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

Friday, April 30, 2021

Z - Add Zest & Zeal To Your Life


Ah, there we have A Z A Z in Add Zest And Zeal. What a perfect way to end a challenge A to Z!

Once we have fought and won over cancer, let us not end up being alive, but rather live our life fully with high doses of Zest and Zeal. We have already been near death once, so let us now get back to life with a zeal never seen before. 

As children we remember very vividly what we did in the summer vacation with more love than the regular school days, unless you had a terrible home environment and school was your refuge. Add to it all those family picnics, vacations, honeymoon or any other events that gave you the freedom to live your life without a care. It is easy to see the difference between being alive, existing and actually living our life to the fullest. 

You don’t have to be on a vacation, holidays or any fancy place to fill your life with happiness, but you can make small changes in your workplace, home, life-style and thoughts to make it come alive. 

Zest is that part of us that we either hide or forget as we grow up abiding to the rules of what is the right thing for us to do. A simple definition of the word says, it is about living life with a sense of excitement, anticipation and energy, that is essential to nurture our soul,  and gives us a spirit that makes us stand out as a human. Those who have imbibed zest in their lifestyle, will make even ordinary tasks look something important and interesting. Remember the guy who went out with a broom to sweep in footloose? If you don’t, check out his video below. 

After long struggle with diagnosis, opinions, second opinion, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and recovery, it is easy to lose our zeal for life and even the zest if we had it in the first place. It is easy to feel grateful to push through each day without an incident or manage just what we have to do to survive. This attitude will steal our life from us, even though we have won over cancer. 

It is important for us to get back that zeal and zest in our life so that we make it worth the second chance we get. 

Always be around people who make you feel like a warrior, rather than push you to worry with their cancer related sob tales.If the need arises, it is OK to stop them firmly (or rudely) if you feel what they say is going to put you down. 

Set goals which have nothing to do with your fight with cancer. Even if you are very happy with your life, find something new and exciting to do. Strike out the word boredom from your life. Fill the spaces of boredom with something exciting to do

Laugh and let others laugh with you. Reach out with your helping hand to those who really need your help. There is a great deal of happiness, contentment and peace when you know you were able to make a difference to someone. It is good to smile and laugh out loud, but believe me, it feels much better when you wipe tears and make a sad person smile. 

Let us make our life meaningful and live it to the fullest by adding zest and zeal to everything we do. Good luck!

Some of my friends have been a great inspiration to me. Duffy Mathias is one of them. Fighting lot of health issues besides cancer, she never stopped living. Her jump says it all..

We had a great Sari party in Florida with my sisters in survival of breast cancer. Not just new, may be one of a kind. 

I fulfilled my dream of visting Disney World with my children 

There were this special moments in our life, and then there were everyday events which we the made the best of. That was something which made our lives special and filled it with zeal and zest.... 

And not to forget the video from footloose

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Y- Yes,’YOU’ Matter


We grow up listening to all those things matter, which includes our good behavior, following our religion, abiding to social norms, scoring good marks in academics, finding a good job, being on time, hard work etc etc etc. The list is unending with few additions in it only for women, but unfortunately ‘YOU’ are never there on the list, right? Slowly we start to care about everyone and everything other than us. 
That happened to me as well until cancer knocked my door. It left me wondering when undergoing treatment, what is the use of everything I did, achieved or have if ‘I’ myself am not there. They all turn to dust with me. If I die, I cannot be a mom, a daughter, a sister or a wife, so I have to take care of my needs, my health and my happiness if I want to be there for others. Not only that, I had to learn to value myself without attaching value only to what I accomplish or what I can do for others. I wanted to just be there and feel important, like a cat.

Life is going to have the good days and the bad ones, you will be lazy or busy, things will look up and then they will slide down, but you are always there in your life. You can escape from everyone, but you have to be with you always. Once you start to realize ‘YOU’ matter, you will make time for yourself to do things which do bring a sense of accomplishment but sheer happiness. It can be listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk, going out with friends or reading a book without a purpose… just for the sheer joy of it. Many people end up with guilt, or feel they are wasting precious time when they indulge in their own happiness. As a counselor I hear this so often, even from people as young as 13 or less. 
The word selfish is very scary. We are made to believe at times, that being happy is being selfish, but we have to learn the difference to be happy yet not selfish. In fact, selfishness chases away happiness. If you observe, you will see that selfish people are never happy people. 
After the cancer treatment, there are times when you feel you are not complete. You have to unlearn all that you were taught earlier, and learn to love and accept yourself for who you are and what you have become after cancer. This is the time you need this self-love more than ever. You have to learn to accept the fact that ‘You’ matters the most in your life. You have to learn to enjoy your life and be happy without going through the guilt. 

