Read on how to enrich your life by purpose, i.e. to find depth and, a reason to get out of bed each morning, your own Ikigai.
Often in our lives, we are faced with situations that leave us despondent and miserable. But we must stay strong and never lose hope.
I got a call from mom late in the evening just as I returned from the office. Her voice was shivering and she seemed to be in a state of shock. I couldn’t understand a single word and soon she started crying. I tried soothing her and asked where dad was. She then cleared her throat and said, “Your dad is not well.”
Today, five years later, I still remember that day when mom made the panic call. It was the beginning of a year-long battle. A battle that was physically torturing my dad and emotionally killing all of us from within. A battle of staying strong, keeping our faith in God alive, hiding tears, managing finances, dealing with hospital formalities, staying away from home and also maintaining a work-life balance. It was a long and exhausting battle to fight deadly cancer.
Yes, my dad was diagnosed with throat cancer and the moment we got the news our world came crumbling down. Doctors advised to immediately move to another place as there was no treatment available in my hometown. I was living in Pune at that time with my husband and we literally had no idea about cancer hospitals and its treatment.
Later that evening I called up my manager as her husband was a doctor so I thought he might be of some help. Talking to her really helped and her husband recommended Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Mumbai. Without wasting any time I asked my parents to immediately come to Pune.
Next week we were all headed towards Mumbai. We were surprised to see the rush in the hospital. This deadly disease didn’t spare anyone, kids, men, women, old age people, everybody was a patient there and the sight was disheartening. Soon we were guided towards the registration and payment formalities.
Later that day we were all waiting impatiently for our turn to meet the doctor. The waiting area, too, was flooded with all types of patients and their concerned families. From toddlers who had no idea of what had happened to them to critical wheelchair bound cases who depended completely on their family members.
We met people from different countries, all waiting desperately for their turn. There was no confirmation of how long it might take but they asked us to wait as our patient file was already submitted on time. We then decided to take lunch breaks in turns, though nobody had an appetite.
Finally, our name was announced at around 7 p.m. and we hurried towards the doctor’s cabin. After some physical examinations, they gave us a list of tests to be done. All this took no more than five minutes for which we were waiting since morning.
We then collected our luggage and moved silently towards the cafeteria. We ordered four cups of tea and some snacks. That was the most silent tea break I ever had in my life. While I continued to wait in the cafeteria with my parents, my husband went out to look for a nearby hotel.
Next morning again we were waiting in different departments for all the tests to be done. We also had to extend our hotel stay to collect the reports the next day. This went on for a week and then the doctors confirmed he was in the first stage of throat cancer.
We were given another date for operation so we went back to Pune. Life was not the same anymore. I tried resuming to normal work life in office but couldn’t concentrate. Even at home, the environment was stressful. There were days when none of us were even bothered to prepare dinner. Even in such situations, my dad was the one who was the most composed. He would prepare dinner for all, serve it and even force us to have proper dinner, saying, “Nothing will happen to me. Why are you all so tense?”
I salute his willpower, confidence and the positive manner in which he handled the entire illness. I wish I inherited even a percentage of his positivity and optimism.
We went to Mumbai again for his operation. We were definitely tensed about it but at the same time, we were also happy that after his operation he will be fine again. After a few initial formalities he was taken to the operation theater. We waited impatiently in the waiting area.
Within ten minutes I was called inside by the assistant doctor. I was clueless about what could have happened. He said they cannot continue with the operation and asked me to wait in his cabin to answer my questions. Just then the operation theater opened and I saw them taking my dad on a stretcher to another room. I couldn’t control my tears looking at how lifelessly he was lying on the stretcher. The doctor calmed me down saying it’s just the effect of anesthesia and he will be fine soon.
There were endless questions in my mind while I was waiting in the doctor’s cabin with my mom and husband. The doctor explained to us with a few reports in his hand that it would be critical to carry on the operation. There are chances that he might even lose his voice forever in the process.
We were all dumbfounded and looked at him with dismay. He continued saying that another possible option is treating through radiation and chemotherapy. That would not be as easy and quick as an operation and might take a long time to heal completely. It would also take a toll on his health and we as a family will have to keep a lot of patience.
