Friday, November 5, 2021

25 Silver Linings - The Day Of The Surgery

It all started very early in the morning. I wanted to walk into the operation theater but the staff insisted they will wheel me in. By then I had stopped questioning why. I had surrendered myself to the medical staff.

Once inside, slowly and calmly one by one experts carried out their task under the guidance of my surgeon, Dr. Murad Lala. The vitals were checked. My doctor asked me whether I suffered from low BP. I said, “Not so far”. He said, “Usually patients will have a bit higher BP before surgery, your BP is perfectly fine. So I was wondering whether you had lower BP earlier which moved to regular now”. We laughed at that.

I did not completely understand what was about to happen to me. Neither did I want to understand that because it was tough to handle that thought. I kept wondering what my children were doing. The only person from my family I met before being wheeled into the operation theater was my husband. I did not want all of them to go through the trauma once again. I wondered how my parents and siblings must be handling this situation now.

Things just moved in fast forward mode once I was on the surgical table. My doctor talked to me one last time and asked me, “You understand the surgical procedure, right? Are you confident going ahead with this?” I am not sure whether he was giving me a choice of backing off or ensuring I am comfortable. I asked, “I am OK, how about you sir?” He laughed out loud at this and answered, “Honestly, I am a bit nervous. This is the first time I have taken all the independent decisions and gone ahead with the surgery outside the oncology hospital on my own. I am going to do my best”. By then the anesthesiologist was ready and he put a mask on my face. It was funny that I had expected them to give me a shot to make me unconscious. He informed me that as I breathe, I will slowly lose my consciousness. “Just relax and breathe,” he said. I worried about what would happen if I woke up during surgery. I am not sure my thoughts were even completed before anesthesia took over my consciousness.

The next thing I heard was the voice of my doctor, calling me out. “Farida, Farida, can you hear me?” He seemed to be in a deep well and called me from there. I was very much confused as to why the person who was supposed to do my surgery in a few minutes was calling me from somewhere far off. I wanted to see, but I couldn’t open my eyes. The lids were glued together. I found my voice though and said, “Where am I?” or “Where are you?” I am not sure which one. Then slowly I opened my eyes and found my doctor tapping my cheeks. That was confusing for some time before I realized that I was on the bed in the ward and he was trying to wake me up from sleep. I tried getting up, but he said, “No, please don’t move yet. I want you to wake up since it is already evening. How do you feel?” Slowly the dull ache on my chest informed me that the surgery was over. I was waking up from the anesthesia. I could see my dad and my husband in the background. I had some kind of emotion surging through me, but I cannot tell what it was. It was a one time feeling I had and I have no name for it.

Survived the Day to talk about it years later to create awareness.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

My Career Review in 10 Minutes


I have restarted my career thrice successfully, the third one as a Senior Curriculum developer with Chimple learning app at the age of 54. As a student, I did well in academics and was topping the class most of the time. I had a dream of becoming a scientist and working for space programs. I was highly inspired by the Cosmos show presented by Carl Sagan on DD. I had a dream career carved for myself as an astrophysicist. Meanwhile I started coaching children and also embarked on a mini stunt of successfully selling mixers and juicers when I was barely 13 year old. I had tasted the joy of earning at a young age. 

But life never goes as we predict it for many of us. I had everything in me to start a great career, but I ended up being a PUC dropout. My marriage was fixed with a guy working in Dubai and the conditions laid down before me were -

  • Do not study further

  • No working outside home 

  • No interacting with men

Working women carried a stigma in those times in middle class society, especially from where I came. For very few of those who worked other than in schools, we heard juicy gossip very often

I was good at academics but never smart about finances or good choices I could make about my own life. Soon I was married and living the life of someone else. I did a lot of things I did not believe in, just to please people, especially my husband. But again, life is unpredictable. We had a series of cancer running in my family. First my dad was diagnosed with cancer, in 1992, my sister in 1994 and myself in 1996. Believe me, 1998 was dreadful for me though I never expressed it. In between all the chaos, my daughter was diagnosed with special needs in 1995. She was 11 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Whew.. that was a hurricane hitting me at full force.

