“The Doctors say it’s Ductal Carcinoma.”
I can’t escape that memory.
No matter how many countries, beers or women I’ve put in between that day and this moment, it’s seared into my mind like an emotional branding iron.
The sky was so blue when he said it too. Painfully so. Because blue skies mean sunny days. And sunny days mean good times. So why couldn’t I stand? Why couldn’t I move? Why couldn’t I breathe?
It was like my body was grieving already.
Heavy legs. Sombre steps. Until eventually the hospital welcomed me with open arms.
” If your life is worth discussing, it is worth sharing.”
Being human, we all starve. Sometimes we starve for love, sometimes it’s for success and mostly we die starving for happinesses. If it’s the hardships and struggle that makes us wise and kind, then why do we all look comfy. We do enjoy joys but when it comes to sufferings we are always on a move, shifting away from the forces that will one day define us as a human being.
As a 21 year old juvenile, basking in my own imperfections and flaws, I was busy enjoying the process of growing up. But reality hit me hard. Life entered my body in inhuman fashion. It was then I realized growing up is not always a gradual process. For me, it was an overnight operation.
There are no real failures in life, just the results. And the way you accept these results distinguishes you as a human being from the rest of the race. I always had a carefree and ignorant attitude. But as there is no running away from your reflections, so is from life.
It is not an ordinary summer day if you wake up with a soaring temp of 104 degrees. Well.
Hospitalization, diagnosis, discharge was all that followed, allowing a little room for me to understand this recent development. Well not every discharge means relief. Sometimes it’s more catastrophic. While I was still in a process grasping every information about this fatal disease cysts affecting eighty percent of my body, doctors were amazed by my survival instinct. It was hard for them to believe that even with such a high rate of infections running down my body, in the most important organs like lungs, stomach, food pipe and a lot more I showed no symptoms of ailment. It was some kind of unknown force working up for me, like it was stated “a miracle”.
Four days of captivation left no room for innocence to blossom. I knew something big and more devastating was about to follow. This is what we call human instinct. And yes, it did occured before I could barely gather my senses, the breast test.
I remember that bed, that operation theatre, those doctors. I remember every detail of that insanely long hour. They all were hovering over me as if I were an alien in their command who needs to be mutated. It was like a circus playing and me a vulnerable lion and out there some very keen and impatient audience. Fierce by character but now ready to be tamed and chained. I was alive but fading. All my senses were dissolving, but not dying. I felt like I was going to perish soon. Nevertheless, it was just a test, the outcome was awaiting. Waiting to engulf me, ready to shake my world. Ready to snatch my universe, on its marks to tear me into tiny pieces which may not cling together again. But life is like a tide. It goes on. Waiting for none. Reaching to none. Finding some and abandoning the rest.
Reports were just an indication that life was coming either to abandon me or to wash me with itself giving a little chance to sail by letting me up my guards. Well, you sail and prevail or just drown is the measure of your capability and not the tides. They are there to teach you the essence of life. They make you aware of the fact that you have more potential then you ever thought you had. They remind you that you are always more than you think you are.
Just waiting for the email to come. The phone notified two mail’s at the same time. CONGRATULATIONS and MEDICAL REPORTS. These are just some ugly reports, scribbled onto them something in black ink. I hope erasing the contents of the paper would erase this situation from my life. But as it was a pure and non- selfish demand so was the probability of its fulfilment. Well! Cover up, smiling faces, fake confidence was all before me. I never thought I would see so many reactions on a single face at a very moment. Every face around me was a complete theatre in itself, soaked in its own loneliness and glory. For me 80% of infection, hemoglobin level 5 were just numbers for now. Cracked masks through which I could see the real world made home inside my heart. Even a single expression has a diminishing effect that thousands of words can’t and I could see thousands of expressions flashing across at a go. A sense of emptiness flooded inside me. Time was running but I could feel it crawling in my veins, my arteries. I could hear my heart pounding, I could listen to the flowing blood, I could differentiate between various frequencies of sound. I was a body on the outside, but inside I was a vacuum.