Sometimes the journey itself is more beautiful than the destination. We get lost by focusing on the time, what we should do when we reach our destination, what if we don’t get there on time and many other worries that we forget to notice or enjoy of the journey itself. We may never reach our destination in some cases. Let this not be the story of the journey of our life. Let us not focus so much on destination, that we forget to enjoy the journey. Let us live this moment and feel it. Let us learn to accept the fact that ‘We’ matter so that we don’t get so busy making a living that we forget to live our life.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Find Your X-Factor, Be Xtraordinary


Not many can understand something as complicated as the X-factor because it cannot be graded or measured in numbers. Like many other good things, it is felt by you. On the other hand, it is easy to know who the x.y.z people are. XYZ is also a code for zipper down, but we are not dealing with pant zips today. 

When we talk about Monalisa painting, we say Leonardo Da Vinci painted it. If we see some art which is not attractive with an unknown author, we call it a painting by some xyz artist. So, how do we become someone special and not just any xyz? The key is to find our X-factor like so many ordinary people did to play  a role, write a book, create a masterpiece, find their talent in a game or a talent for doing something they were passionate about. 

What do you cherish the most in your life besides the people and relationships? It is something rare, unique and has some special thing about it, right?  It can be a book, a jewelry, a cutlery or anything, but if you cherish it, then it is something extraordinary. Finding your X-factor will make you that treasure which you value. Though we all talk about the X-factor not many find it, because we are not looking for it. 

It is believed that every person is born with a X-factor but they live their life without finding it. 

On the stage of the reality shows, we have seen ordinary people perform extraordinary feats. It is those who found their X-factor and a platform to show it off. For every person receiving a standing ovation there, there are millions who haven't found that X-factor, or just ignored it after finding it.

Stand our with your X-factor
If you ever had a brush with your passionate abilities, but you pushed it aside because you had a more important task on hand, think back on it once again. Catch hold of your X-factor that brings out that unique talent in you which gives you a sense of effortless joy, which makes you feel like a Xtraordinary person. It is not always important for others to acknowledge that you are Xtraordinary, you have to feel it and experience it.

Not everybody who finds their X-factor has to make it big, though it always helps to have a bonus. Many may enjoy helping poor and needy, but they may not make it as big as what Mother Theresa did. Every person who found their writing talent may not become as famous as J.K Rowling. But, every person can be special in their own life and make a difference in any small way they can. We lost touch with our X-factor when we were told A- is for apple when our mind was thinking about a lot of things that connected to A.

For me A looked like a swing from sideways but our imagination is shut off when we are forced to learn like everyone else. That was the past. Now we have got another shot at life, and let us live that by being someone special in our own small unique way. 

An ambition, a purpose and a goal to pursue will always give you extra strength to fight for your life. So it is time now to find your X-factor, or if you had already found it, focus more on it to make it big. Let the treasure hunt begin for our X-factor. Good luck!

Below I am sharing few art creations by my special needs daughter which will prove that even simple things can be Xtraordinary.

Farheena and her friends posing for group photo

She called it 'Tree of Life'

Mommy and Baby flowers

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

W - The Watchful Will Win


When it comes to cancer, timely and early treatment makes a world of difference to the final outcome. Also, my doctor says, right treatment the first time is the best treatment. So, what can help us get the right timely treatment or keep a check on recurrence? It is being watchful. Be confident, be positive, but also be wary and watchful. 

Cancer like many killer diseases creeps in silently until it becomes a bit late for us to notice something is off. Screening and regular health checkups will help in early detection of any disease. Many people have lost their battle to immediate recurrence, a period when they thought the battle is over and are relaxing. My mom was one of them. Sigh!

Some of us love to think of selves as those favored people with whom nothing can go wrong. The bad things always happen to others. Then there are the opposites who usually feel everything bad is happening only to them. Both of those mindsets can be dangerous to our health. Thinking nothing will go wrong and ignoring what has to be done, can allow certain illnesses to progress to dangerous levels to show symptoms. Also, constantly worrying about illnesses and diseases that do not exist but we think exists, can be dangerous in itself. “Killed by worry” is a possibility.