Things started to change soon after cancer. I realized that I had not much control over my life. My husband went back to the gulf during my treatment and I did not hear from him for nearly two years. I was completely confused at that stage. My ego prevented me from approaching him for help. Cancer changed me. 

With a special child to take care and attend to, a bald head due to chemotherapy and no proper education to boast off, I had to look out for a job. Now we see a lot of opportunities created for women as returnees, but back I heard nothing of that sort. Neither had I anything solid to return to. I decided to take up anything that I could do to start off. I started stitching clothes and making soft toys and selling them. It was a huge fall from my dream job, but it worked out well financially. Meanwhile my husband came back from the gulf and continued as though nothing had happened. My own insecurities of going through cancer and not knowing the lifespan I had earned through my treatment, made me keep quiet and welcome the parent. 

I did my diploma in Counseling skills and started working part-time as play-therapist and counselor/trainer in schools. Soon all the hell broke loose because I was the woman who broke the promise I made during my marriage. I cheated. I was wronging my husband. I blame myself for the mistake I made all over again. I gave up everything I had created in Bangalore, moved to the village  to my husband’s ancestral home to give my marriage, my children and my life a second chance. Being burnt once was not a lesson I learned. Believe me, I am super embarrassed talking about this.

Things started on a positive note, but slowly started to slide down. Once again, I had lost all control over my life. It was difficult coming back to Bangalore because I had no home to stay there. My mom passed away and my family moved to different places. I couldn't find a good job in a village and even if I did, my husband threatened to stop his support if I worked. The accusations of breaking promises came up again and again. On top of it, I had a special child to take care of. It was easy for me to give up and surrender my life to the circumstances. I had enough excuses to make up for not just one but two lives. 

But something in me kept prodding me not to give up. I started again with tuitions for children. I soon became very popular with students from my coaching class doing good not just academically but also in debates and competitions. My son, who was in 10th back then, once asked me why I was not doing something with the skills and talent I had. I told him about the conditions and promises. Believe me, at that young age, he had the wisdom to ask me, “Maa, did you know that you would go through cancer and bring up a special child when you made those promises? Did you expect this life? Don’t you deserve better?”

I answered, “I do, but how can I break a promise?” But he went to explain to me that there are rules, laws and promises and a consequence for breaking it. What would be the consequence for me breaking the promise? Was it discussed? How would I be rewarded for keeping the promise. Was that discussed. At that moment, I felt stupid. I was holding on to something and suffering for no reason. I decided to pay the fine like millions who break traffic rules everyday. I decided to kick the promise and get back my life.

Meanwhile, I learned about computers and started blogging. I slowly started getting offers for content writing as well. I realized my skills for learning had never diminished, because soon I was very familiar with Microsoft Office and computer functioning. I was good at internet research as well. I had a steady income of my own in a short period of time. I felt like the father of the prodigal son. Wow.. it meant a lot to me. 

As my son entered college, I started studying again. I completed my graduation. A lot of threats, pressure, withdrawal of support happened during the period but I did not give up. Two more years and I completed my post graduation as well. Within a month, I landed with a steady job paying me 45K. It was almost 5 times the money my husband sent from Dubai. Since then, I have never looked back financially. I am grateful to my son for giving me the much needed push and also being supportive throughout those days when I studied once again. It was not just the job, but it was my own life I got back again. Like  Edmund Hillary said, it is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. With the security of the job, I could be the main character in my life. Not many who haven’t been where I have been can understand how tough it is to lose your freedom because you are financially dependent on someone else. 

I had a dream of starting an inclusive preschool for children. I took the risk and started a preschool and daycare in 2017 with the money I had saved.

I ran a preschool for 3 years with inclusive education. It was tough at the beginning but then I tasted success with good admissions. Unfortunately, the lockdown forced me to close the school. With the future of reopening schools not clear, I started looking for a job once again. 

I wanted to make a difference in the education sector for children. I had heard about the Chimple learning app, the winners of X-prize and approached them for a job. I was lucky to be hired in a short period of time and I am very proud to be a part of Mr. Srikanth Talapadi’s team which is making revolutionary changes in early literacy and numeracy for children. I love and respect my job as a Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple. 

