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What happens when you learn that your father is diagnosed with cancer? Your world stops still. The author and her family stepped up and here’s their story.
When I got a disturbing call from my father about the existence of carcinogenic cells in his body, I felt a sudden thud in my chest. I thought I was going to lose the grip of my phone and control of everything around me. And I wanted to run, I needed a chair to absorb it all, but I also wanted quiet at the same time.
I was at work, staying back to finish up urgent deliverables. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to say, what to do. I chose to sound calm and composed and totally ignored the fact that a volcano of turmoil was just starting to erupt inside me.
He sounded deeply wounded and helplessly worried. The word ‘chemotherapy’ swiftly pierced every inch of courage I had managed to gather in those minutes.
We didn’t know what was exactly to come and what more was to come. Hanging up, I decided to wrap things up and rush home. I remember driving mechanically through dense traffic; through lanes where people crossed streets; and through signals that randomly turned red.
It took very long that night but I made it home. Every emotion of pain that I had kept stifled, came lashing out of me. My suffocated breaths made way for more tears and I had to let it out, to think clearly again.
Breast cancer? Do men suffer from it? Yes. One in a thousand.
And as complex as it sounds, urgent medical appointments were taken. When Mumbai hospitals were crowded with patients sleeping on the floor and on the pavement, we turned to the medical aid in Pune. We were losing time and every new day seemed like an eternal wait.
The first time we smiled was in a world-renowned surgeon’s cabin. While the doctor was more than confident of the curability, nothing could be said for sure till the patient is on the operation table. Not much can be said till the doctors actually slice through the skin to see the spread of the tumour.
The one-hour surgery went up to five hours, and I instinctively knew something bad was to come. I made all the relatives leave the hospital and promised to call once I had some news. And I got a lot of time to think- of possibilities, solutions, finances, responsibilities and of course, my father.
Several cancer patients paced through the waiting area- some unable to walk on their own, some with these heart-wrenching pipes running through their noses and mouths. And some others reduced to skin and bones. I just sat there wondering what would it be like after the surgery.
There is unexpected courage in the darkest hours and once you decide to hold on, you can live your entire life on it. I think I needed more of that when the doctors called me to show the operated mass. The mass of shrunken muscles immersed in blood, stored in a transparent bag. And the tumour was out.
I stepped cautiously in the recovery room, scared of those walls and corridors and soon made my way to the bed where the nurse guided me. He was pleading for water but the nurse just shook her head. It broke my heart.
What I really admire about the doctors is that they have no heart for the patient. They insist on psychological and physical independence of the patient just so that they recover faster. With excellent medical care, I adopted the same policy. I kept all melodramatic relatives away and focused on time schedules, exercises and family time.
Chemotherapy became a routine with fun medical professionals, chatty fellow-patients and smuggled vada-pav treats for our warrior.
We recently celebrated the end of chemo with a cake and looking ahead for more celebrations. With the on-going treatments, I saw a panorama of revelations of my knight-of-a-mom, who cares for young medical interns- asks them to reach home safe.
The revelations of an uncle who takes dad back to their childhood tomfoolery. Those of my husband who visits the hospital more frequently than I do. And those of an aunt who takes every little care of dad’s food and nutrition. Finally my father, who has lived a strict disciplined life, like forever and still continued his 5 am walk, the morning after he learnt of the cancer!
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Pexels
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I write because basically I can't paint as vividly as I would like to.
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