” Heya! Wait! Survival is an art. You learn it when you want it. But, you master it when you bloody need it.”
I thought I had many to support me, my family and my friends, apart from this I had my own very new companion.But in reality no one. A complete blank page waiting for me. A new book to write. Well, I am glad for this. There are some particular things that you don’t want to share anytime in your life. This journey becomes beautiful if you have some good people around you, doing every single thing to make you comfortable, helping you to climb the steepest of slopes. Those gems in my life were never there during the journey.
I was suggested four chemotherapy sessions followed by three daycare sessions after each therapy. Killing a poison by poison, sounds amazing. Yes, this is what chemotherapy is all about, killing the poisonous cells by injecting more poison inside the body. Poison had its own effects. It not only wipes the dead and damaged cells but also has its own harsh side effects like killing the healthy cells as well, which ultimately affects the normal functioning like inactive taste buds, vomiting, hair loss, loose motions and many more. Vomiting in a gap of few minutes and sometimes every few seconds. Huuhhh! Tiring and even more frustrating. It makes body so weak that you may faint most of the times, more damaging when with low bp, particularly my case. This shit happens for 15 days after every chemotherapy session and survival in this period is damn difficult. I remember, I used to scream on everyone whether they were my mom or my dear didi and jiju when they used to force me for food.
Sometimes I found myself so helpless that I started to dislike pizzas which I used to love the most, especially when cooked by my sister. This may define my condition and adversity, the patches and scars of chemo-the dull face, bald head and physical weakness. I could see my parents crying, I could see them worried. But, the game of pretending provided a helping hand.
Cancer is not the physical illness, it is the fight, a war that our brain has to fight. A war which takes all your mental strength, renders you hopeless and make you a chaos. It uses every millilitre of fuel you gathered or savored throughout your life. It is the clash of titans. Titans being our hope and our soul. Well, if you want to live you better win this tug of war. The more determined you are, the easy is the sail. I have never been a strong person but, neither was I weak. I always cherished and appreciated life. This time, it was itself at stake. When you bloody existence is endangered you are left with no choice. So, I had to rise strong. So strong that life itself thinks twice before abandoning me. Fall. There is no wrong or bad in touching the bottoms, but, then you should know the art of rising, art of flying; only then your falling would be justified. We can never appreciate the view from the mountain top until we have touched the valleys. It takes a fierce attitude to reach those heights. Moreover, it takes a real heart to appreciate. I was in a deep valley. I longed for a mountain. I longed for the view I will have once I reach the top of the mountain.
They’ll tell you it’s the type of welcome between you and an old friend, that you’re in safe hands.
But it’s more like the welcome between the farmer and the chicken. A warm embrace in one hand, and a knife waiting in the other.
It’s strange how busy the hospital feels. And how infinitely alone you are.
“Everything will be OK”. “Surgery”. “Chemo”. “Cancer”.
Words flashed by. Every positive intention was hammered by reality. Like a flower desperate to bloom against a destructive thunderstorm. But you try, because you don’t have a choice.
I could go on and relive every moment. And there are days, weeks even, when I do. I live it out in my mind over and over again. You try not to, but you don’t have a choice.
But that’s the thing about thunderstorms…
They may be destructive, but when it’s all said and done, blue skies return.
But for other cancer warriors who lay in beds next to me, not all of them made it through the storm.
That’s why anyone who’s endured the trauma of cancer will know that cancer stories may be written alone, but they’re never told alone.
Because my cancer story isn’t just mine.
It’s the story of everyone I knew who passed, everyone who’s fighting right now, and everyone who will be diagnosed in the future.
Even you, reading this right now, know someone who’s been touched by cancer. And their story is the same.
My cancer story is the same as everyone else’s.
I tell it to everyone who can’t.
And I offer it as advice for anyone who needs it.
Endure the storm.
And wait for blue skies again.