NO NEED TO LIE BY Rolf Schmid - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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Background

Rolf Schmid's "No Need to Lie" is an extraordinary account of a remarkable life. The author describes his rough painful struggle with cancer in the both Kenya and Germany. He became a celebrated restaurateur and sportsman and after acquiring Kenyan citizenship, he represented his new home in judo, polo, Weightlifting and pistol shooting, excelling in all four of them.

He also still got time to emulate his childhood idol, Ernest Heming w as a passionate big game hunter in the African bush. Tragedy through cancer which almost killed him, but sheer determination, and the hand of God saved him. After this ordeal, he ventured become a world champion power lifter in the masters over categories. For this and all his previous achievements in sports, he was bestowed with the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya by His Excellency President Daniel arap Moi.

Rolf Schmid has surmounted many barriers in life but a diagnosis of throat cancer came as a terrible blow to the prominent chef.



Summary of Incidents

Rolf schmid narrates in biographic way his long painful struggle and fight with cancer. As he battled all those negative emotions, Rolf made a vow to himself that he would not let the disease take him down. After all, he was only 50 years old (p 22)

It was not an easy fight. The surgery, chemotherapy and medicine took a heavy toll on him. He had lost all appetite for food. However Rolf knew that if he did not put something into his tummy, his recovery would be severely compromised. The terrible sores inside his mouth made any contact with food a painful ordeal.

To counter this, he resorted to inserting a long pipe into his gullet through which he poured in food in liquid form.

But the battle with cancer was not the cue to take things easy watch life pass by. More than anything else, Rolf's battle with cancer sums up his character: A never-say-die attitude in the face seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The well schemed masterpiece ends with Schmid landing back to Nairobi where he was accorded a hero's welcome, after having been treated at the Katharinen hospital in Germany. He rejoices together with his wife Asmahan and their children. He felt himself a victor and that he was beginning a new life.



Setting

"No need to lie" is set in Kenya. Rolf Schmid had obtained a Kenyan citizenship after staying in Kenya and working as a leading chef in Nairobi. Places like Langata road in Kibera are mentioned in the short story where he could drive on his way to and from the job. (p 131)

After the treatments in the Nairobi hospital proved to be ineffective, Rolf was referred to Katharinen Krsnkenhaus hospital in Germany, where he went with Roland for further medication. This makes the setting shift from Kenya to Germany, then back to Kenya, seeking medical attention for his cancerous condition.

The events are taking place between late December and early January. His medication journey begun January 8, after his personal Doctor, Mrs. Van Enk's coming back from Mombasa, where he had gone for the Christmas celebration. It begins at the Caren Surgery. (Pl 23)



Themes

Struggle to survive

One of his greatest battles in life was cancer. At 50, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. A fighter with a black belt in judo and a Weightlifter, Schmidt vowed the disease would not put him down.

He survived having gone through surgery, chemotherapy and no appetite and continued to forge on with life, with gusto.

Burdens of sickness

There is nothing that burdens Rolf, than his encounter with the throat cancer. It came after he had decided to cut weight, so that at least he, could lead a better sportsmanship life. Little had he known that he would be sick and the weight would cut down itself automatically, until the day he met Mrs. Van Enk, his private Doctor.

He was informed that his medical condition needed a lot of urgency, Dr Rupani agreed that he had to admit him and take a biopsy. After the test, it was affirmed that he was having cancer and not Aids. (P. 1 25) the greatest problem that exposed him to more harm was that his condition was in an alarming third stage, which was second to the last stage. He realized at a very late stage that he was cancerous.

The grotesque look of the people in the radiation ward made him scared more than before. After it he become malnourished, with his skin, sagging. As if this is not enough, he was still to undergo four more chemotherapies. He says that he endured four chemo sessions for the four Saturdays preceding. He lost half of his hair and most of his beard.

In his last cancer chemo, he got sick, something that made him dismiss all the clinics, the diagnosis and prognosis. He therefore decided to go to Germany. He fought his tears back as he saw his wife Asmahan cry at the airport, as she was bidding him good bye. He had to undergo a series of treatments before getting back to his normality.

Love and friendship

Rolf Schmid is a man that makes the definition of the word friendship easier. He receives a lot of attention from his native wife and native doctors too, who are assisting in his critical condition Whatsoever. His greatest treasure was his children.

His wishful prayer was that he was going to live and see his children grow up, play more polo, do more sculptures and be With Asmahan, His sickness really affected her wife a lot. She is seen weeping, full of tears; she tells him that God is going to be with him. That he has to remember to chant a prayer daily (p 132)His children and Asmahan were there ready to receive him after his treatments. They rejoiced together. He was indeed thankful in the way he appreciated the staff at the Germany hospital. He feels troubled, that he did not get time to appreciate Roland, who had taken a lot of core during his sickness time, for he died a year later, of a tragic occident, before their meeting again (p 1 35)



Techniques and Language Use

Point of view

This short story is written in the first person narrative voice. The "l" narrator is therefore the protagonist in the story and he narrates the events as he experienced them. This kind of narrative voice makes the events look very immediate to the readers.

