Saturday, March 27, 2021

#25SilverLinings - Gearing Up For The Battle


Gearing Up For the Battle

When faced with cancer, I secretly started evaluating my life and my options. Yes, I had bravely told the doctor that I would fight for my life. I told my family that with treatment I will survive and be there for them, but then I had my moments of doubts as well which I did not reveal to anyone, at least not until now.. 

I started to retrospect my life. If I created a line chart of my life, the line would begin at the rock bottom for me. I was the second girl child born with a club foot to parents who were wishing for a boy. Not a happy event for people to rejoice. My early years were a great turmoil for my parents who wanted to correct my foot without opting for surgery. Happy time was to follow the initial days of gloom which began when I started school. The line went on climbing steeply with my achievements in studies, sports, and art, as I won accolades for my success in almost everything. My dad was very proud of me, and my mom was terrified that I may go crazy pursuing some unachievable target. 

I was a happy go lucky child who suddenly changed in the teen years. I entered a phase of my life where I wanted to make others happy and be a good person. I wanted to be appreciated by my parents/people around me so bad that I gave up my studies, married, and settled down into a life of pretentiousness. I did things I did not want to do, just so that my husband and other family members would be happy and appreciate me. I was not born to be a person I had become in the course of life. What went wrong? I have no clue.  I lived life as though I was surviving a huge storm to pass. I fell into a trance and dissociated with myself. 

Not until the words ‘You have Cancer’  clapped on my ears like a thunder, did that I wake up from the trance I had got myself into. I was standing here on the edge of the cliff, where down there I could fall to my death, or take courage, find a foothold on the slippery ground and steadily walk away into the life which lay ahead of me. This was life’s own test, for which fate had handed over the question paper to me. This was tougher than the board exams, where the answers were already in my head. Here I had to search and find the answers in my heart. I had to write answers to the questions which I had no clue about. 

At one time I started wondering-

What was the life I was fighting for? 

Why do I have to fight for the life where I was doing things that made me unhappy? 

If I would die of cancer, what would happen? 

Other than my children/parents/siblings, who would be affected for long? 

God has given me a beautiful life, but what have I done with it?

I was ashamed to answer those questions, because I had made a mess out of my life. Though a topper in school, I had given up my studies; I was living a conceited life without much care. Moreover, I was so sad most of the time. I was unhappy with my marriage where my husband was not there for a long period of time. Many people were living that way, but that was not the ideal relationship for me. My parents were going through a financial crisis, my sister was going through the last stages of cancer,  my daughter was supposed to not walk, talk, play or study like other children according to medical reports and don’t ask me what else, because the list would be unending. It would have been very easy for me to say, let cancer kill me and free me from all these turmoil.  But then I would just leave behind a mess and die if I did not fight now. A sense of remorse and despair swept over me. Though I do not highlight it very often, it was this mess that made me resolve not to succumb to cancer and die without achieving anything in life, or without doing things that ‘I’ really wanted to do. If everything around me was a fairytale setup, I may not have resolved to fight so hard.

After evaluating myself, I looked up to my children, a 5 year old extremely emotional boy and 11 month old girl with special needs. A vivid image of them as orphans floated in front of me, they were crying for me and asking where is our ‘Maa?’ I could not let this happen. 

Again another image of a bald woman with one breast floated in front of me. Will I ever be a desirable woman after going through the total mastectomy and chemotherapy? I was not sure. I am not sure what makes people so emotionally attached to a part of their body, which is not much useful other than being a sex object. Off course we breast feed our children, but after that the boobs are just sex objects, or maybe I am wrong. The thought of losing the breast and symmetry of my feminine body was very painful even after the internal debate that assured me that breasts are not important, so was the thought of going totally bald. 

As I sat there in remorse, my son walked up to me. He was feeling insecure, scared. He had heard the hush hush talk with my name. When you try to hide things from children it only makes them more scared, it is always better to state things as they are. His look changed me. Moreover there was my daughter who with her innocent smile motivated me to fight for my life. I wanted to live for her and be there for her. There was no way I was going to abandon my special needs child and surrender to cancer, leaving her behind to fight her battle with discriminating society all alone.

