“Oh, I am not fasting, I am still too young to fast,” said Abida.Abida and I were chatting about Ramadan. Although we both competed with each other by trying to get better grades we had been good friends for four years and always sat next to each other in class.

“I see.  I think I might fast tomorrow because it’s the first day of Ramadan,” I replied. Abida and I finished our conversation about Ramadan and both of us left the school to walk home.

On the way home, I was thinking about Ramadan and its first day. I was very excited. When I reached home, I saw my aunts and their kids running towards me shouting,

“Hurry up, your mom is here!”

I was shocked that she came from Kandahar to see me in Quetta, Pakistan.  I thought, “Maybe Nilo Khala is just kidding.  Why would Mom leave her job and come this time of the year?  She had planned to save her leave and come for Eid.  Why did she come so early?” As I rushed toward the hall I heard her voice.  She couldn’t stand. I was shocked, very shocked!  I kept asking what was wrong.  She didn’t say anything, but she hugged and kissed me.

At fourteen, I was too young to understand everything. I still wanted to go out and play with my friends.  I did not realize how sick my mom was.   Everyone looked so sad.  My mom was helped to stand and said she was leaving to go to the doctor.

I was so confused why she came from Kandahar to visit a doctor here in Quetta.  I giggled and asked her if she missed the doctors of Quetta. She smiled back and didn’t say anything, although everyone seemed angry at my stupid question.  My brother had brought a rickshaw outside the house and took my mom to the doctor. I heard my aunts calling out different names of doctors to visit.

I asked my brother’s wife about my mom’s health. She said, “A doctor has given the wrong medicine to her in Kandahar, so she came here to find out what is really wrong with her.” Later she told me that my mom was having pain in her leg and she went to an orthopedist in Kandahar.  They did a blood test but mixed up the blood samples, so my mom was given someone else’s results.  The doctor accidentally gave her the wrong medicine.  She took the medicine and got worse.  The doctor told her that he gave her the wrong medicine and she should go to Quetta to see a doctor.

The doctor in Quetta told her that she had leukemia!  She was shocked and went to see other doctors to see if they were wrong.  Finally, the health care center at her office, United Nations Missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA), suggested that she should go see a doctor in India.

She went to India and was lucky that the cancer had not spread.  The doctors said it could be treated.  Her cancer is in remission, but since 2004 she visits Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India once a year for check-ups.

Health care is an important issue in Afghanistan. Most doctors in Afghanistan are not licensed and many have fake diplomas.  There are a few doctors that have graduated from the university, but they will not work in remote areas like Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, or Helmand because of security issues.  In many cities and villages nurses have opened clinics and are treating people.

Since my mother first got sick, she has gotten weaker.  Her heart is broken and she looks like a grandmother, although she used to be a very stylish woman.  She worries about her two youngest sons who are not married yet and, of course, her only daughter, me.  She gave me the gift of allowing me to study in America.  She needs me the most, but she is willing to sacrifice her needs for me.  I love her for being such a caring and generous mother who wants her only daughter to be educated and independent.

In order to pay for her medical treatments and visits to India, my mother must keep working as an engineer, even though she should be resting at home.  Her boss is not a very understanding person and gets angry with her when she takes time off.

My mother is a great inspiration to me and I hope one day I will be able to work so I can support her.

by Yagana