Tuesday, September 21, 2021

#25SilverLinings - Getting Ready for Surgery

It has been quite some time since my last post of 25 Silver Linings. It was an emotional upheaval for everyone at home, and I think I was a bit hesitant to go back there and relive it. But I think I should do it to overcome it permanently.

My parents and siblings were devastated that I would be losing my whole left breast at age of 29 years. They did not completely agree with my decision to go the allopathy way, though later as I went on surviving, I could say - “I told you so”.

My sister who already was fighting cancer which had progressed to the last stages had a tough time knowing I will be fighting it as well. She was worried more about me since I had two children aged 11 months and nearly 5 years. She loved them and worried a lot.

My sister loved my son a lot
My sister with her loving Nephew
I constantly wore the mask of a brave person, since I did not have anyone with whom I could share my pain, insecurity or fear. My husband was kind of frustrated, irritated, angry and complaining all the time. My dad was confused and did not know what to say but I knew he was suffering immensely. My mom was struggling between my sister’s progress of cancer, my decision to proceed with surgery and my children’s future in case something happened to me. My siblings were too young and inexperienced to deal with cancer of two elder sisters in the family. They were kind of broken and emotionally very vulnerable. My children were affected emotionally as well though they did not know exactly what was happening. Farheena was especially very cranky and crying most of the time. 
How could I leave them behind?

In all the drama, my parents had to manage the Hospital Canteen I was running at the time, all on their own. Customers who knew the situation reacted in two different ways to this. One group gave them support, the other group started tormenting and bullying them. No matter when or where you are, the devils and angels are always there. 

The hospital was a walking distance from my home, so I decided that I would calmly walk away to the hospital when my parents were not around. They were anyway spending a lot of time in the canteen, struggling to manage it without me. Many had food and did not pay and my parents were emotionally broken to do something about it. The business soon started sucking our funds, rather than bringing in profits. I knew I couldn’t help them manage it in any way for at least 10 more days. 

Saturday afternoon I bathed and dressed up both my children and gave Rayyan some activity to keep him engaged. I fed Farheena and ensured she would sleep when I left. My brother was away but both my sisters were at home with a helper we had engaged. I did not want to tell my sisters either that I was going for my surgery, though they both knew the date and time. I calmly wanted to slip away, but my sister came to my room and started weeping. It is one of the most painful experiences for me and has remained etched in my mind. She was battling cancer which had spread on her chest, and she had to deal with this? How fair was it? It appeared to me that my own diagnosis had hurt her more than her own cancer. I did not know how to console her. I throttled all my emotions and killed them instantly, put up a stoic face and assured her I will be back safely in a few days. 

She came up to the gate with me, while my poor younger sister did not know who to attend to. Was she supposed to say bye to me, take care of my sister or pay attention to my children who were in the house? As I stepped out, my sister hugged me tightly and wept saying let us forgive each other any wrong we had done in the past. I told her we have no such grudges at all… and indeed we did not have any. I had a tough time holding back my own emotions, and I am not sure how I did that. Finally I started walking towards the hospital, not turning back to look at anyone or anything I was walking away from. I did not meet my parents either.  

When we talk about cancer treatment, we just look at the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation part of it. What we ignore is the effect it leaves on the person going through it and their loved ones. I was constantly worried about my family and their emotional state rather than my own surgery. I decided then that I had to be brave, stay strong and get back to them. I still value what my sister said that day and forgive my family whenever something goes wrong - because I feel her tell it to me even now. I decided to be there for my family like my sister had always been, before she entered the last stages of cancer and had to resort to Morphine for managing the pain. All that experience started changing something within me and I know I am not the same person I was before my cancer experience. 

When I entered the hospital, the staff who were familiar with me since I visited the hospital twice every week for Farheena’s assessment and therapies were sad and emotional as well. I just sighed and went to the room assigned to me. Soon the medical procedure would start which would get me ready for the surgery on Sunday morning. I decided to resign to whatever was happening because it was beyond me to deal with this. I settled down without worry with my husband being there with me.. all scared and confused as well. 

At this age, they needed their mom more than I needed my breast.

My sister, as always, taking the lead, and leading us (here me)
Tired and exhausted. In fact this was me trying to show my happiness..

Behind is the house that saw a lot of shit happening to my family

Looks tired and exhausted as well

Miss those carefree and happy times with my sister...

Monday, August 2, 2021

#25SilverLinings 9 - Sorting Cancer Related Issues - Wrongway

Sometimes the steady ground beneath you is suddenly pulled away and you are not in control anymore! 