I had spoken to my children’s pediatrician Dr. Nandini Mundkur. She made it very clear to me not to confuse Rayyan but tell clearly that I am sick but assure him that I will get well. Hush hush talks will make it more scary for him. She had no doubt about it. 

Farheena could not talk much, but she had become cranky because I had abruptly stopped breast feeding her. She was usually a happy and content child, but now I could see her crying or being sleepless very often. 

 What had to be done couldn’t be ignored because of cancer. One of those things I had to focus on was Farheena’s therapy. When I was dressing up my 11 month old daughter after giving her a bath to take her to the therapy session, Rayyan walked up to us. He looked quite worried and sad. I asked him, “what happened beta?” He did not say anything for a while, but later asked me, “Maa, what has happened to you? Where are you going tomorrow?” It was a day before my final consultation with the doctor to fix a date for my surgery. It was already decided 28th April but he wanted to book the OT and fix the anesthesia appointment, so confirmation was needed from my side. My doctor had given me options of conservation of breast or to go for total removal of breast. I decided to go for total radical mastectomy and my family were very upset that I was not trying anything else before the final decision. 

With that question from my child, my heart landed in my tummy. Those words, that look and the sadness are still etched in my memory like most of the events relating to my cancer experience. He had heard everyone around him talking about my illness; he had seen me go for check-ups, having biopsy, discussing things with my family and had a lot of questions but he had no courage to ask. We elders had decided to protect him from the truth but made the matters worse for him since the unknown is always worse than the worst of the known.

Honestly, I believe moms are one of the strongest creatures in our world. I felt strong and protective at that moment for my son. In a minute I had overcome my shock and shot him one of the most genuine smiles I could bring up. I made him sit beside me and told him that he had to listen to me carefully and ask me to explain anything that he would not understand. I told him that one of my breasts had developed a lump which could be dangerous if left untreated. So instead of removing the lump, I had decided to remove the breast itself so that I can be safe. I was going to get operated on and the date would be finalized, after which I will take medicines that will help me become healthy once again. As I explained everything to Rayyan, I was worried about his response to this revelation. To my surprise he sighed in relief. He exclaimed, “Oh, that’s all? I thought you are going to leave us all forever or something like that”. I casually said, “I feel a bit sad that the doctor is going to remove one of my breasts”. Promptly he said, “It is not like losing a hand, leg or eyes Maa. What do we do with breasts anyway? Farheena can always drink milk from a bottle?”  Those words really lightened up the situation for me and I promised my son that I am going to kick cancer and be with him as long as he wants me. He made a tiny promise on that day that he would help me in everything I do as well. That tiny moment had filled me with a lot of power and strength to fight out anything that would snatch me away from my children. I became too greedy for life. The next day I clearly told my doctor to do whatever it takes to help me survive. I did not mind the quality of life, all I wanted was quantity, more days to be with my children. He looked sad when I said that and replied, “Do not compromise on quality of life. You have to lead a good life happily”. 

When I talk about silver linings, this is one of them. A child who decided to take care of his mom and stood by that promise to this day. His assurance and love shone a bright light from the edges of the dark clouds looming overhead. 

I was not in confusion anymore. My kids were going to have me in their life as long as they wanted me. I promised them, “I have cancer, but I will see to it that cancer will never have me”. With that spirit I kicked myself into fighting mode and started gearing up for the  battle ahead of me. I know, the results are not in our hands, but I was going to fight hard for even a few hours if I could add it to my life.
The child is quite a superhero in my life.... The good part is he knows what he means to his mom.

This girl fills me with great strength even to this day.

Looking at the world with wonder in her eyes... Not knowing how tough it can be on her.

That smile was worth walking through the fire....

1 comment:

  1. Great fighter, good decisions, healthy attitude has made you won ofcourse by Allah's wish, thankful to him. Alhamdullillah.


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