I was at work when I called my dad to inquire about my mom’s health. She had been feeling weak and was suffering from vaginal bleeding, since she had been operated to remove cysts in her uterus a few weeks back. He said he was taking her to Hyderabad for some medical tests. I knew it immediately, my worst fear came true. My dad’s silence was testimony to that, he was crying for the first time in years. The doctors found a tumor and were almost sure that it was cancerous. Tears started pouring down my eyes uncontrollably.
It couldn’t be cancerous, no way. I went to Hyderabad to see her and be with her through the tests. I got calls from my cousins warning me that I couldn’t cry in front of her. I should have a heart made of stone to stop crying, I thought. The second I saw her, I knew they were right. It took all courage in the world to stop those tears and be optimistic. I told her she was going to be fine and that the doctors just love to be sure. The MRI and CT scans confirmed it was cancer. For few minutes, I thought I was simply imagining things. While people seemed busy with their routine lives, the world stopped for me and my dad. These lines from ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ when Morrie is diagnosed with ALS, a terminal disease with no cure, describe the situation closely:
My old professor (Morrie), meanwhile, was stunned by the normalcy of the day around him. Shouldn’t the world stop? Don’t they know what has happened to me? But the world did not stop, it took no notice at all, and as Morrie pulled weakly on the car door he felt as if he were dropping into a hole.
I could feel a huge lump in my throat as I stood outside my mom’s room motionless. I couldn’t go in to see her. Who would tell her it is cancer? The later the better we thought. We did not know what stage the cancer was or what type of cancer it was exactly. The doctors estimated it was between Stage II and III. The cancer had metastasized (spread) from the vagina. We had to wait a couple of days for the biopsy results, which would explain everything, including the possible cure.
The two days were pure torture mingled with the last hope for a miracle. We were all heartbroken and helpless, especially my dad. But we couldn’t be weak in front of my mom. We kept telling her that it was a bad phase and it would pass by like all other things. The moment I saw my dad crying, I knew that this was my time to be brave and support my family. My dad had to handle himself and my mom. I couldn’t cause them more pain by crying. They needed me the most now, I couldn’t fall apart. My brother was at college and he had no idea about the things happening here. I asked him to come from Pilani immediately. I told him everything despite the protests from my cousins. I thought he had every right to know it and he too should be with mom through this.
I went back to Bangalore, so I could return after the treatment started and mainly to compose myself. All the happy times with her flashed in front me and I cursed myself for the times I was rude to her. I started reading everything about Stage II/III Cancer on the Internet and treatment statistics just added to my woes. I cried frequently and even my friends did not know how to console me. The uncertainty was killing me, I couldn’t sleep and I prayed for the first time in years. And the prayers were answered too because, a miracle did happen! The biopsy reports indicated that she had squamous cell carcinoma, the best possible thing that could happen in the current situation. The doctors told that it could be completely cured with 5 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation provided she stays optimistic.
This was the best news I heard in days and I thought things would be easy from now on. And I have never been so wrong. The treatment had started and the side effects of chemotherapy were showing up. She couldn’t eat food, she had mood swings and was in agony. I did not understand these completely till I went to see her the next week. She was crying and refusing food just like a little baby. She wasn’t even slightly happy that I was there. Rather, she was angry. She yelled at me for asking her to finish the food and asked me to leave. But we did not give up and she had to relent. Soon, she started having food whenever we asked her to. The one week I was there, I spoke with the doctors asking them various questions about the cancer, the side effects and their prevention, so we could help her. She couldn’t read or watch TV due to the pain. So I bored her with my stories when she was in the mood to hear and we would laugh at all those happy times.
One day, when she was crying, I repeated my usual phrase: “Please be strong for us mom.” Her answer is something I wouldn’t ever forget. She looked at me in the eye and said “I’m being strong for you guys. I’m eating food and doing things you guys want me to in spite of the pain it is causing. Had it been for myself, I don’t think I would have put myself through any of this. Please don’t think I’m not being strong. I can’t help but cry at times though”. What all a mom can go through for her family! I hugged her and told her that I loved her.
My mom is the strongest woman I know and I couldn’t be more proud of her. And I’m definitely the luckiest daughter on earth. She responded positively to the treatment but the doctors suspect a surgery in the coming months. We are learning to deal with this uncertainty. Even today, she makes us all feel strong when in reality it has to be the other way round. But we are sure she will cross this phase and the happy times would be back soon. All of us keep hearing that our family is more valuable than anything else in the world. Here is my two cents to those lines. We are all busy with our jobs, college and friends and we have a thousand other things to attend to. But take time out for your family. Go home and spend some quality time with your parents, they love you unconditionally. The things they do for you! And most importantly, give them a hug, tell them you love them and how much they mean to you; because you never know what life would throw at you.