I was a bit worried about talking to my surgeon, because he and his wife were familiar and known people. If the drama of the previous hospital would be repeated in BCH & RC (Bangalore Children’s Hospital and Research Center) it would be very embarrassing for me. I had been visiting the hospital for my children’s checkups and medical needs, so most of the people were known to me. It is different to be embarrassed in front of strangers and among friends/familiar people. But there was no escape. Being my husband, his signature was required on the consent form, especially since he had come back from the gulf. My surgeon had also insisted on talking to him.

I really appreciate one thing about my husband. He made me forget my cancer and my surgery which was due in 3 days. He shifted my focus from cancer to his drama and responses. Great!

5.30 p.m, I slowly walked towards the doctor's room, reluctantly with my husband following me. The pediatrician was available. She immediately informed her husband about my arrival and he said he would come in a few minutes. Once he came, he greeted my husband and introduced himself as my surgeon. I sat there holding tightly to the edge of my chair, but then a miracle happened. My grumpy husband seemed happy and he had a smile. I was relieved as though I had overcome cancer itself. 

The surgeon explained in simple Hindi the diagnosis, type of cancer, the procedure I had chosen and outcome of it. He explained that though it sounded scary, people lead normal lives both professionally and personally after overcoming cancer. He stressed that the marriage will not be affected if we do not allow it to affect us. I could understand now why he insisted on meeting my husband so much. He may have had previous experiences of how cancer may have affected relationships, either strengthening them or breaking them. He asked my husband’s opinion on total radical mastectomy which I had chosen or conservation of breast, which was another option. My husband said, “You can go ahead with what she has chosen. I am OK with it”. 

Everything went smoothly and things got finalized. I was supposed to come to the hospital on Saturday evening. The preparation for the surgery would start then. I would be in the operation theater at 9.30 a.m on 28th of April. Relieved I walked out telling my husband I will be at the billing counter. Then I realized he doesn’t know where the billing counter is and turned back. 

“Will cancer spread to other people?” I heard my husband asking the doctor. 

“No, cancer is not contagious. It is a known fact”, the doctor tried to assure him. 

“ errr ummm I mean it will not even affect any person who is close to one going through cancer?” 

“No” the doctor was being irritated by now, because he could see me through the door and knew I was listening to this conversation, whereas my husband had his back towards me. The doctor did not know my husband because he had flown down from Abu Dhabi only the day before I went in for my surgery but he knew me very well. His wife was a pediatrician where my daughter was being treated and receiving her physiotherapy. The couple was familiar to me and he had shown great support during my diagnosis. At this moment he was not feeling comfortable. 

The doctor very well knew my husband was referring to sex between couple and whether cancer could spread to the spouse  if the couple had sex. 

When my husband tried to open his mouth again he said very firmly, “I know what you are saying. No, cancer doesn’t spread through any means. So far no one has caught cancer through close contact or things like having sex, kissing, touching, sharing meals from a person going through cancer. In fact, cancer cells cannot survive in another person’s body because their immune system will detect and kill foreign cells”. 

He paused to see if the person who he was talking to was able to understand and believe him. He continued, “Your wife will lead a normal life. She can go for breast reconstruction if ‘she’ wants it after she recovers from treatment. She will do fine and this will be just a hurdle to be overcome”. I love the way he stressed the point “she” in the sentence. He moved away, showing he did not want to continue the conversation.

My husband came out of the doctor’s office and saw me standing there. His expressions went through a lot of changes before he said, “You did not catch cancer from your sister. Doctor just said it is not contagious”.  Smart! One point for that. 

“Really? You just stole me the pleasure of accusing my sister of infecting me, especially now that she is going through terminal stage and suffering enough”. I can’t help being sarcastic. 

My husband looked away. 

I know I sounded bitter, but the bitterness had seeped into my whole being like some poison - an ugly, sticky, smelly poison. All I felt at that moment was a great humiliation. No sadness, no anger, no hatred, nor fear, just pure and loathsome humiliation. I bit my lips and did not flare up with anger because cancer had put reins on me. I needed to go through the treatment and manage my children as well. This was no time for ego stroking, or for kicking the husband out of life. This was the time to assure your husband that you will not infect him. No one who has not been there will ever understand how traumatic it can be to a woman, especially to the one who has a strong streak of ego flowing in her being to remain silent when she wants to flare up and let those emotions out. 

I remembered how my husband had been so worried and crying since the day he came. 

So he had been worried and kept to himself, occasionally shedding tears until the doctor confirmed that cancer is not contagious. How hypocritical we are! How shallow are our relationships! 

Today, I don’t accuse him of doing wrong. He did not know about cancer, naturally, it scared the shit out of him. He was at loss not knowing what will happen, how I will respond to the treatment or how much the treatment is going to cost him. He was also not sure that allopathic treatment was the right choice. I can understand the part where he wanted to be sure that he would not be infected by me. It was the way he went about it that hurt me. He should have trusted me. He should have either brought up the topic in front of me in the doctor’s office, or discussed it with him making sure I would not know about it by asking me to leave him alone with the doctor. He could have asked me about the disease as well. That would have made a hell of difference in the way I felt about it. When a person is dealing with a life threatening disease, it is not much to ask for people (especially those who do not stop telling you how much they care) to show some consideration and not hurt that person. But then, we are humans.  

