One month after diagnosis
Like floating embers, her words drifted through the doorway.
“Sorry, do you mind helping me?”
Although barely a whisper, they stopped me mid-stride.
I needed to get back to my husband. I’d only left him for a quick toilet break and only then because his sister was with him. But the words drew me towards her room.
Like others in this whitewashed clinic on the seventh floor of an office block in Istanbul’s bustling Sisli district, the room emitted an amber glow – perhaps from the light of the treatment machines inside.
It too had a hospital bed with starched white sheets. At its centre, propped up on a pile of pillows, lay a woman so slight she looked like she might disappear among them. Her face was beautiful, framed by tufts of cropped, mousy brown hair. She reminded me of a hatchling.
“Sorry,” she said again. “There’s just this song playing in my head, and I need to listen to it on my phone, … but I don’t remember who sings it or what it’s called. Can you help me?”
“How does it go?” I asked, reminded of a childhood game in which relatives would play me clips of music and I’d have to guess the song.
She started to hum the tune.
I’d heard it before but couldn’t place where, and like her, I had no idea who sang it.
“You need to get back to Omar,” a voice in my head reminded me. But I knew I wouldn’t leave the room until I’d helped her.
I reached over, took her phone and began pulling names from somewhere in my subconscious and typing them into Google: Peter, Simon and Paul. Lucy, Peter and John.
Then I remembered where I recognised the tune from – an old advert for a British DIY chain.
A quick Google search – “theme tune from Homebase ad” – later and I’d found her song. (It was by Peter, Bjorn and John.)
The woman squeezed my hand. I smiled.
She was in her 30s and dying of cancer.
She had two young sons back in the United Kingdom and was hoping to be home for Christmas later that week, but she wouldn’t be allowed to see her boys because her immunity level was low, and they had colds.
As I turned to leave, her tired voice sounded again with another question. “Do you think I’ll make it?” she asked.
I believed she would, just like I believed that Omar would, that everyone who had travelled to this clinic in the hope that it could heal their broken bodies, when doctors in their own countries had told them there was no hope left, would.