In this debut memoir, a doctor and devoted aunt commemorates her nephew and recounts his battle against leukemia.
Patel’s nephew Rakesh was an American Hindu of Indian descent. He was studying business communication and technology at the University of Houston when, in December 2011, he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He fought the cancer throughout 2012 and into 2013; then, while in remission, he completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration. In 2014, inspired by the physician assistants who helped him through his treatment, Rakesh began studying to become one himself. But the cancer returned, and in December 2014, he died. He was 23 years old. Throughout his short life—and particularly during the ordeal of his illness—Rakesh impressed those around him with his positive outlook and regard for others. Like many cancer sufferers, he chose to remain upbeat. Even while in the hospital, he continued to mentor his university dance team. While he was very ill in October 2014, his determination and love for his family saw him attend his brother’s wedding, both driving the groom to the ceremony and delivering the best man’s speech. Rakesh even took heart from his cancer’s acronym and turned it into reassurance for others, tweeting: “ALL is well, lol.” Unsurprisingly, Patel writes from a very personal place, sharing memories of Rakesh and her own emotional responses to his triumphs, setbacks, and everyday endurance. As a doctor at a neonatal intensive care unit, she is well-placed to understand the medical procedures, yet the sanguine memoir doesn’t stray too far into this territory. For the most part, it chronicles the impact that Rakesh had on those around him. (The letters to Rakesh from his young nieces after his death are especially moving.) The author does not always make allowances for readers unfamiliar with Rakesh or with Indian and Hindu culture. Some of the references are therefore disorienting, yet not in a negative way. The wider effect is that Rakesh, with his loving friends and family, brings his culture and beliefs closer to those who may not share them. This seems a fitting legacy for a young man whose counsel to others was: “Don’t worry about anything. Just dance.”
A short but telling reminder to live life well and leave heartfelt memories.