BTW, the elephant in the room was addressed that day by him. Yeah! I have been there and done that. Yet, I don’t feel ashamed today since I have come a long way from there. I have survived everything and today I stand strong. I have to confess though that it takes a lot of effort and a rush of blood to my face to write these feelings down. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Happy Birthday Dear Sister

Happy Birthday dear sister. You are no more with us physically but your presence surrounds us all the time. You would have been 58 years old today and I know how you would have hated that. You will always remain young in our hearts …..
How can a person so full of life and so bubbly be dead? I still haven’t come to terms with that fact. For me it will never be a fact at all. I still recall most of the naughty and silly things we did as kids. I remember the day we hid on the attic behind the coconut shells because we did not want to go back to Bangalore leaving our pet fishes behind in our native village -   Byndoor. How you always wanted everything around us to be fair. The way you divided our double bed into two parts with a rope or sometimes a string running between us.. (I could never keep to my side of it because I always twisted and turned in sleep). 
How fiercely you fought to win the game of gatta. What made you not fight cancer that way? Thank God Mommy intervened the day we tried to crush hands of a girl on grinding stone for cheating in a game. I can remember all those incidents just as though it had happened yesterday. The way you used to laugh out loud when you found something funny about a person and especially the look they would have on their faces. They were always confused about how they should react. 
Whatever you were … you were not a hypocrite. You were one of those people who could wail and cry in the same way you could laugh. Remember the day your favorite cassette was accidentally erased by Sajid? LOL. I really could not believe what I heard that day. At first I thought you were joking, but then realized it was a real whine and a cry. 
Even when going through BC you celebrated every time you found out something positive .. like the wound healing a bit, or you not feeling much pain etc. How many parties did you throw while you suffered with BC? You made everyone believe that nothing will happen to you. I think you were right. BC has not done anything much to you. You are still there beautiful, young, happy, naughty woman laughing away .. having your way as usual in hearts of all the people who have known you. 

Love you always.

Whenever I see Rayyan, I think of you. You were so fussingly loving towards him. You made him a special prince of our home. I try to keep him that way always. You had little time with Farheena, and that too was between fighting cancer. Yet, you showered her with love. You were very proud of both of them. 

Time has no effect on your memories. They are bright with me as though they were created just yesterday. You will stay with me as long as my mind can remember something. 

Wishing you happy birthday dear sister.......................

Saturday, July 10, 2021

#25SilverLinings 8 - Doctor Checkup Dilemma

I knew the next morning, something about the relationship which was already shaking had changed and it was never going to be the same again. We both behaved normally as if there was no elephant in the room, and soon I got ready to go to Bangalore Institute Of Oncology for another opinion just to satisfy my husband. The doctor who was about to see me was a jovial person and kept laughing throughout our talks with him. I cannot say that was encouraging, though I know he put efforts to lift the patient's spirit. He wanted to check the biopsy report and also the spot where the lump was located. 

By now, I was used to check-ups of breasts by doctors. Those precious secret mounds were no more so secretive and had been fumbled with too often in the past month. But for the guy accompanying me, this was new. For someone who believed that women should be in a burkha, a man feeling her breasts was not easy to digest. 

He panicked and asked, “How do you think he's going to do the check-up? Will he feel and touch you?”. I actually had to answer that question because he continued looking at me.. seeking an answer from me. After a while I answered, “Yes, that is how check-ups are done”. I could see the change of expression which turned into a mix of frustration, anger and jealousy. “You should have told me this earlier” he said, sounding as though I hid something from him on purpose. I just kept quiet because I knew I couldn’t handle this now. I was already scared, tired and worried about the surgery happening in 3 days, and this was not something I wanted to deal with. “Are there no female oncologists? You should have taken an appointment with a lady doctor”, he continued. “I don’t think the gender of the doctor matters. They are professionals”. I had to say something since it was getting uncomfortable to keep quiet as well. “It does. You ask for a lady doctor or nurse to check you up. I don’t want him doing it. He looks like a flirt”. I saved myself from saying anything more by being called in for the check-up. I went in without solving his issue with the male doctor because I did not want to. It was not important for me now. 

Honestly, it is not easy for anyone to get adjusted to the hospital experience, especially when you go through something as serious as cancer. Even childbirth can be tough, but at least you are already familiar with the doctor for the past few months. The whole procedure of checkups can take its tiny toll on our minds. Not many understand this. 