Resilience, tenacity and determination helped me get back steady with my career once again at the age of 54. What helped me the most is, even though I was not working at a regular 9-5 job, I never stopped working. I did something or other to keep me engaged like training, coaching, counseling and teaching. I also ran a canteen in a hospital before cancer made me give it away. Even when I was not attending college, I kept learning. I never hesitated to check new waters like the internet and computers. So, when I was ready to work full time, I had enough skills to bring out good results. I never hesitate to learn even to this day. The continuous learning gave me confidence when I was interviewed I could say ‘yes’ to most of the questions. 

If the iPhone wouldn’t upgrade as often as it did, would it still be as popular? The same applies to us. Upgrading ourselves is the key to success. 

Lock up your excuses and reasons before you think of success. If you have them handy, things will always be difficult to work out. Have a shield against the guilt that will be thrown your way. You are never going to be a hero for making your life and your career a priority.

I may not have achieved the dream of becoming a astrophysicist, but the life I live now is close to it. 

What I have to say to anyone who is listening or reading this is - Do not underestimate the power of financial independence. If you are dependent on someone yet you can make your decisions and are in control, then it is fine. If you have to someone's bidding against your own choices because you are dependent on them for your finances, then it is time to wake up and take control of your life. No matter how small you start, it will finally be worth it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Now A Dishwasher Is Said To Be Like A Mom, What Next?

 My article on Women's Web -

Shame on the IFB dishwasher ad for stereotyping mothers! I love my children and do take care of them, but that doesn’t mean I have to be ‘dutiful’ all the time.

At times I wonder why we women have to fight for equality. Isn’t it because we were indoctrinated and conditioned for centuries to feel and think we are inferior? Slowly but steadily, this inferiority of women was accepted by everyone, until few of them woke up.

This conditioning of women goes on sneakily in the background, without many of us even realizing it.

Let us not even think of Bollywood, which made all moms who sacrificed themselves the good ones and those who wanted happiness or pursue a career, villains. Things are changing on the Bollywood front a bit, but we still have a far way to go.

But are we in the 21st century progressive enough to realize that a ‘mother’ is not a martyr like species but just any other human being?

My thoughts were triggered by the IFB dishwasher ad where they say that their dishwashers function like a Mother.

Mothers are extraordinary individuals. They don’t settle, they don’t stop, they strive against all odds to deliver what’s best for their loved ones. We, at IFB, don’t just salute their incredible strength and sincerity but also ensure that we function with the same fundamentals. IFB Dishwashers are designed to take care of every little detail, just like a mother. And care is not just a word for us. From providing deep cleaning to hygienic steam drying, 70°C hot wash to built-in water softener, anti-bacterial filter to specially formulated detergents, adjustable baskets to flexible load options; we bring the best of care to you.

This IFB dishwasher ad needs some re-thinking

When the ad cropped up on my game page, I was playing, ignoring everyone around, including my special needs daughter, and I did not have a proper response to it.

Many tell me I am too old to play games like children. Are they kidding me? I am only 55!

Some prod me to cook healthy meals everyday telling me it is my duty. There is a list of chores everyone had for me, but I decided to ignore them, unless I feel like doing them.

WHY must I be pressured into being a ‘good’ mom?

This AD from IFB was shoved in my face, right when I was not being the person they were describing. I felt it was trying to pressurize me into a role it had carved for me. The pressure is not new. My family did a good job of it, pressuring me to be a good mom, though I never felt the pressure to be a good daughter.

Why do people create this image of a mother whose sole purpose in life is to take care of everyone other than herself? What happens to those who do not want to fit into the norm? I love my children and do take care of them, but that doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy myself by doing what I like to do, like writing this article here.

For generations, these subtle messages have influenced many minds. Even me, but it took a lot of experiences for me to step out of the stereotypical roles of Wife, Mother, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and many more. I don’t care who thinks I am a good person or bad person anymore, as long as I am out of legal crimes for which I can be arrested.

Dear IFB, I would say that your dishwasher needs a better description, you cannot say just like mother. That is not only stereotyping but also demeaning a relationship, which means a lot more. Hope they are listening.

