I am writing this story in memory of my mother. She is the most amazing person I had in my life and will continue to be. From the day we found out about her cancer to this day, my family’s life has flipped 180. The courage she has shown during the course of her treatment and the pain that she has gone through are beyond my understanding but I am making an attempt to put her battle in words. I continued the post from here.
Nearly after 45 days of chemotherapy and radiation and having experienced fatigue, sleepless nights and every other symptom of these painful cancer treatments, my mother was home. Although not in one piece, she was back. At this time, we didn’t know that over the next one year she would be sandwiched between hospitals and home. We didn’t know that each time she returned, she would be a little bit more fragile and hurt and that one day, she wouldn’t return. Forever.
The treatment was very hard on the whole family, especially my dad and grandmother who were with her through the whole treatment. They had seen it all: the painful cries, and the agony of each day. Family and friends helped us in every possible way, so we could give mom our undivided attention. From getting home-made lunches and giving her company when she needed to shuttling me and my brother between home and hospital, they did their share to make it easy on us.
The first follow-up appointment with her doctor happened soon after the treatment. The idea of the appointment itself puts a lot of pressure on someone who has gone through the battle. The fact that the doctor might perform a surgery if the tumor wasn’t cured only added to the tension. The PET scan came out as a surprise to both us and the doctor: no trace of the tumor. However, the doctor wanted to do a physical examination to be sure and perform a surgery if need be. He couldn’t find the tumor. That we were utterly relieved for the moment is an understatement!
Things were slowly falling back to routine: me and my brother went back to college after winter vacations, my dad got back to work and my mother started recovering from the physical and emotional after effects of the treatment gradually. In the next couple of months, she occasionally went out shopping and enjoyed everyday evening conversations with her besties. She started cooking now and then and talking over the phone with me and brother everyday (something we couldn’t ask for during the treatment).
She still lacked the energy she had before and complained about my dad making her eat all the healthy food (she would have preferred an arisa or bajji any-day!) but she was bouncing back. After my placements in January, I had some free time at college and I planned a ten day trip to home. Living in the age of Google is a curse – I couldn’t help but wonder how a metastasized cancer can be classified stage II or III. Back at home, I realized from the reports that she had Stage-IV cancer. ‘Please don’t be true, please!’, I thought as I fought back my tears.
Seeing my mom’s smile and confidence as she was fighting the odds reassured me a little bit. She behaved as if nothing happened and was almost back to her cheerful self, at least when she was with me. She insisted on cooking my favorite things and we would chatter endlessly. But the possibility of recurrence still gave me sleepless nights. After I left back for college, my parents made travel plans to Arunachalam with their friends. I asked my dad if he was crazy and told him to convince mom that it was a bad idea. She had just recovered and the travel might strain her. But my mom wanted to go and my dad promised me that he wouldn’t let her strain herself. Today, I am glad he took her and that she lived some happy moments there.
But happy times don’t last long. During her next follow-up meeting with the doctor, the doctor prescribed some regular body scans. The PET scan reports held a bigger surprise. Only this time, it was bad news. The PET scan report said something like ‘hypo dense lesion of fluid density in segment VII of liver’. The usual protocol was to order biopsy and wait for about four or five excruciatingly slow days. Whether she was in denial or not, whether she was hopeful or not, it meant preparing for the battle that was to come. She spent the week at my grandma’s place. I don’t know what she had gone through or the way she felt about the whole ordeal but there was not a single time she broke down when she called me or my brother that week. Rather she spoke about the tests in a matter-of-fact manner and continued with our usual talk. I knew what the biopsy could say but every cell in my body wished it was anything but that. When the biopsy came out, four words stood out ‘Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma’.