I changed into a hospital gown. The check up was done which was unnecessary because the surgery was already scheduled and I was going ahead with it. Now, I had to go back and face the guy outside once again. Life seemed unfair and tough at that time when I was wearing my clothes with the nurse waiting to help me in case I needed her. She saw my expression and came over to assure me that everything was going to be alright. I told her, “it would be the day they discover cure for hate, stupidity and insensitivity, and a way to fix stupid husbands” and we both laughed at that and walked out. Seeing me smiling along with the nurse, my husband was irritated, but before he could open his mouth, we were ushered into the Doctor’s cabin for further discussion. He wanted to know about my schedule of operation and whether I would prefer to get it done in a specialized onco hospital. He tried to explain how dangerous it was to get operated in a hospital which was not specialized for cancer treatment. In short, he was trying to promote him as my surgeon, but he scared my husband a bit, because he started to believe that I had made a foolish choice by deciding to operate in a pediatric hospital. I told the doctor, “I will think over what you have explained and get back to you tomorrow”. I knew I would call and tell him that I am going ahead with my previous plans. He insisted on speaking to the head of BCH&RC and I shared the number with him. 

On the way back my husband was grumpy, angry and mumbling something which I couldn’t hear. Later he said, “I feel very bad about that guy checking your breast. That is too intimate, He was joking something with the nurse as well and then you both were laughing. I think it is wrong for a male doctor to check you up”. I answered, “Yes, I think so too. Let us cut that breast and throw it off after a few days. It has been spoiled by his touch anyway”. That somehow shut him off. 

The next day, I had to talk to my surgeon, Dr. Murad Lala regarding the scheduled surgery. He also wanted to talk to my husband and explain the surgical procedure, future care and many other things post cancer treatment to him. He was a friendly person and had a good sense of humor, the kind that did not make you uncomfortable but could put a smile on your face. He was a young and energetic person and now that scared me. Since he did not have a special cabin, we usually consulted him in his wife’s cabin since she worked in the hospital as a pediatrician. After my experience with the checkup the previous day, I was worried what I would have to handle the next day again. I realized that already my worries were not about cancer or surgery that is staring at me, but about something or someone else. Disease, illness, wounds and other ailments are not as bad as toxic people or relationships, since no one ever tries to cure it or understands the pain it causes. No one would tell me to tolerate cancer, right? They would ask me to seek a cure and get well soon. What if I was suffering in a wrong relationship? They would tell me to continue to suffer. Something to think over……………..

The 11 month old daughter definitely gave me enough energy and strength to put up with all the nonsense.
I somehow feel I look quite stupid in those days, before Rayyan's wisdom rubbed off on me.
I usually wonder why they deck the bride so? There must be some hidden meaning to all of this drama.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

#25SilverLinings - The Elephant In The Room

Money talks or lures many men to work abroad, especially in the Gulf, leaving their family behind. That works well until they get married and have children. Many of them are not around to attend the funeral of their parents, birth of their child or during the challenging times to lend a shoulder to their wife. Rizwan was one of them. He missed the death of his parents and birth of both his children. He had moved to UAE at a very young age, maybe 18, and spent the majority of his life there. In our 7 years of marriage, we had been together for a short time. Unfortunately even the little time we spent together was not quality time since there were always issues to be resolved. His family never hid the fact that they disliked me since the day he announced he was marrying me for reasons known better to them. They always created a lot of stress in our relationship, and at times I would get tired of explaining things to him about what actually happened when he was not around. Most of our post married life was spent resolving issues, either related to us or his family.

Now, what usually happens with these couples who stay apart for say 16 -24 months at a stretch, sex becomes something they look forward to when they meet. I feel that is a natural response for any couple.
In my life, when cancer had raised its ugly head, my daughter with special needs and the crying husband who was withdrawing into a shell, sex became an elephant in the room. I did not know how to address this issue. Should it happen, should it not happen was the dilemma. I was confused about handling this issue. The elephant was there but we both were not addressing it. I was worried about his response and he was crying silently and looking completely worried, not excited or aroused at all.
I was very confused about my role. I had no idea what was the right thing to do. I decided to take the back seat. Now I cannot mention what he was thinking, because people’s thoughts are hidden from us. I am damn sure if that was not the case, then Thanos did not have to make the effort to wipe out half of the population. People would do that for Thanos. Ignorance is bliss and the reason the human population is growing.
We were sitting silently in our room, since it was decided that we would go for a second opinion the next day and since I agreed there was nothing more to continue the conversation. My sister came to speak to him. He was saddened to see her. She was upset that I had not given him a good bedsheet, and ordered someone to get it for him. He still remembers her gesture and mentions it at times. She was in pain and was on Morphine and for someone talking to her after a long time, the effects of cancer’s progress were too striking. I could see both fear and sadness in my husband.
We had our dinner silently. Tomorrow I would go to an oncologist for a third opinion (not second)- I already had opinions from two doctors. As we retired, the elephant remained in the room. For me at that moment, sex was not a pleasure, a need but an assurance that things were OK with me. Somehow, breast cancer and the talks surrounding it had made me feel as though I am losing my femininity rather than a breast. The assurance was not happening and I wasn’t going to seek it either since my ego was bigger than an elephant. It always has been and I saw that cancer had not touched it. I was only losing my breast and not my pride.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Happy Birthday Dear Daughter