Some Bad Things Happened to Me For Good


I’m Thankful To My Bad Marriage & Cancer As They Pushed Me Towards My Freedom! 

I was a topper but married a man who was uneducated. I had to follow his strange rules that restricted my freedom, but when cancer happened, I said enough!

I was a topper but married a man who was uneducated. I had to follow his strange rules that restricted my freedom, but when cancer happened, I said enough!

Today, I am a Senior Curriculum Developer for the app Chimple Learning. We reach out to those who do not have access to schools and educate them in basic literacy and numeracy.

This may sound very simple. Not a big deal when compared to women who have been to space, ruled the MNC’s or changed the history of nations. What’s the big deal about working and getting paid every month? But the challenges of the past make me treasure this.

Surrendering my freedom as a topper to marry a man who had never entered college

My education was in a convent. I was a topper and had high hopes of becoming a scientist, especially in astrophysics. I was a math genius. Seeing the pious nuns who I admired a lot, I never developed the craze for money. Finance was not on my agenda for happiness, success, or freedom.

Strangely, being a high scorer in exams worked as a catalyst for my marriage. My mother was worried I might end up as a mad scientist without a family, and she did not want that tragic ending for her daughter.

So somehow I got married without completing my PUC to a guy who had never even entered college. Additionally, there were few promises I had made and conditions that I had to agree to:

  • I will not speak to men.
  • Cover myself completely when venturing out.
  • I will never study ever again.
  • I will never take up a job that requires me to step out of my home. I was only ‘ALLOWED’ to work from home, which meant taking tuitions or stitching clothes.

From a math genius to housewife criticized for cooking

Today, I wonder what happened? It never actually appeared that way when my mom presented the proposal to me back then. It was an alluring proposal from a handsome guy working in Dubai, but because he was uneducated, he felt his wife should not be highly educated as well. Also, it seemed that since he loved his wife deeply, he was very concerned about other men looking at her.

My wish to work after marriage was not respected. Why should a woman work when her husband can provide and take care of her? Only greedy men sent their wives to earn money. In my defense, my mom had high diplomatic skills. Once, someone said, “She can easily sell a set of combs to a bald man”. I loved and trusted her. She believed what she was saying as well.

So from a girl who was a math genius, who helped her fellow students in studies, and taught math and science to her elder sister (who was three years my senior), I ended up a housewife criticized for not cooking well and not keeping the house clean. I had thrown away a bright career path I could carve for myself, just like that.

The circus of weird rules & respecting those who insulted me!

Thus began the circus of being pious, praying, wearing clothes I felt so uncomfortable in, pleasing my husband by following irrational rules set by him, and being respectful to those who were disrespectful to me just because they were older than me.

It also included my struggle to learn coastal fish cooking and living in a village environment with which I was not familiar. It did not take me long to regret what I had done, but again the diplomacy of my mom worked the magic of keeping me there.

My husband worked in the gulf, so he was with me only for a few months, after which he would leave for his job. He never took the financial responsibility nor any other though he bought things from the gulf whenever he came from there like clothes, chocolates, and a few things of his choice.

I needed money to raise my children…

I slowly lost control over not just my freedom but my life itself. My son was born, and I realized I needed a stable source of financial flow than what my husband was sending. I started with tuitions, stitching, and many other odd jobs. Yet, I continued. I started acting out my life rather than living it.

I was pretending to be a person I was not. There were a lot of differences and fights in our life. Then my daughter was born. She was diagnosed as a special child. Nothing much changed except the proportions of my problems, including the financial needs for her diagnosis, physiotherapy, and others.

My son had to start school as well. I had to struggle and at times remind my husband, again and again, to send money for our expenditures. I had lost complete control over what was happening to me.

Diagnosed with cancer but ego did not allow me to beg husband for help!

Then cancer happened. I was the third person in my family to be diagnosed with cancer. In 1992 my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and in 1994 my elder sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When 1996 I was diagnosed, my sister was already in her last stages of cancer. My husband came down to be with me for my surgery and chemo, saw me undergo drastic changes with total radical mastectomy, hair loss, and went back to the gulf.

