See you sometime

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In this past 9 months, I have not had time to post anything.  That’s because I was busy with my normal life, which has been very satisfying.  It may sound a normal thing for others, but it means a lot for a survivor.  There were days when I was thinking about the disease, myself and all the people who were affected. I have  been a member of groups constituted by survivors.  Now all that has become a thing of past.

There is no darkness in my life. I have become busy with my kitchen, which starts at 6 in the morning, and breakfasts are provided, lunch box is packed. And after that my paint and brush beckons me. I picked up new hobbies like embroidery, crochet etc.

By chance I started making jewelry out of crochet thread and it was such a hit in the immediate circles, and led to exhibitions, sales, and also creation of an online store. And today i have an online store, of course it is early days.

My paintings have found a place in an online store. Again yet to sell anything, however it feels good, that i have reached the next level.

So far, so good. I think there will not be any posts at least for another one year. I am going to play this secret game with Time, and also wait and watch what other good things are going to happen. So Bye for sometime.

A mother’s misery

2015 - 1 (2)This post is a continuation of the previous one ‘speechless’

A few months back I had posted the experience of a friend of mine who developed malignancy in her tongue. Miraculously she walked out of the hospital after the surgery and she didn’t require any further treatment, Her vocal cords were safe and she could speak well. When the family got over the rough patch and settled down to their normal routine, another bolt came from the blue.

This time it is the daughter aged 24, who was pursuing her postgraduation overseas. The doctors suspect malignancy in the ovaries. The family is totally devastated. meanwhile the brave young lady, decided to get baptized before she goes under the knife. So a simple ceremony was arranged in the church and the young lady declared her faith and had the symbolic holy water sprinkled on her thus accepting her into the fold. Normally i dont care much about the rituals. but this time, i was moved and sent up a prayer for her to be cured. Right now her surgery is over, one ovary has been removed and the tumour has been sent for biopsy.

We are all keeping the fingers crossed. Hope she comes out of this ordeal unscathed. And she should, for the sake of the mother who has just undergone an operation for the carcinoma of the tongue.

I

Speechless

2015 - 1 (3)

2015 is going to be an ordeal for some one I know for the past 16 years. She is a 52 year old finance executive, an active member of the Church, and a mother of two children in their twenties. I have had just a hi-bye relationship with  her, but know her all the same. She has been just diagnosed with tongue cancer.  Her treatment will begin next week and whatever any one says, i know life is not going to be easy for her. The silver lining is that the survival rate is 95% percent for stage 1 patients like her, and there are reconstruction options. Living in a city with a top class hospital within easy reach, no financial problems and above all blessed with a supportive spouse and children, are some of the plus points she has.. BUT,  when it comes to cancer treatment, you are ‘alone.. all alone’ and you have to deal with the psychological aspects.  However, unlike me, she is an active christian, who believes in sunday church etc, in the tradition of a typical south indian christian. I hope that gives her solace and strength. As far as I am concerned, every cancer survivor has two parts in their life, ‘bc and ac'(before cancer and after cancer) and you are not the same person anymore, however hard you try to be…

Well, I have one more reason for this blogpost. We live in the carcinogenic atmosphere because of the harmful chemicals infused into the food we eat, water we drink and the air that we breathe. So we have to be cautious. If anybody has an ulcer of the mouth for more than two weeks, it would be wise to check it out with an ENT or dentist and get a biopsy done to rule out the possibility of malignancy

Hoping for the very best for this friend of mine, whom i wish i had known better and who has to undergo not just surgery, chemo and radiation, but also speech therapy. Writing about her eases out that distress deep down, ever since i heard the news.

The fifty percent bracket

Last year on 31 of December, my treatment came to an end. I came out of the radiation department and heaved a sigh of relief. My doctor told me that a cancer survivor is in fifty percent risk of re occurrence for the first one year, and that the risk factor reduces into 25 percent, then 12 percent and then 6 percent as each year passes by and that after 5 years , you are just like any other person, you may or may not get it at all.