 When Farheena entered my life on 11th May 1995, my joy knew no bounds. Farheena has ensured that I continue to enjoy her company even to this day. She inspires with her uncomplicated thinking and way of looking at things without being prejudiced or judgmental. Having a daughter born after a son completed me as a mother.

Just a few days ago I was holding a little baby in my hands… so calm and peaceful she lay asleep that I could not believe it was my own baby. OH NO!!! it was not a few days ago. It has been freaking 26 years now. What year is it? 2021???? Ok! I was holding her in 1995.. Wow! 

It seems just like a few days ago. I can still feel her warmth, smell the baby smell and hear her baby snore. So my baby is turning into a fine young princess or precisely a Queen. 
When doctors told me she is special girl I did not have any trouble believing them. She was special and I could see that in a different way than what they meant. As days changed into months and months into years, she went on to prove to be special in everyway. I have seen her bring out the best in people. Even the not so good ones. She has smile and love for everyone in the world. She doesn’t know the barriers of countries, caste, creed, color, money, status, age, etc. Not even the importance of human race LOL. For her all creations of God are equal. For her everyone with a ‘HI’ is a friend. Anyone with anger, scowl or growl is ‘Me happy no’. So simple is life in her terms just like her language. To be happy, sad, and angry just happens naturally. No drama. Nope. I remember her saying bye to the ceiling fan before shutting it off. Saying sorry to a pencil for dropping it down.

I love the way Farheena greets the day with her unique sentence, "Tomorrow has happened!" There are many things that only Farheena can say or do, especially the unconditional and limitless love she shares with people around her. 
With her medals and certificate
Though life began with loads of challenges for Farheena, there is nothing that can stop her from being happy. Today, Farheena does not talk fluently, but she does communicate in her own way and style. She can see clearly. She walks with little help. Farheena manages her own life and keeps in touch with friends of her choice through internet. Facebook and recently WhatsApp are her favorites. 

When Rayyan got married last November, she couldn't be part of all the fun, due to mobility challenge but once home, she organized games for Madiha and all of us and enjoyed to the fullest. She also got pictures of Madiha in different poses on the flower decorated bed. 
She embraced her sister-in-law with all love and Madiha did the same. I love the picture of them below. Madiha and Farheena have a special bond unlike any I have seen.

With limited words she can pronounce or spell, she uses her creativity to convey messages to us. Her lack of complete vocabulary has not stopped her from communicating with people. She keeps trying until she is understood.  

Sharing her friend's secret with her baby doll Annie

2015 marked a new Era of my life because this was the year when Farheena walked in with her first Salary she received for making paper bags in YST which is now Fame Swalambhana. She is involved in lot more activities now.

That was the biggest goal of my life achieved. People who do not understand the whole concept often ask me, “How much does she earn?” That is not important. What makes it important for me as a mother is to know that she is now capable of being engaged in fruitful and purposeful work throughout the day. Apart from her job at Fame Swalambhana , Farheena is busy on limeroad creating her scrapbook with styles of her choice. She has given me a few fashion tips and tries to correct me when she feels I am wearing inappropriate clothes for an occasion. With lockdown shutting of her vocational center, she started her online shopping for friends, helping them find what they need and selling few products. She loves earning in her own simple way. She doesn't surrender to being completely dependent. 