He also witnessed my sister lose her battle with cancer. My mom also went through cancer and lost her life to it. I could not do much to support her financially. I am grateful to him for ignoring my financial needs for two more years because it was only then I fought and snatched back my life not just from cancer but from everything I had given up for it.

It was a tough climb from there. I started stitching clothes and soft toys, because getting a job with a bald head, a special child, and fighting cancer at the same time was not easy. My ego did not allow me to beg my husband for help.

I had done that earlier, but cancer changed me. I decided to study once again. I first got my diploma in counselling skills. I ignored the rules and started working. Slowly the income started flowing, and in a few years, I was doing well.

I wanted to give my marriage a second chance but I was a fool…

I remember this saying– ‘Fool Me Once, Shame On you. Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me’. The first time I made a wrong choice, I was left with a few reasons to feel I was not a fool, but when the second time I did it, I had no excuse.

I was a fool to fall for the promises and move to my husband’s native village, giving up everything I started once again. I wanted to give my marriage a second chance.

Life is not a Bollywood movie where people reform on getting a chance. Things slowly slid back to the same old life. I was often threatened by the withdrawal of monthly finances if I broke any of those stupid rules set by my husband. It was not just a threat, he did it very often.

I was a ‘villain’ for working but I did not give up

It took a lot of courage for me to take the bold step to study once again. I started taking tuitions there. It was difficult to manage with it alone. I started counselling and teaching in a local school. Slowly seeing my skills and talent, my son started prodding me to do something with my life.

Of course, I was not allowed to do it, but I took the risk. Even if my husband was not going to send money or support me in any way, I was going to do it. A lot of pressure came from my family as well. I was considered a ‘villain’ breaking the promise I made when I married.

Continue Reading Here

Monday, September 27, 2021

Of Bladders, Rebellions and Learning Life Lessons

 Recently I have started sharing my articles on Women's Web .. and this was one of my first posts there. It is about my experience on road on a professional trip. 

As a child I would postpone peeing as much as possible. This was because I wouldn’t want to leave a task without completing it, whether it was reading, writing, doing homework, watching TV or playing.

I would hold back until the task ended and then casually walk towards the restroom. I think this habit of not giving in to the demands of my bladder, tamed it to obey me without rebelling!

I had tamed the bladder beast and ruled over it

Even when people around me would go in search of toilets, I would proudly announce, those were not fit for me. Slowly the aversion to unknown toilets became an obsession with my bladder itself refusing to oblige to throw the waste product out even when I tried.

Eventually it became so that I couldn’t pee easily in unknown toilets and had no trouble at times ignoring nature’s call for nearly 36 hours. During hospital emergencies, lab tests etc., it became a big challenge for me to make it happen.

It was a huge struggle to let it go rather than holding on. So, I became quite vain and proud that I have complete control over the bladder of mine, whereas mere humans and animals surrendered to it. I had tamed this beast and ruled over it. 


Everything in our lives has an expiry date

Years went by and somehow it was in my nature not to use restrooms unless they were very clean and I felt comfortable to use them. Since my daughter is with special needs and cannot use squat toilets, I started using adult diapers for her whenever we travelled.

Due to her mobility challenge, it was difficult for her to access most of the general toilets as well. I don’t know what the public toilets look like or even the toilets in the wedding halls where my son got married were, because I never went towards them. Both my children also started to avoid using toilets outside home unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Everything in our lives has an expiry date, no matter how sure we are of it. So finally my rule over the bladder reached its expiration.

I felt my bladder whisper…

We had to travel to Hanur from Bangalore for training a group of teachers under an educational program we were initiating from our company.

I was highly excited with this new development and was ready for the journey since 5.30 a.m. Everything went fine and the weather was amazing with slightly drizzling rain. The training went well. 

Our colleague who stayed in the village nearby organized a great veg-feast for us. We enjoyed our lunch and I had a good amount of fresh buttermilk to go with it.

I felt my bladder whisper something and decided to check out the toilet but then ignored it, because I knew they were squat toilets and since the past four years I had found it difficult to squat due to my foot injury.

Only three hours to Bangalore, not a big deal I decided. My pride and confidence goaded me to ignore the bladder beast completely and get into the vehicle. 

Continue reading here

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.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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