be blessing for those who don’t have money to buy food, and stress at work would be nice break from constant pain suffered by oncological or neurological patients. Strangely those who suffer less are often much louder from those who are really in pain.

“How are you?” I asked the person calling me.

“My world just ended, he left me, there is no point of living anymore…he was everything to me…” The tears started to fall on the other side.

“Cheer up, I know you were seeing each other only 3 months, but I can expect that it can be real drama for you.” I tried to put her heart into peace.

“I will try…but you know… I need time…and how is your life?”

 “I am fine. No change, my son is still fighting with this deadly anomaly in his body, but I am sure we will manage. We will beat it and have our life back.” I replied trying not to sound like her problems were nothing compared to ours, but more showing that even if this kind of situation you should not lose hope.

“…I know my problems are nothing compared to yours…” her voice started to be much calmer.

“Yes. You’re right” I smiled trying to bring better mood into the conversation.” Remember this next time you will start to cry because of some jerk leaving you”. She smiled back to me.

Those were times when knowing that not many people can help me, understand me, I can at least show them how lucky they are not to have worse problems.

Most of those who lived the same and understood me well were very supportive, compassionate, and in most cases their story was no better from ours. But there were also people who for some strange reason still needed to compete. Still trying to show whose life was hit more significantly and whose was just dabbed by real life tragedy. Let’s leave them aside for a moment and come back to the facility.

 “Tell me, which door would you like to choose? One where you come here for a week, they do few quick tests, sometimes performed a surgery, and at the end of that week you know if your child either flew to heaven or is disqualified. Or maybe the second one where you wait. You wait weeks, months, sometimes even years. Each day can be the one where they will say – “Now it’s time!”.  Each day is one more day stolen from them. One more day given to you to spend more time with your loved one. Each day which may bring another chance to sabotage the flight. Tell me, do you prefer to know it quickly or wait and just use that time as best as you can. Knowing that the day will come but you just don’t know when…”

There are ten floors at CSD, each one carries different training courses. Key ones are – floor number six, heart uniqueness, most of cadets come here for short period of time. Captains run few stress tests, perform a surgery and at the end parents are told if their child is qualified, which in many cases it means flying to heaven within that time spent in CSD. If not, as the anomaly was fixed by accident and cadet no longer qualifies, they send the child home. Floor number three, sight anomalies. Most of the cadets who are send to this floor will not be qualified for the flight. Reason why they train them is to find something, more unique anomaly, which would allow them to move the cadet to our, seventh floor. My dilemma is fifth and tenth floor – neurological uniqueness. Cadets here showed high brain potentials. They could envision things non-other could. Problem is that in most cases their brain had to disable other functions to perform those tasks. Here you could see, what parents called, disable children, with cerebral palsy or epilepsy, which often is down to either no contact with their child or having a ticking bomb in their head. One that could explode any moment without giving any warning. Each time I saw them pressing button with either 5 or 10 I felt compassion, seeing in their eye despair caused by conscious constantly remaining them that their child will not survive without sever consequences. And all they have is just waiting for the flight while taking care of their beloved, not really knowing what he/she is like. The only thing that they can be sure of is that from time to time he/she suffers lots of pain, as those visions came with a price.

Coming back to the competition visible on our floor. You could hear parents talking from time to time, on whose child is more special. “70 percent chance for a flight?” Asked one of the mothers ensuring she heard it right. “I would love to have that much. My son has only 90 percent. You know what that means? There is only 10 percent chance, he will not make it. That I will be able to take him home with me…” You could see tears appearing on her eyes, when she was saying that. My key take from life is that many times it acts very ironically on us. Especially in those kinds of cases. Later, it was him with only 10 percent of chance to be disqualified, who left for home, while the one with 30 percent made the flight.

Luckily there are also people who have distance to all of that, knowing that those emotions are not really helping, changing anything…just making your life worse…like it would really need to be.

 “What you worry about?” She asked with a bit of surprise. “I forgot to give her Lugol’s iodine before the test!” Mark replied nervously. “So what? Worst case scenario this will just give her thyroid cancer. They will take it out and she will be fine. Not like what she is having now.”. She replied with a bit of irony in her voice, as in those kinds of moments you just don’t know if you should cry or laugh.

Life can be a great teacher. What is huge tragedy for one, for you is just another road block, which you overcome quickly and do not spend much time on it.