The human species has been categorized on the basis of various different factors – men and women, Indians and Africans, Muslims and Christians, and so on. For me, there’s just two categories – either the person has battled cancer or he hasn’t. Life is different for those who dont have to spend their childhoods in hospitals – for those who have to, it is a living hell. And here I refer not only to the patients themselves, but also their partners, sons and daughters. To see your loved ones constantly being pricked and tortured, and to see them slowly turning into someone you do not know, is the worst thing that can happen to anyone.
In the last ten years that my mom has suffered from cancer, I have seen everything and everyone. The way hospitals loot you, the way the staff is careless, the way relatives prove to be useless, and the way your friends turn their backs on you. I have seen doctors who devote their lives to patients, who don’t even mind sparing time to perform on stage for their patients, and I have also met those who do not give fuck. I have met nurses who have stayed up all night for my mom, and also those whose carelessness has landed my mom in the ICU. I have seen patients, all kinds of them, those who gave up, those who made it, and those who fought, until their last breath. So far, it has been a hell of a journey, and here is a glimpse for all my readers.
I was 12 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my sister 8, and my brother 4. Come the day of the biopsy reports, and the ground beneath us shook. We were devastated. Especially my Dad who did a hell of a job handling three little kids along with my Mom’s surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. My siblings were way too young, but I had found out immediately after my mom’s surgery, since small town people cannot really differentiate between a cancer patient and someone who is dead. They would come, squeal and sob, drink tea, have snacks, chitchat and go away. People can act really funny at times. Not once did anyone hesitate to tell my mom how an XYZ relative of theirs died a few months back because of cancer. The loop of visitors continued throughout her chemo, and so did the fake concerns.
Ten years later, they still continue to, “Arrey kaisi hai mummy ki tabiyat. Main toh raat bhar soyi hi nahi, inhone toh khana bhi nahi khaya” and we have mastered the act of ignoring them. Even worse are some friends, they ask and ask and profusely ask if you need any help, and the minute you do, they back out. Look we know you have better things to do in life, and that is the reason we dont bother you. But then, stop asking us about our patient continuously, stop showing that you care when you don’t. It is us who have gone through hell, it is us who have seen them through their highs and lows, we have fed them, bathed them, and helped them walk. We have seen them cry, and it is us who have made them laugh. We have been going through something that you are not going to be able to understand all your lives. And trust me, we envy you, and we wish this had not happened to us. So, the least you can do is leave us alone. If we have battled cancer, we will pretty much be able to fight everything that life throws at us. We know what is coming, and we are fine, and I am fine.
On a more important note, during this time, I have met the two most inspiring people of my life. One – a 65 year old woman who battled lung cancer and a tiny 8 year old with blood cancer.
The woman, a very poor lady would come to take chemos all by herself since she did not want to disrupt her children’s routine. She would come from a place that was 200 kms away from Pune, get the scans done by herself, collect the reports herself, as well as get the chemo all on her own. The third time I met her, she did not seem to be in her best form. “How many more chemos?” I asked her. “This is my last one dear, we cannot afford it. And I cannot let my family suffer because of me. God will help me through the pain.” Six months later, she was gone.
As far as Shravani is concerned, she is the cutest kid I have ever met. Bubby and chubby, she was like any other kid her age. Even during her chemos, we had a gala time together – watching animated movies, talking about her friends back at school, and playing with barbies. The last time I saw her, she had lost all weight, could not stop vomiting, and was in unbearable pain. Two months later Shravani was gone too.
My mom, thankfully is a very very strong woman and has the will power of a 20 year old. She has however, been in the hospital for the last 15 days and I would only like all of you to keep her in your prayers.