Terminal by Fatma Al Shehab

I was old enough to remember the doctors and the teachers and the therapists
all painting their tombs white when they thought I wasn’t looking.
“You’re just a little sick, sweetie. It’ll be okay.”
Says who? The brain scans, or you?
I spent my nights wrapped up in bleach white sheets
listening to my heart thump on a little silver machine.
I had this reoccurring nightmare where it just stopped. 

I guess growing up like that makes you different from the other kids.
Having different childhoods, different lives, different fates.
Other children spent their Saturdays playing tag with daddy.
I spent mine barfing up dinner and listening to mommy cry.

Experiencing this affliction physically hurts
But I think, for me at least,
the emotional damage always cuts the deepest.
I remember feeling guilty when mom went to the other room to cry,
like maybe it was somehow my fault I was Terminal.
I stopped looking at other little girls in the eyes
because I always seemed to find something I lacked.
At the time, I think I called it ‘hope’.

My life became weaved together with words like ‘life expectancy’ and ‘treatment options’.
Every time I fell asleep, it became a habit of mine to say goodbye just in case.
A little girl should never have to think about dying in her sleep.

Writing this wasn’t meant to solicit sympathy,
I am sharing my struggle with you in the hopes that you might find hope in what I am today.
So yes, I am still sick,
but now I know that ‘sick’ is not who I am.

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