Now that first year and 50 percent risk is drawing to a close,  i have a reason to smile. Even though i know that this kind of mathematical calculations do not work with the kind of disease that cancer is, still i like to believe that risk factor will reduce after another 8 days, when the new year dawns on Jan 1st. Why not? if fiction keeps you happy, go ahead, immerse yourself in fiction.

Tonight my house is dressed up with the christmas fineries,,,, stars, bells and holly everywhere,,,, the fairy lights are twinkling in multicolours… Wine and cake on the table….. Baby Jesus in the crib….And i am thankful that tne year had been good to me, though a couple of things did not go the way i wanted. The family enjoyed good health and  a few holidays, one at chennai, another at coimbatore and another at Chandigarh,,, Daughter got admission to PG diploma and she even went to Canada for a study tour. I am hopeful that the next year would be still better.

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Left behind

All my posts so far have been about the patients and what they go through..

But this time it is about a person whom the patient has left behind.

This young man (42) with two little boys has been left behind by his wife who succumbed to the dreaded disease of cancer. Understandably his first reaction was anger. He posted all his frustration about the doctors who treated her. He was convinced that the treatment was wrong and finally he declared the allopathic treatment which involves surgery chemotherapy and radiation is all wrong and one should seek alternative treatment.

Now for the past few days his posts in fb are all indicative of deep depression. He has given a list of his family members who have died in the past 30 years.

And one of his recent posts was about how his future is all bleak and that he has lost all hope of any happiness. He doesn’t find any purpose in his living. He has made a request to his fb contacts to delete his name.

The worst was yet to come. Yesterday he made another post from the id of his departed wife, which declared that they just got married a day back. This made me panic. He has surely sunken into deep depression.

Everyone is asking him to be strong, prayerful, to live for his two young sons etc etc. I don’t think this is the right advice. I think he should be encouraged to live for himself first so that he can take care of others later. An adventure holiday, a robust game, even an affair might help him to come out of this misery.

Do u have any suggestions other than psychiatric help?

The pity is his birth family is all no more. He had lost his parents in his childhood and he recently lost his only sibling. Naturally the untimely death of his wife is haunting him.

I hope someone reaches out to him before it is too late…….

How far?

One of my support group members had posted that he and his wife travel 200 kms every Monday morning for the radiation and they have to do it for 5 weeks. As a result his wife suffers a low grade fever.

  In reply to this post another member had written that his wife suffered still worse. She was travelling 150 kms every day for her radiotherapy

   I just cant imagine the physical hardships these ladies are enduring. Imagine the effect of such a strenuous journey on the body of the cancer patient which is already battered up by surgeries and chemotherapy.

    Only those who live in major cities have easy access to medical facilities in India. There are tall talks about how India caters to the medical needs of people from overseas. They brag about medical tourism and revenue. But our own Indians from villages and small towns also have to go on medical tourism to metros. Is it fair? That too right now when the politicians are making tall claims to great achievements in all walks of life. 

  Good quality schools and hospitals within the easy reach of everybody is what we need and no amount of  communication satelites, luxury sedans and all the freebies can compensate this inadequacy.

 Many NGOs are conducting awareness programmes about cancer screening. Good job…but at the same time the hospitals should be equipped with infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment. Who will do that?

Ammu’s birthday

Amu's bday2It is holi and also Ammu’s birthday. The neighbourhood came alive with music, colours and of course a lot of pollution. Still it was a good feeling. The birthday party was very enjoyable as u can make out from my big and hearty laughter.
There are several reasons why this day was important for me. Amu is two years old and it was exactly two years ago that I visited her in the hospital and then proceeded for my treatment. At that time, her birth was a sort of good omen for me. In these two years, the uterine cancer was treated, cured and I thought it was all over and done with, but only to be reminded that it is the emperor of maladies and that I have to fight many more battles. There was a recurrence of primary cancer and this time it was in the breast. Right now I am okay and almost forgotten that I have just got cured. I enjoyed myself, had cake and all the goodies and also a generous helping of biriyani. The result was I had a sleepless night with tummy ache.
Never mind.. it is all worthwhile. Another reason, my daughter prepared a beautiful audio visual covering the life of the little angel Ammu and it was appreciated by everybody.
The next big reason is today she is going to get her first payment as an intern. The little baby who held my hand firmly with her silky touch 21 years ago, is finally marching to independence. Any parent would be happy at a moment like this, all the more so with me as the sword of Damocles is still hanging up there.

