I can hear it in her voice, the strain position of caring, a nod to the unusual, the proverbial love of a mother. She gives a pretentious smile, “You will be fine, son.”

Too many nights had gone by where her words had burrowed so deep into rhetoric foxholes that no longer hold hope. I nod.

It gives me a relief of tension built from living with pain; pains arising from complications of sickle cell disease. I position my hopes and future on dreams, circle around my life as a sicklier77 whose hope of living hangs on a new technique of treating sickle cell patients. Between sorrow and reality sits the most important part of decisions I will make, either from the heart or from reason.

I can’t sleep well in the night, but the reason isn’t because of the pains I feel all over my body. If I dwell in it, it will consume me, and I will be done for. Instead, I turn and toss between the memories of a thousand journeys of treatment, and horizons yet unseen. Then, thoughts of tomorrow’s journey to the district headquarters floods my mind. Whether it will end like the others or this time around, bring a permanent treatment is one thing I can’t tell.

Mother sets the table for two, makes a royal breakfast and we eat, facing each other. She clears the place, spotless, just as she always does. She lays out my clothes, packs everything we need into two small travel bags.

I sit in the train, just close to the door, my mind fixed on the thought of the surgery I’ll undergo to earn a life devoid of pain. Fear swallows my mind, as I remember that I’ll be the first sickle cell patient to be treated with the technique. I consider everything I had passed through: the pain, the crisis, the journeys and the fruitless treatments and all the rejections from my peers.

“Will this one end the pains and usher me into a life devoid of pain?”

“It can’t be any worse than right now,” mother wraps her hand around my neck.

I watch with my eyes half close, thinking less about the ride and more about her words, and the last time I travelled for treatment with mother. Thoughts strings together in a patchwork of compromise assurances of a healthy life after treatment. The only difference then is that I had no idea they were just comforting words. I really wish I knew then what I know now.

I labour to sit any longer, my face painted in pains similar to the other side of life. I feel I’ll give up before we arrive at the hospital. And so I mutter some words to mother – words good enough as my last. Then the train stops, mother struggles between helping me to get up and handling the travel bags. I put my hand to my chest, mouth wide-open as I try hard to breathe well.

Mother opens the door to a 2044 model Innoson Jeep and assists me to sit. The car drives itself. It needs nobody to steer the wheel, and electronics are fitted to the entire dashboard. It’s the first time I’ll be riding in a car powered by electricity. I enjoy the comfort and sight of it, and forget the pains that wreck me from within.

A sudden dull ache in my body wakes me up from the excitement. It’s a remnant of last night, of yesterday, of every day before it. I’m positive this is a new day, the first of the rest of my life, one that will erase all the pains I have felt up to this moment.

I lie on the stretcher, and for the first time I say a prayer, a plea, beg, and if it makes any sense, a request; a request to let me survive the surgery and never wake up to feel the pains again.

I roll over, stare at the ceiling, and my doubts are so full; I’m afraid of change, but I must confront it. Nobody says a word. The doctors enter the theatre and prepare for the surgery. One of them winks at me and I smile, a weak smile, but it’s about all the possibilities, possibilities I imagine in those moments of hope.

I watch as they begin with the procedure. It doesn’t look like an actual surgery. They inject me with anaesthetics, and after a while my whole body goes numb. They all watch as a robot begins to work on me. It extracts fluids through my pelvic region, and at the same time replaces it with another fluid. An extraction and replacement of fluids between my past and my future. It’s cruel, and it will be a long process. It’s a reminder, I’m awake, aware, and afraid.

The surgery ends and sleep overrides my consciousness.

I wake up and smile to mother, catching up on seven years I have lost in time, lost to sickness and pains arising from a disease hitherto without cure. I play catch up doing things I had thought about and hoped I could do but couldn’t – impossible things – because I lived a life of sickness and pain. Now my hope is reality, as I live a life devoid of pain since I’m cured from sickle cell disease.

Her eyes teary, “You’re well, Aigbona.”

“Yes, mother,” I embrace her.

My life becomes a possibility, full with hopes greater than any mind can imagine.