Because there was a long waiting at the Tata Memorial Hospital, we were getting an appointment after three months to start his chemotherapy. It was not possible so we were given an option to continue with the treatment in a place of our convenience. They gave us a referral letter and also the complete mode of treatment and asked us to come for a check-up after the entire process was over. Looking at our panicked faces he assured that the process will cure him completely.
We returned home dead tired, both physically and mentally. My mom started crying inconsolably and this time even my dad was silent. We didn’t discuss much and went to sleep early. I was holding back my tears for a long time, but not anymore. I was feeling helpless and started crying thinking why was all this happening to my dad. To my parents, I was a strong girl and so I could cry and share all my inhibitions only with my husband.
We now had to decide where we can begin the radiation therapy and we didn’t have much time to ponder over it. We went to a few hospitals in Pune to check their facilities and my sister and brother-in-law made a similar search in Ahmedabad. Finally, we all decided to continue with HCG Hospital in Ahmedabad.
My dad was happy with the decision because by now he was tired of travelling to Mumbai almost every week. My mom on the other hand, who is herself from the medical field, cried saying he was happy and relaxed because he had no idea what he would be going through. We all prayed that the treatment wouldn’t be too harsh on him.
Truly speaking, even we had no idea what was in store for us. We simply followed the doctor’s instructions and the treatment was started. It was indeed a nightmare. We could see his health deteriorate, lose his appetite, the skin around his throat looked burnt and he lost interest in everything. We had to follow a strict diet which he hated to the core. Emotionally he was giving up, he was missing his normal life, normal food and also his hometown.
The entire thing affected my mom’s health as well but she continued to be strong. Only she was able to convince dad to eat, take medicines and also speak to all. My sister and brother-in-law managed everything brilliantly. They ensured dad didn’t face any difficulties. My little nephew suddenly grew up and we found him share responsibilities as well. He would spend more time with his grandfather and also remind him to take medicines.
We all prayed for his speedy recovery. We wanted this phase to end soon and our dad to be fit and fine like before. For the entire year, there were no celebrations, nobody was happy and there was an awkward silence in our lives. We continued to live with the fear whether the treatment would cure him completely or not. What if it didn’t?
It’s not easy to always think positive. Especially when the strongest person you know is in so much pain. You feel helpless, you don’t get a sound sleep and your life takes a halt. I would wake up in the middle of the night with weird thoughts.
Thankfully, we reached the end of his scheduled treatment. The doctors were happy about how his body responded and they discharged him keeping our hopes alive. He was referred to Mumbai again for the final tests and confirmation.
As required we went to Tata Memorial Hospital again and carried on with all the tests. It was a day-long affair and we were given another appointment to collect the reports and meet the doctor. My mom was hesitant with the date because it was my birthday but I didn’t want to wait any further.
A week later, on my birthday, we travelled to Mumbai with all hopes. We were guided directly to the doctor’s cabin as the reports were already sent to him. We waited impatiently for our turn. When the doctor called us in, I almost ran to hear what he had to say. He first examined him physically and then went through the reports and said, “Congratulations! He is completely out of danger.”
We exclaimed with joy, that was exactly what we wanted to hear. He also added that we will have to continue his routine check-up and a few medications maybe for a year. I thanked him again for taking the decision of not going ahead with the operation, otherwise today my dad might have lost his voice forever. He wished us all the best and we thanked him wholeheartedly. We came out of the cabin with all smiles.
After completing a few more formalities we went to the cafeteria for a tea break. I ordered tea and snacks for us but I was surprised when a chocolate pastry was also served! My mom said, “It’s your birthday after all,” and they started singing the birthday song for me! I cried like never before, hugged them and said, “No birthday can get better than this ever.”
While returning to Pune, the entire year appeared as a flashback. How life teaches us patience, makes us stronger day by day and how unpredictable it can be. What I learned is, however difficult a situation may be, we should never lose hope. Always be prepared and life will be beautiful.
Image source: Pixabay
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Award winning short story writer. Author of two eBooks, loves to write poems and shares
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