Cancer patients in small towns

A few days back there was a question from one of the members of my support group. It was about a lady who had finished with her entire treatment. Even though she was free of all pain and other discomforts she was reluctant to go out and socialize. The reason was that she had had mastectomy and she was feeling uncomfortable about the looks. Her daughter had also mentioned that they had heard of a certain bra which could be worn by her mother to conceal the absence of her breast. But as they were living in a small town, they had no idea where to get it in her place and even the doctors could not guide her. Immediately I sent her the phone numbers of outlets in Mumbai which sell the prosthetics  and mastectomy bras. I informed her even wigs are available which could be shipped to the customer. The mother and daughter were very thankful for the info.

Now, a couple of days back, I came to know about an old friend of mine who lives in a small town down south and that she had completely withdrawn from society as she had lost her hair. She had stayed confined to the house till her hair had regrown.

These two incidents made me think. As it is in a country like India where 75000 women die of breast cancer every year, not only the awareness is low. but access to information is also poor. In the two instances that I have cited, the patients are from affluent and educated families, so that proper treatment has been carried out and lives have been saved. But the other aspects like buying a wig or a prosthetic bra was not possible. 

There is another angle to the issue. May be because the women cited in both the cases have married children who do not have much time for seeing to their social needs. Aren’t women above 50 dumped as old and treated as if they have no right to think about their looks?

I think awareness should be spread among the young people about the social and emotional needs of the elderly. They should be made to understand, just fulfilling the medical needs and sending the parents on pilgrimages or holidays is just not enough.

New beginnings

20131231_173649It is the beginning of yet another new year! Every year we greet each other for a life filled with happiness, success, peace on earth and so on!.Most of us take these just for granted. Even I used to accept and pass on these cliches without much thought. New year used to be yet another celebration. But not this year!

Every word of greeting had a new meaning for me this year. If you suffer pain, discomfort, loss of self respect and bouts of depression for eight long months, and if your ordeal gets over exactly on the new year’s eve, then the dawn of New year means a lot to You. I cherish every greeting sent by my friends and family, even the service folk like my pest control boy. Though I didn’t party, though I didn’t attend a midnight mass like a good christian, though I didn’t churn out special dishes from my kitchen, I felt good at the stroke of 12 and happily watched the fireworks from my window. I was happy to wake up and open the facebook and to be greeted by all the friends and acquaintances.

Glad to be alive… I have lost many of my feminine attributes in this  battle with the emperor of maladies.. I am less attractive, acquired more wrinkles, more discolourations… still no problem. This is the NEW ME.  I know that I am not completely out of the danger zone. Still as I said I am glad to be alive, glad to be the life partner of the man who has proved beyond doubt that he wants me in his life, glad to be the mother who has to see the child through career, marriage and child birth.   And now I wish to mention a few people who have contributed to my recovery and my emerging of as a new woman. They are my facebook friends like Shyam shri, Adaikala Devi, Viji Venkatesh, Sheriff Mohideen, Ponni, siddarthan, Nivedita. These people used to appreciate my paintings and kept my spirit buoyant. They were giving me a therapy unknowingly. Especially shyam shri, a past student of mine, who is genuine and caring. Similarly whenever Nivi marked a ‘like’ for my work I used to feel really happy.

My doctors   vanitha Raut,. Deepak Chabbra, Amol Pradhan, Prasad Rajkar are more than doctors. They have proved to be friends who are really concerned about me.

My closest friends Snehalatha and Neetha have always been there to give me emotional support which can come only from friends.

My nieces Shanthi and Mrudhula with whom I share a deep bond used to express their love quite often.

Last, but not least, my siblings Selvaraj, Natraj, and Vedha, my sis in law Mekalai, and my nephew Naveen  have all been at my bed side many times. I have  the best family. I am also glad that my parents have passed away as they would not have been able to bear the news of my illness.

In short everything has been perfect and enabled me to witness the birth of a new year. This new Me is going to enjoy each and everyday of this new year!!!