It enhances aesthetic distance, that degree of separateness between an author and the events they present in the story. The first person narrator also helps create rapport with the readers through the informal use of humour, despite the depressing situation presented at hand.

Dialogue

This is a verbal exchange between characters. Dialogue is used to develop characters and themes in the "No Need to lie". quite a number of dialogues throughout the text. They make us comprehend the thematic concern and the plot at large.

Rhetorical questions

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in which a statement is formulated as a question. The question is not supposed answered, or if answered, one is expected to agree With the speaker without any contradiction.

On my way to Dr Rupani's, my head did not stop spinning. Fee had finally gripped me. What if it is HI V? Can I live with thought of being on death row? What about the stigma? (P. 123) This shows the kind of tension and fear as Rolf had as he travelling to Karen hospital for diagnosis.

Was I going to live? How bad was it? Did I have a chance? Too many questions went an answered (P. 3 ) These and other rhetorical questions give us the actual suspense created. They make the audience glued to the eyes. That the reader cannot keep the text aside, not until they have read up to the last dot.

Local dialects/informal language

The hallmark of Schmid, successful use of language is his deployment of simple English throughout. This gives the story a relaxed informal tone. It is as if the narrator is telling it to his peers.

Ndume-a male animal

Bwana — sir

Alhamdulillahi-praise be to Allah the most high

Bismillahi — it's an Islamic exclamation meaning in the name Of their God.

This gives the story a local flavor, making the writer to create his mental picture to the audience.



Characterization

Rolf Schmid

He is our narrator in the text. He is the one who had fallen victim of cancer. Cathartic effect is really developed on him by the reader, after seeing the struggle he undergoes with the treatment of cancer.

He is depicted as being assertive. He refuses to be killed by cancer.

He has a strong will and power to withstand all the woes that abides by the medication process for cancer.

He is determined, ambitious and indeed devoted.

Dr. Rupani

Dr Rupani is quite resourceful. He admits Rolf and takes care of him in the Nairobi Hospital, together with the nurses as he is undergoing the chemo and the radiotherapies.

Asmahan

Asmahan is Mr. Schmids wife. She is depicted as being a caring and a loving wife to him. She is indeed helpful supportive and a concerned coastal lady, who gets to be attentive to the husband all the time.

She is quite emotional in how she really sheds tears as she bids the husband a good bye as he was flying to Germany for the further treatment.

Further she is depicted as being a religious woman who proposes that her husband be praying all the time while undergoing treatments at the hospital in Germany.

Roland

This is a helpful, supportive and caring character.

He is dutiful; he has taken it upon him to ensure that his friend is healed. He takes him to hospital abroad.



Activity

  1. Is the title (No Need to Lie) appropriate? Discuss.
  2. Compare the medication process in the first world the third world countries, with reference to this short story.
  3. Identify the use of suspense from the story and explain effectively it has been used.
  4. Identify and discuss two major themes from the text.
  5. Hierarchically, show the stages for battling with cancer.


MORE

Focus

  • Strong willpower and determination lead to victory 
  • Coping with cancer

What would you do if you were diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease?

Rolf Schmid, a 50 year old chef, had resolved to live a healthy lifestyle when he is diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. What started as harmless bout of tonsillitis turns out to be cancer. When it persists and needs the doctors to carry out a biopsy, Schmid is fearful that it may be AIDS. He is somewhat relieved when Dr. Rupani informs him that it is cancer. It is still devastating news nonetheless. His wife Asmahan receives the traumatic news with tears in her eyes. (Pg 125) 

Rolf Schmid is certainly a strong-willed character. When he books himself into a spa and loses 12 kilograms, he receives praises from his wife and friends. He later develops a sore throat that he mistakes for tonsillitis that could be soothed with Strepsils sweets. (P 122)

His doctor, Mrs. Ven Enk, refers him to Doctor Rupani, a specialist, since she knows this is not your ordinary tonsillitis. Schmid infers that it may be more serious than he had imagined. He is gripped by fear when he thinks of AIDS, a death sentence at the time. He imagines the stigma. A bullet to the head could solve the problem; 

“Suicide is for cowards and I am not one of them,” - comes his strong conviction. (P 123)

He seems determined to fight through his afflictions which since remains a mystery to him-at least for now.

After the biopsy, Schmid learns from a family friend, one professor Alberto, that his condition is grave. Is it cancer or AIDS?

Schmid says, “I just could not let myself die”. 

He wilfully adds that he was not going to give in to cancer. 

When Dr. Rupani calls him at 8 o’clock in the morning to inform him that he has cancer, he thanks God saying “my willpower was strong and determined.” (Pg 125)

Schmid feels that he is too young to die.

At the radiation room, he sees patients who had lost hair and looked appalling. The appliances in the radiation room look humongous and terrifying.

It is not long before the cancer takes a toll on Mr. Schmid. He suffers excruciating pain, oral ulcers and the peeling of the skin covering his gums. He is a pale shadow of his former self. He now weighs a measly 87.3 kg from 125. His wide biceps and 54 centimetre chest have been chewed away by cancer. (Pg 126)

Does he capitulate? Your guess is as good as mine. The unyielding cook is devastated at the thought of imminent death. However, his ardent personality keeps on reminding him not to give up.

