'Die Young' is a novel by a cancer survivor with the determination to live on. He longs to live longer because he has already known 'the value of moments in life'. 'My mission on earth right now is to live,' writes the author, Brigadier-General Shahid Mohammad, in his first book.
'When cancer took refuge inside my body, it was life-altering. The sugar bubble world I had lived in so cozily had suddenly shattered and fallen on my head. I realised that there was so much that I didn't know. As I endured the treatment process, there were struggles. That's when I thought why not write it for the people in the present and future times - the story of my battle and apparent survival.
He has also highlighted the treatment procedure at home and abroad to the precise details to act as guides. Apart from painting the journey, he also 'prescribed a course of action' to his readers. In the end, he has crafted a few end states from his 'journey of a lifetime' coupled with acquired insights from the patients and specialists alike.
'I believe our mission on earth is to just live, and once we want something like that to happen, the entire universe conspires in helping us to achieve it.' In the prologue, he writes, 'I am Shahid Mohammad, I planned a half-century of birthdays on the first of January 2022, not the original of course.'
He admits candidly that he does not know his actual birthday. He writes that he was born in Gopalganj district and that there was no such thing called birthdays in the remote place he was born in.
'Usually, people like me live around eighty these days; I thought why not live a little longer? I even planned for a century of birthdays.'
He recollects that everything was on the offer except for a frigid December morning when things fell apart. 'I was dying; I was failing out of lung cancer.
'But I didn't want to die young. I have a one-way ticket, alright, but not the flight time. That is the opportunity almighty Allah has blessed me to fight until the time of flight is scheduled. So I wanted to try everything before I made the earth my bed. Here is my story of trying hard not to Die Young.' The author begins with the Shakespeare quote: 'The miserable have no other medicine but hope'….
He admits that he didn't realise that he was having the first symptoms of the cancer when a friend on a visit to his residence in Dhaka Cantonment pointed out about it. He also admits that he even could not immediately remember the name of the friend though he knew 'him too well.'
If there was one thing that he look for in life was to look slim. That's why he writes that losing weight didn't worry him. Less food and more exercise were his norms.
'As long as I was fit, there was no harm in losing a kilo or two.'
That was not the only time that he got friendly admonition.
A year back, on a winter morning after playing golf at the Bhatiary Gold and Country Club, while strolling with a friend towards the restaurant for snacks, the friend pointed out to him: 'I think you are going down.' 'Going down? What do you mean?' I figured he was pointing at my poor game that morning.'
'Your health,' the friend said, 'I think you are losing weight.'
'I do not remember attaching much value to his words.' But the friend, Mazhar, instigated concern that gnawed at him.
It was during a passing-out parade at Bangladesh Military Academy, he was staying at the well-furnished room of Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT). And the cordial mess staff came to know that he was not eating well though the food was excellent there. The information reached his wife in no time and she requested him on cell phone not to neglect eating. She also requested the mess staff to ensure that he did not neglect his food. Soon afterwards, he began to suffer sleep disorder.
After routine walks with a friend, an army officer, one day Brigadier-General Shahid was admitted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
'There was no sickness, I walked as well as he did. But as I was admitted the following day, I was found terminally ill.'
In Chapter two, The detection: By the beginning of December, all training had ceased, and I proceeded onto extended leave. The whole 23 days' leave was so packed that it looked like a calendar. There were events scheduled almost every day, seeing different doctors was a few of them.'
And the colonoscopy report showed a growth inside his right lung. He had a big tumour on his right lung.
He flew to Bangkok and was given chemo. On first two days he did not feel much discomfort but for some numbness. The third day onwards, it was different and he was knocked down from the 4th to the 6th day--and he did not have any clue about what was happening.
Radiotherapy brought new side effects, pain in the throat, difficulty in swallowing with extreme acidity.
Life after 14 days was somewhat better. 'We started moving outside slowly, took occasional after-dinner walk in the neighbourhood.'
His wife remained busy cooking, washing, cleaning and 'feeding us'.
He narrates three chemo he received. After the 3rd chemo Dr Chatchai gave him a certificate for a wheelchair for his use at the airport and the prescription for the 4th chemo, for which he would have to return to Bangkok later.
On return to Dhaka he was elevated to Brigadier-General.
In mid-March 2020, Shahid flew to Bangkok for the 4th chemo. And after that he was back in Dhaka again.
Finally, he took chemo at the CMH under the supervision of oncologist Brigadier-General Qudrat-E-Elahi. In the foreword, Major-General Md Azizul Islam, consultant physician-general, CMH, Dhaka, wrote the book that encompasses both pleasure and pain of an unbearable personal journey.
The author dedicated the book to his parents, siblings and cancer patients.