Good health – my first wish for every one!
From a rather light-hearted tone in the previous two posts about my trip, this one is going to sound a bit more serious.
I went to my cousin’s place after spending time with my two sisters during the Thanksgiving week. My cousin and I have been very close friends since we were children. We used to have sleepovers in each other’s houses and spend a great deal of time laughing over nothing. We share many childhood memories, especially of Navratri days when we were young kids. My aunt (the one I wrote about earlier) used to dress us up as Krishna and Radha and we used to go to all the neighboring houses for “Golu” and sing songs and collect “Sundal”. We have played together sitting in the red tiled porch outside their house and talked about our school friends. She got married soon after college and came to the US. I was already here but I was a student. She would talk to me at length that I really should take that leap of faith and get married. She shared her own story of how nervous she was especially since it was an arranged marriage and how things do work out. We laugh so much when we talk on the phone imitating “complaining Tambram Mami’s”. We love watching Rajnikanth movies and laughing at his antics. I was there for her “Valaikappu” (7th month of pregnancy) and have always managed to see her daughter every year (she just turned 8). Her daughter D is also very close to me. So in essence we are extremely close as cousins as are our two families.
A few years back my cousin R was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid. Now for most people (I know 4 people who had this – two of them my classmates), this is cured by removal of the thyroid gland after which they just do check ups once a year and lead a normal life. But for my cousin, she is in the smaller percentage of people for whom the carcinoma is a recurring type. There is lymph node involvement for which she has had four surgeries already. After the last one, it seemed like all was well and she continued to be the strong and cheerful person she is. When you have an eight-year-old daughter who needs constant care, even a migraine can strain every day life for all the family members. In this case, it is fraught with the anxiety that comes with the C word, what if it spreads – horrible fear, and this feeling of the unknown lurking in the corner. It is hard to put up a cheerful face when every year and half you have to go through treatments, surgery and be quarantined during that time – all without telling the child what is going on – just so she doesn’t have to suffer needless fear along side.
Her daughter D is a perceptive, intelligent and extremely bubbly girl. She loves people like nothing else. She is mad about my two children. She badly wanted to have a sibling – so much so my cousin waited for many months before telling her that I was pregnant with baby girl. D is very upset that her mother won’t give her a sibling. She can’t as of now. She cannot risk being pregnant just in case there is a recurrence and she has to go through treatments again. And that is precisely what is happening. Yet again. This time around, R (my cousin) does not have any energy left in her to put up a cheerful front for herself or her family. She feels sapped of emotional energy to combat this. She does gain perspective each time she comes across people who go through much worse, yet the reality when you have to go through something is your own reality. You cannot compare it to some one else and deny what you feel at that moment. Now she has to go through a fifth surgery. The doctors were in fact not even sure if they could do it for there is too much scar tissue. In which case they would have had to give stronger radiation treatments. On top of it now, R is finding it difficult to swallow or talk. She talks in whispers and not too much. