On World Cancer Day, celebrate life
Every day I remind myself that it could have been so much worse.
It’s been over two years since my cancer surgery, and recently, after getting an annual mammogram and looking through some medical documents a host of memories associated with my illness came flooding back.
I could see myself back at the hospital, getting various tests, preparing for the surgery — my first ever— and trying to alleviate my own and my family’s fears as best I could. Some days were harder than others, some days were the hardest I have ever encountered.
I still remember that the last thing I saw before I passed out from anesthesia in the theatre were the OT lights overhead — so bright — and masked faces busying themselves for the task ahead. Voices of doctors and nurses faded into a blur and then suddenly, nothing.
There were no thoughts or dreams or anything. I woke up a little confused, then remembered where I was as the recovery room nurses began to ask me questions, ‘how are you feeling’ etc. Today when I look back to that ‘blank’ period, I think about the blind trust I put into everything and everyone that was helping me beat cancer. I think about the hope that I would wake up again. I think about the relentless hope that I would get through it alright.
We are fragile beings, in an ever-changing world. One day you feel you are at the mercy of a deadly illness, you feel hopeless, you feel defeated. You put all your trust, all your hope in the people around you — doctors, nurses, medical workers — to get you through it. You hope and pray you make it.
And then you finally wake up, from that timeless, dreamless slumber, and you know, that while things will never be the same, you’ve been given something more precious than anything that has ever crossed your path before - a second chance.
I remember seeing quite a few elderly people and even children at the radiotherapy centre where I was treated post the surgery. Sometimes I would see the same people as I had a daily time slot for my therapy. Once, a little girl, angelic in her white frock and cap to match accompanied her parents — a young couple — to the centre. I kept staring at them as I couldn’t help wondering which of them was here for treatment. A nurse confirmed my fears that it was the little girl — and a host of nurses had to accompany her inside as you have to stay very still while receiving the therapy and kids wouldn’t understand and would thus have to be held down.
I held back tears but couldn’t overcome the feelings of anger that made me question everything, the world, life, its impermanence, its unfairness. It’s been over two years since that day and still, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the same conflicting emotions — anger, hope, sadness and a sense of healing. I hope and pray that little girl made it through the darkness.
I know I was one of the lucky ones to be diagnosed early. My cancer was at a stage where it could still be treated. Every day I remind myself to be grateful. Every day I remind myself that it could have been so much worse.
The ‘C’ word remains a haunting one. It leaves you shocked, angry and scared. It leaves you wondering ‘why me’. But it also leaves you stronger, grateful and hopeful that the future will be better. To all those who are battling cancer at this time, even though I don’t know what you are going through (because everyone’s journey of pain and healing is personal), from my limited experience I just want to say this: Never give up hope, never back down from a fight, and always make each new day count. On this World Cancer Day, celebrate the gift of life.
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