My inspiration in 2021 or any yearis my special daughter Farheena who has not allowed anyone to take her for granted. She knows how to protect herself and when to ask for help if someone is bothering her. She carries herself with dignity of a queen and is proud of her achievements. She has the ability to make people feel like somebody special. Moreover, unlike many people I know, she loves and respects herself.
She showed the effect of society on special people which inspired me to start an inclusive preschool - My Giggle Garden. Even though we are now closed due to Covid19 Pandemic, she has ignited a passion in me to make our society more inclusive for special people like her. 
20 years ago, I was consulting a lawyer regarding my legal rights. During the course of discussion, I mentioned that I am proud of my daughter. The lawyer then retorted saying, “Stop lying to yourself Farida. Come out of the delusion you are living in. No one can be proud of a special needs child. You can accept and love her but cannot be proud of her”. I was confused back then and walked away without answering her. I knew I felt pride in my heart when I think of my daughter but I was not sure. 
Today, I can very confidently say that I am very proud of my daughter. She has taught me a very important lesson in my life that – it is not what you get in your life that matters, but what you do with what you have which makes the difference. I know she will continue to inspire me in the coming years as well.
People who do not see what she sees make all those unnecessary exclamations which has sadly changed her a bit. But inside she is still the same baby with fiery temper which lasts for few minutes. Like it has always been easy to make her happy and smile so is it easy to make her sad and cry. I hope that everybody connected to her will understand her innocence and make her smile always without hurting her … even when I am not around. I send a silent prayer to God to take of our (she just partially belongs to me) little angel always………..
There is a story I would like to share with you, which has always helped me deal with my daughter for all these years. Helped me to restrain myself from making changes to her. Not wanting progress in a hurry. I know deep in my heart that there is reason for everything happening around us.
A man strolling through his garden found a cocoon of a butterfly. He would watch it everyday. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily . Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the small opening of the cocoon are God's (Read "Nature's" if that comforts you) way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon . Sometimes, Struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God ("Nature", for those who don’t believe in supreme power) allowed us to go through all our life without any obstacles, that would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Not only that, we could never fly.
(Source of story : Unknown)
Have a happy flight Farheena… you have squeezed enough power in your wings now. Wishing my dear girl a very happy 14th Birthday.
I am very happy to share the story of my hope and happiness to people who may feel overwhelmed by the challenges in their lives. Hang-on and fight with all your might! You will succeed.

The pretty Baby

Loves to dress up

Determined to get on her feet after triple
fusion surgery on ankles

Making her style statement

One of those rare days when she cleans
our home

Thursday, May 6, 2021

#25SilverLinings - The Knight In Shining Armour

I was waiting for the 25th of April 1996, when my husband would arrive from Abhu Dhabi. From the start of our relationships, we had our differences, issues and fights, but then we were also the closest two people can get. We shared sex, affection, love and care for each other. We shared the parenthood of two lovely children. He was the man who was responsible for me and my children, so the burden had to ease when he came, right? He was supposed to be the Knight in shining armour during my fight with a monster called cancer.

He first went to his home in Byndoor and paid a visit to his Mom’s grave before coming to Bangalore with his brother. When he came, Farheena was asleep and Rayyan greeted him happily. He was so proud to show off his beautiful sister to his dad. I was busy with the pending cancer treatment and did not pay much attention to get him ready for Farheena. I should admit that I never felt a need to get anyone ready to meet Farheena. I completely forgot what effect a daughter with special needs would have on her father seeing her for the first time when she was 11 months old. Unfortunately, he was not ready for all the challenges that he was facing, especially a special needs girl child, his mom's death and my cancer all rolled into one.
When I was looking forward to assurance, support and strength from him, the first thing he did was break down and cry. I felt sorrow surging in me as well and I was on the verge of tears. I consoled him and felt sorry, but the darling he is, he has this habit of changing my feelings quickly, especially when he opens his mouth to talk. He never allows me to feel bad for him for long.
“Why me?” he asked, “First Allah gives me a disabled daughter(that was not an acceptable term), after a few months my mom died and now my wife has cancer. I haven’t done anything wrong. Why is he punishing me?”
Good for me, because the tears I was about to shed along with him started to retrace their steps. Suddenly I had my sarcastic humour taking charge of the situation. I am not sure whether I was fair or not, but it happens to me very often.
“Darling, you must have done something bad and forgotten it. Maybe God knows why he is doing this. He is almighty and just and punishes only the wrong people, you yourself said so few days ago, right?”. Yeah, I was sarcastic, because sarcasm is my mother tongue. Whenever I am pissed off I talk in my mother tongue. I am who I am, fair or not. In our real lives, everyone is right in their own way. I don’t think he did not have the right to grieve, but I also had my right to find one shoulder to lean on. So, bad things happen between people, intentionally or unintentionally. This was the start of something which I never wanted in my life, but like cancer it happened. The cracks started to appear.
I was pissed off because he was not seeing that it was me who was supposed to fight for my life, who needed support and who was scared. It was all about him and how he was being punished or whatever that was. Now besides my family, I had one more person to console, convince and take care of. The word Mazoor (meaning disabled) was not something I expected to hear regarding Farheena. We avoided negative words, especially because Rayyan was a very sensitive child. I was hearing it for the first time and I was not happy about it either.
But I calmed myself down in a short span of time, because I had to go through my surgery, keep other chaotic people calm in our home, take care of my children for 10 days of hospitalization which the doctor said was required. I realized this was not the time to be pissed off but to be sensible in handling the Knight who was throwing tantrums about his fate. So, I again went back to consoling him, assuring him everything will be OK and not to worry. This again triggered a lot more complaints from him
“I bought this netted lingerie with so much love. Now you will never be able to wear it”. (yes darling, rub salt in my wound). I replied, “let us wait and see how life turns out. We don’t know. We did not expect bad things to happen but it did, in the same way something good can happen as well”. (Like all of a sudden you become a more sensible person to give me support with different vocabulary).
He came out with a lot of plans he had - the only time he had them was when it wouldn’t work out for us- and how disappointed he was. He was the saddest of all the people around me then. I was consoling him when Farheena woke up. Another torrent of questions started pouring out
“What is wrong with her?”
“Can she talk?”
“Can she walk?”
“What can we do to fix her?”
I invoked the mother of all patience I had in me, to answer him calmly. I think he was very nervous and I pitied him as well. I told him, “We can get back to Farheena and her treatment after tackling the issue on hand right now, that is my cancer and surgery scheduled in 2 days”.
He then came up with a shocking suggestion - “Can you postpone the surgery so that we can check out what alternative medicines we have. Someone mentioned that there is a guy in Kerala who heals cancer, let us try that out before removing the breast”.
I knew here I had to be very firm, much more firmer than the breasts are in our teen years. I told him sternly, “This is my choice of tackling cancer. I am not trying anything else. No use trying to change my mind now when the surgery is scheduled in 2 days”.
“How about a second opinion?” he asked pleading, “maybe this is not cancer. Maybe they made a mistake in diagnosis”. I agreed, though I was very sure that without the lump and only the biopsy report to go by, the doctor himself will not have any other choice but to say out loud what is written in the report. But at that stage, it was tough explaining things to him, so I agreed to visit a doctor the next day in another oncology hospital.
He continued with his droopy face, teary eyes and grief. I was now trying to feed Farheena with bottle milk and I looked at the person who was supposed to be my Knight in shining armour. All of sudden he reminded me of a knight -Don Quixote and I smiled. Farheena returned my smile very sweetly. At that moment I knew I had to smile and go through this for my little ones. I brought forth my own armour and decided to be my own Knight hereafter. That was another silver lining for me.
The smiles that made me a warrior. The little ones were the source of my strength