“When I was at my lowest, I summoned the faces of my children one by one as a visual reminder of the reason I had for living, I kept telling myself, ‘you can’t die now’” (Pg 126)

Schmid suffers pain and endless medication. He is forced to eat and take at least three litres of liquid lest the doctor feeds him intravenously while confined to a hospital bed. He is scared about the thought. Schmid is forced to feed by a half inch rubber pipe. It is a painful but inevitable ritual.

Schmid compares his battle against cancer to a judo match. He alludes to the words of a Japanese judo sensei, adorned in a white judogi, commanding him to meditate and focus on the task at hand to knock out the opponent.

“The confidence of years of training years of service and years of pain assured me of victory”

But this was not a judo match! 

“This was life and death, my life”. (Pg 127)

The feeding is painful and Schmid would often scream in severe pain. He loses several friends due to his predicament. The insurance company he assumed would pay for his medical expenses would not pay much since he is self-employed. Some of his friends opt to fundraise for him. He does not give up. (Pg 127)

Schmid realizes that many cancer patients die not because of the malignant malady but because of despair and lack of hope. This gives him an unstoppable desire for health.

“I was going to live and see my children grow up, play more polo, do more sculptures and be with Asmahan, my beautiful wife.” (Pg 128)

He wilfully endures four agonising sessions of chemotherapy. He had heard about people losing hair and going completely bald, among other miseries. (Pg 128)

In the face of adversity, Schmid is optimistic that he was going to beat cancer. “but am I going to be alright? I mean no more cancer?” (Pg 128)

Alberto does little to calm his anxiety. He tells him that he has to be brave. It all depends on how his mind copes with it. Our good old mulish chef concludes that cancer, like any other adversity or predicament, is a process that requires a strong willpower, (food) and optimism. (Pg 128) 

When Mr. Schmid attends his first chemotherapy on a Saturday evening at seven o’clock, he feels like a condemned convict on the way to the gallows. He endures a nerve wracking 8 hours intravenous drip without feeling sick. The lovely nurse is astounded by his unyielding strength. “Heee Bwana, you are strong really strong.” She calls him a real ndume (strong man).

The headstrong chef decides to head down to the polo club after the chemo session to show everyone how tough he was. This is testament to his strong will and optimism Alberto thought he was crazy. He had lost almost 36 kilograms! He used to weigh 125 kilograms now weighs only 56 kilograms. His horses must think he is somebody else! (Pg 129-131)

After the four chemo treatment Schmid has lost half his hair but was spared by the devastating ill experience most cancer patients undergo. He vomits while playing polo but declares this his turning point after going back to finish the chucker (a period of a polo game).

“If I could do that, death could not be waiting round the corner.” (Pg 131)

Such buoyant positivity!

Mr. Schmid has to catch a flight to Germany for specialised treatment. There is a glimmer of hope since tumour on his neck has shrunk to an almost unnoticeable size. He is, however, angry. He dismisses the doctors and their diagnosis and prognosis. He is confident that he is going live; that he has a chance. He is iron-willed; such an admirable trait.

Rolf Schmid’s children do not know about their father’s predicament. All they know is daddy is going to Germany to visit his friend Roland and will return with many presents. He fights back tears and stomach cramps while driving to the airport. (Pg 131) 

Asmahan, his wife, asks him to pray and believe in the power of prayers. He recalls Dr Meister who had died after suffering from a similar malady. Was he going to die in Germany and be buried next to his grandmother? He resolutely pushes the ominous thought out of his head. He had not even written a will. He hopes the paralyzing anaesthesia in Katharinen Krankenhaus hospital, Stuttgart would melt his worries.

In Germany, he meets his caring friend Roland, who is ever so buoyant and sanguine. Roland predicts that Rolf was going to out live him. Sadly, this comes to pasd when he dies a year later in a freak accident. 

Mr. Schmid goes under the knife in Doctor Terrahe's hands without fear or anxiety. After the operation, he is upbeat about the fact that he is alive.

“Ooh I am alive...Great. No more cancer!” (Pg 133)

He suffers a few bouts of nausea and faints when he realizes that his swollen head is twice its original size and there is a chunk of muscle missing from his neck. The doctor reassures him that normalcy will return in two weeks or so.

Schmid is as stubborn as a mule. He sneaks out of the hospital feeling triumphant. 

“I am alive! Look at me, I’ve beaten cancer.” (Pg 134) 

He faints again and is reproached by the doctor for his imprudence.

Weeks go by and he feels better and better. He calls all his friends to share his happiness.

It feels like a rebirth, a return to normalcy, a new beginning; the start of a new life. 

He returns to Nairobi to a hero’s welcome. His obstinate willpower and mind over matter attitude win over cancer!

“Of course, my stubborn refusal to be defeated by cancer and mind over matter attitude made me an example to a lot people.” (Pg 135)

Strong willpower and optimism is key to beating adversity, misfortune or affliction.


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