So one of the things I dread the most is visiting Tata Memorial Center where my mom-in-law is being treated. It’s one thing living so closely with the disease in your home, but a separate thing altogether sitting for hours amongst people fighting for the tiniest shred of hope.
Cancer is not a disease people shrug away lightly, or pretend to believe that it’ll just vanish away one day. It’s like a really bad, unrelenting tenant. Not one of the good ones that you do a background check on before subletting your apartment and the ones who leave when you need your place back. This is more like a tenant that has forcibly occupied your home and will refuse to vacate the premises unless you literally call the cops to push it out.
So this hospital is the police headquarters of tumours. And while they do have their ways of trying to weed out these stubborn mutations, a large number of these scoundrels managed to keep thriving.
And you see it manifest across young and old, rich and poor, good and bad guys. It really has no filter when it comes to choosing its prey and thats where the disease becomes even more miserable.
So I saw a 9 month old baby howling his lungs out as the cannula was being fitted into his veins to receive a transfusion. And his mother, trying desperately offer him some comfort by means of dangling a little rattle in front of him and giving him a biscuit.
Another 11 year old, hairless because of chemo was standing quite cheerfully in a queue waiting to be called out for his PET Scan. He took off his bag pack and took out a couple of marbles and a Hindi comic book to bide his time, laughing every now and then as he flipped through the pages.
A 20 something old guy, with his crop of hair coming back, was whispering to his friend and giggling, looking occasionally at the cute resident doctor.
But what stood out the most for me as we took a break for lunch, hoping for that seemingly endless day to get over, was a chance encounter with one Mrs. Ojha. A writer by profession, who had published a few Hindi novels. She joined us at the cafeteria table where we were sneaking in home-made food, instead of buying the available fare. She started talking about how she had been afflicted with breast cancer for the past year and her journey towards recovery. And then she said, “You know what the worst part of this disease is? I haven’t even begun my life yet? My own life. I’ve spent all the years I had on family and children and honestly, I haven’t started living yet. Am afraid I might go away before I get to do that.”
Now thats probably the scariest thing in that building, or anywhere else for that matter.
My two pence on that?
Drop the excuses. Start living.
P.S: Update on MIL condition. Her reports show that even after 4 rounds of chemo, there is no improvement in her condition. Well, at least it hasn’t worsened. We’ll know more as the doctor shares the next steps with us. Until then.