Promises that shook when cancer struck ..

Change is inevitable 

We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears. Francois de La Rochefoucauld

#25SilverLinings - Believing a Lie and Living It

The accusation had driven me angry. Time and tide wait for none… I had calmed myself  down. I am usually very good physically and emotionally when I am angry. It heals me. I know many will not agree with me, but when I am angry I do all the right things. 

Slowly I calmed down and settled to wait for the date of surgery. It was just 20 days, but the days were just crawling slowly at a sloth’s pace. Meanwhile, my sister was an emotional wreck and afraid of what would happen after my surgery. Even though her condition was more serious, she constantly worried about me. Hospice had stepped in and started Morphine for her. When breast cancer is left alone, it can really turn into a scary thing as it progresses. My sister had the courage to deal with it. She dressed the open wound everyday and it was much later that I convinced her to take something for her pain. Until then, she tolerated the pain with OTC painkillers. But as we all know, it is not the physical pain which can destroy you, but the emotional pain. Physical pain has its limit, beyond which you either faint or go numb, but the emotional pain will just destroy you because you are defenseless against it. This is what I saw in my sister who went on deteriorating faster after she got to know about my diagnosis. 

I was trying hard either to assure her that I will be OK or avoid her. We just couldn’t be together without the topic of my cancer cropping up its ugly head and making her emotional. Moreover she doubted my choices. 

The other cranky person I had to deal with was Farheena. I had suddenly weaned her off breast milk and she was not happy with it. Rayyan was playing, singing and trying to calm her down as I tried bottle feeding her. She would push the nipple out and demand for breast milk crying loudly at times. She was a peaceful baby who did not cry much, and seeing her like this was very frustrating. Those times I felt life/God or  something out there was very unfair. 

Due to milk collection, the tenderness in my breast became quite painful, especially on the side where the biopsy had been done. Pus had collected around the stitches and the doctor recommended I get the stitches removed. I was not eager. I felt that since the breast was going to be removed, what is the big deal with the stitches on it? The surgeon who did the biopsy did not want to hear those arguments. He was also a bit upset that I chose another doctor for surgery. He was a general surgeon, but I was damn sure that I wanted a onco surgeon only to operate on me. He said, “I did the biopsy and put those stitches in. I will remove it and finish what I started. You can do whatever you want after that”.  Six ouches later, the threads were out. The breast was looking very nasty and had developed different hues. 

There were times when I would feel a shiver running through my spine. I would feel scared as though I was facing a real monster. But I had to work hard to keep my fears locked within me since my family who were not expressive earlier, had started responding to the news now emotionally. All that I thought was bravery was nothing but numbness that hit them due to the shock of the news. The emotional condition of everyone around me was similar to the orchestra which was moving toward the crescendo. 

