What are feared words in most homes, uttered with the most discomfort and only in case of emergency, are said loudly and as a matter of fact in our home these days.
Cancer, chemo, tumour etc have all become a part of our daily dialogue with the on-going chemotherapy of my mother-in-law. Our vocabulary has slowly adapted to incorporate new words and topics of conversation, to make the topic less taboo and shake off the negative aura around it.
Cancer is a scary disease. Physically yes, and even more so psychologically. And no one has anything good to say about it. Unlike a lot of other ailments this one is relentless, ruthless and conniving. It doesn’t give up on its own and doesn’t like to be defeated.
And it’s not discriminatory either. At the cancer hospital today where her chemo was scheduled, I saw streams of patients; babies, young kids, really old people with feeding tubes, Hindus and Muslims, Biharis and Marathis – all fighting their odds against a vicious, common enemy.
So it’s not a surprise that the treatment is similar to smoke-bombing a riotous crowd off the streets. It’s not considerate of the other cells, works on the premise that everyone has maligned intentions and is totally fine with collateral damage.
And because of this, you end up hating the treatment more than hating the disease, which in the case of my mother-in-law had not reared its head up at all (symptomatically at least)
They usually administer these medicines across multiple days because they’re just so strong that your body can’t handle it all in a single day’s time. Yesterday and today combined was her 3rd cycle. The last 2 cycles have gone by relatively smoothly and by that I mean a few days of bad nausea and bone-tiredness, but quick recovery after that. This time looks different.
On her first day itself she began to feel extremely nauseous and couldn’t eat a bite. Now she’s not the kind who has a massive appetite anyway, but this treatment wants her to go completely off food and that’s just not acceptable for her health.
So food fights ensue, with us trying to convince her to eat a morsel. Sometimes we win, other times she just doesn’t wake up to fight. It’s tough. It’s incredibly hard on the patient and also on her family who watch a loved one sinking everyday.
So far we’ve not reached the other physical signs of this treatment, like hair loss – but it’s anticipated and there’s not much one can do except keep pushing and cheering her up. Thankfully we have a fantastic 9 month old cheerleader at home who’s taken on the responsibility quite willingly.
I really hope this treatment works for her. Somehow. That this fight is meaningful and will lead her to conquer the that victory lap at the end of the tunnel. And soon.
And I also hope that one day science creates a more humane and intelligent treatment that doesn’t eliminate every cell in its path, so that cancer patients have less fear and a better shot at a more comfortable recovery.