For those with family history of cancer, or at higher risk, a regular screening plan should be formulated after consulting healthcare workers. Also watch your healthcare plans and insurance policies. Believe me, I have been in a very bad financial crunch after my cancer experience and I know how tough it is to fight for paying the regular bills along with cancer.  

After my cancer experience, I overdid the watching part. After my third chemo, I saw another lump on my non-operated breast which scared the &^%& out of me, but later it turned out to be a clot which went away with a few massages. Later there was scar tissue left on the operated spot which looked like a lump which again was scary. It took me sometime to realize the difference between being watchful and having an irrational fear of cancer coming back. I found the balance between the two to be on watch but not fearful. 

Apart from physical illness, some more dangerous emotional challenges like fear of recurrence, anger, guilt, depression or chronic anxiety may silently make entry into our life without us being aware of them. It is very difficult to deal with them when they settle down comfortably. Nipping them in the bud is easier. 

In the past 25 years, I have realized that there are many screenings which are very important at regular intervals, and some are recommended though they are not required. Not being an oncologist, I have no right to name them, but I would suggest everyone to evaluate, get different opinions and finally settle down with a follow up plan after cancer treatment. I have realized that some of the scans I went through were not necessary much later. 

Besides cancer, it is important to watch your emotional/mental health as well. Chemotherapy can wreak havoc on both your body and mind. Chemobrain is not a myth. Side-effects like hair loss, fluctuating blood count, nausea etc happen immediately after treatment, but there are other side effects called late effects that may develop months or even years after cancer treatment ends. Long-term and late effects can include physical and emotional changes which need your attention more than the immediate side-effects because they are here to stay. You need a plan to deal with them. 

It pays to be watchful of your treatment plan, side-effects, follow-up reports and general health as well. When it comes to cancer, the watchful are the winners.

Monday, April 26, 2021

V - Victim or Victor, The Choice Is Yours!


Five years after my fight with cancer, I was asked, “I hear you are also a victim of cancer” by an educated person. I answered, “I went through cancer and here I am, alive. You don’t see cancer here, right? So, to put it out precisely, we both had a fight and cancer was the victim and I am the victor”.
We use the word victim freely, without understanding how damaging it can be someone, especially those who are alive.
I choose victor over victim, anyday. If I lose, I am a fighter, because I would never go down wihtout a fight to anything or anyone.

Fighting cancer and treatment will last for a short period of our lives. When we get back on track of our new normal lives, we have a choice of either being a victim or a victor. I have come across very strong, independent and self-respecting people losing the positive part of themselves during the prolonged treatment procedure. I have also seen crumble after hearing about the diagnosis, even before stepping into the treatment. 

The prolonged treatment makes people feel like a patient. I walk into the hospital, and then I am asked to sit on a wheelchair for my check-ups. Of course I refuse. But, this extra caring can make you feel like a patient. Having surrendered to healthcare workers or loved ones during their treatment which left them weak, some people refer to themselves at patients even after years. 

When going through research here, which was conducted on 168 young to middle-aged adults who had previously experienced cancer.The result showed that - At least somewhat, 83% endorsed survivor identity, 81% identity of "person who has had cancer", 58% "patient", and 18% "victim".’

It was concluded that even though the ‘Survivor identity appears most common and most associated with active involvement and better psychological well-being, other identities also exist or coexist and those identities affect their behavior.  

Cancer leaves the survivors with the trauma of going through surgery and prolonged treatment, which is not easy to deal with. There are a lot of changes in the body. As a breast cancer survivor, initially I struggled to feel normal among women with two breasts, after my mastectomy. Then adding salt to the wound, I had to lose my hair as well. All of sudden I looked different, and felt different. It was easy for me to feel like a victim, because what I was going suited the dictionary - a person who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment. 

It took sometime, but then I started feeling like a victor over cancer. Wars leave scars, so I had them, but then wasn’t I here alive kicking the cancer butt out of my life? I had made right choices and stomped over that crab.

When I started thinking differently, the world started changing for me. Our mentality of being a victim or victor can make a huge difference to our life after cancer. If we think we are not worthy of love it will spoil our relationship with our partner, same will happen if our partner will think so. If we feel we aren’t capable of great performance after cancer, we will jeopardize our professional life. Nothing good can come out of the feeling of victim for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Reminds you of the words, victim of poverty, victim of circumstances, victim of domestic violence? Once you stick that label  on your chest, you are doomed. Let us not allow that to happen. 

Choose to be Victor… we are!

People start to identify us differently when we stop being thinking like victims


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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