The biggest challenge here was to convince everyone around me that I had made the right decision to proceed with my surgery and removal of my breast which would be followed by chemotherapy and radiation.  There were a lot of issues they were worried about and the biggest one was me being OK and alive after the huge surgery. All my energy was being spent convincing my family that I was doing the right thing. They did everything because they loved me and more than me they loved my children. I had no heart to be rude to them or ignore them. I was myself worried and scared. I needed someone to pacify me and tell me everything's going to be alright, but here I was convincing others that I am going to be alright. 

Every negative thing has a positive side to it. Trying to defend my decision and convincing my sister and my family, I ended up convincing myself as well. I am not sure whether it can be called ‘believing your own lie’ because I was not exactly lying but I was not telling the truth either because I was not in control of the future. It is known that  a lie can embed itself in memory and come to feel as real as the truth and that is what happened to me when I was convincing everyone about the successful outcome of my treatment. I became more and more confident with each passing day. 

A week before my surgery I met my doctor to discuss and finalize a few things. He asked me to donate my blood so that it can be used during the surgery. I was a bit skeptical about this, but he explained how my own blood was the  safest blood to transfuse because it eliminated  disease transmission and allergic reactions which could be dangerous. He also explained that my body would start regenerating blood within 24 hours, so not to worry about it. I trusted him completely and went ahead with his suggestions. He asked me about my children, my family etc. He wanted to meet my husband and talk to him as well before going ahead with the surgery. At the end he said, “It felt as though we were talking about having dinner on a weekend rather than about the surgery on a Sunday morning. It is surprising how calm and collected you are”.  That was the result of convincing my family about my success story. I had come to believe it by repeating it day in and day out and now I think I can say I lived it out as well for 25 years.

My dad, myself, my sister and my mom- 4 of us had to fight cancer. 

Just few months before all the hell broke loose.. we were already stuggling during this time.

You can dress and pose whichever way you want, the pain cannot be hidden. I think I can see my own pain here where I am trying to look normal and act cool..

The guy always missing in group pics because he was clicking the pictures. 

Reflections - A-Z Challenge 2021

A to Z Challenge 2021

 I came across the A to Z April 2021 challenge link on 29th of March, so I was late for Theme Reveal, yet that did not deter me from jumping into it. 

My theme for the challenge was - Things that helped me surive cancer for 25 years. Since this April I enter into my 26th year of survival, it made a perfect match for the 26 alphabet. 

Since this was a spontaneous decision, I had to think of the blog everyday and create one because I had just time for a blog after regular working hours. Though at first I wanted to write about what helped me, later I decided to go ahead with something common for everyone. For example, when writing about Letter 'C' - I would say my children were a great motivation for my surival but then that is not the case with everyone. So, I went with being 'Calm' which is very much a part of fighting cancer. Plans kept changing, sometimes it was difficult to choose one topic when ideas were flowing for many of them and they all looked important. 

The stats did not change much for me, though I had comments coming in for the posts. Usually I have visitors without comment left on my blogs, but A-Z challenge visitors left behind comments. It also encouraged me to visit other blogs and leave behind comments. 

I found some amazing blogs to read. I also had great bloggers visiting my blog leaving behind encouraging comments. - Her pictures and posts were as beautiful as her. Arti's coomments were heartwarming always. - Very savvy posts. She  went out of her way to help me set up my profile right so that my blog would have easy access. Trudy had amazing list of movies. I looked forward to reading them everyday. - Her posts took me back to the days of school in St. Joseph's Convent. Found amazing art and another cancer warrior. Anne M Bray- you rock Thank you for your visit.

There were many more blogs I visited but I unable to add them to the list at present. 

I couldn't do the scavenger hunt due to lack of time after a full time job. 

I want to get back to the challenge once again whenever it is announced. 

Thank you everyone

My list of posts for A to Z Challenge 2021

A -  Awareness - Action - Attitude 

B - Bald yet Brave and Bold

C - Calm Despite Cancer 

D - Determination To Change Destiny 

E - Enthusiasm To Enjoy Life

F - Focused Yet Flexible

G- Feel Good With Gratitude

H - Humour Helps You Heal

I - Informative Intelligence

J - Joyful Journey Of Life

K - Kickstart Kindness Now

L - Learn to Listen toYour Body

M - Mind Full to Mindful - A Meaningful Journey

N - Nurture with Nature

O - Open Minded Optimism 

P - Persistant Patience Empowers Perseverance

Q - Quality or Quantity - Dilemma of Treatment

R - Recuperate - Respect Your Rebirth

S - Self Love - Smart Love

T - Thoughts - Tune Them To Triumph

U - Unlock Your Upgrade

V - Victim or Victor, The Choice Is Yours

W - The Watchful Will Win

X - Find Your X-Factor, Be Xtraordinary 

Y - Yes, 'YOU' Matter

Z - Add Zest & Zeal To Your Life


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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