The Day My Biggest Fear Came True

Posted: October 23, 2015

I still sometimes wonder about the life that I left behind. What if I stayed and studied further? Where would my research be? What would my career look like? Would I be happy there?

It was a tough decision to make, and I often felt selfish for wanting it as much as I did, for only 2 years had passed since mom had had her mastectomy. But what helped was the support and encouragement that I got from her. She seemed more excited about the whole thing than me. She would spend hours researching the university, the city, it’s weather, foods to try, places to see, things one might need to carry while living abroad, you name it, she had researched it! I think she wanted this for me more than I wanted it for myself. And that made the decision easier.

So, I accepted the offer to study abroad and packed my bags, ready to leave! Mom has always been my role model, my rock. She is the kind of woman who never shed a tear. Through the toughest of life’s battles, she fought on without a worry. Through the course of her treatment, she was the one who kept the whole family strong and functioning. To her, it was a simple process, to cross one bridge at a time. There was no point sitting and worrying, brooding, wondering, blaming. This is what it was, and it needed to be dealt with. That was that!

As I started my new life and tried to settle in, mom was the one whom I turned to for all advice. Anything I needed to do, any step I needed to take, she was my go-to person to consult! We would Skype daily initially. She would hear my experiences, she would want to know about the university, my work, my friends, the city, its history, what I ate, how it tasted. Come to think of it, she lived those experiences through my narratives! And slowly this became a habit. We became much closer in that year apart than all those many years together. We would share our days through Skype and give each other constant advice and criticism. We stopped keeping secrets., or so I thought. Then, as one of my dearest friends came visiting, I found things a little amiss at home. The usual routine that we had gotten used to didn’t seem to fit. I was curious and a lot of questions.

Initially, Mom kept telling me that since I was busy traveling the country with my friend, it was me imagining things. But mom, who can be extremely convincing at fibbing to us most of our childhood days (mostly for our own good) was somehow not being that convincing this time. So I probed further, and then some more. And lo and behold, the truth comes out. Mom had been making regular trips to the oncologist again. It seems her medication post mastectomy had now resulted in initial signs of cervical and endometrial cancer.

Having some of my closest friends around to confide in was extremely helpful. They helped me deal and cope with the initial shock of the news. They helped me process the information at my own pace and talk my heart out! They even got all the medical advice they could find on the issue and passed it on to me and my parents so that we knew the details. The initial reaction that I had to this situation was to do what I did best, research about it. Knowing always helped me. As the statistics showed, mom was the ideal candidate for these side effects for the medicine – more than 50 in age, post menopausal, breast cancer. Once the details settled in, and I had researched some more and discussed with the experts I knew, we concluded the next course of action that should be advised by the physician. Luckily for us all, mom’s condition was caught well in time and the doctor, as we had hoped, decided to change the medication.

Mind you, the new medication was not without its side effects, but this time we were prepared. We knew the signs to look out for. And most importantly, we were together keeping an eye out now! But, in all this commotion, the most profound effect that this second round of doctor’s visits and diagnosis had on me was something I did not expect. With all my education and research in this field, I had thought that even if I were away, I would be able to deal with whatever was thrown at me with regards to mom’s illness or its possible relapse. But what I did not prepare for was all the secrets and the hiding.

I now understand why mom tried to keep me from worrying. And I respect her decision to do it. We have had many a discussion wherein we have agreed to disagree on whether what happened was right or wrong! But this secret keeping had left me worrying even more. All I could think of was how or why would they keep information from me? What if something more serious happens and no one tells me? What if by that time I know it is too late? What if I could have helped, if only they had told me? All these doubts and fears just kept growing and growing inside me.

And despite the fact that I knew that I was being irrational on some about them, I could no longer think about this anxiety I was staying with for the rest of my stay abroad.

And despite the fact that I knew that I was being irrational on some about them, I could no longer think about this anxiety I was staying with for the rest of my stay abroad. After numerous talks where I tried to tell, request and even order them to not let this kind of situation arise again, I wasn’t convinced they would tell me all, if ever needed. Taking my folks with me back to that country was not an option. They were sure they wouldn’t leave their comfortable settled life here and come there to me. They were happy and content there. They would be happy to visit me when I wished, but that was as much as I would get. So, as soon as I finished my course, I packed my bags and came back home, where I could be part of it all, with no more secrets and no more of my fears! Now, 5 years down, my mom is 8 years cancer free!

But I still sometimes wonder about the life that I left behind. What if I stayed and studied further? Where would my research be? What would my career look like? Would I be happy there? Would I have learnt to deal with these fears better with time? What am I missing out on? My career is not even remotely on the same path as I had once dreamed. And sometimes I feel disheartened for I feel I have lost my path and cannot seem to find it back. I look often at avenues that interest me for alternative careers that might fulfill me from within. But the search has been long and tiring and the results disheartening till now. Yet somewhere deep down, I have the solace of knowing that I am here where it feels right. I am close to what matters the most to me. And my fears, which still keep rising from time to time to help me reconcile with my decisions, are easy to put to rest at the end of the day. I continue to work hard to make another career for myself. I can try make peace with what I achieve here. Heck, I can even achieve more than I could have there, with the right time and with the right effort. But I am happy being close to mom. I am happy being home!

Image via Shutterstock.

A dreamer, traveler and an avid reader, who refuses to be bogged down by day-

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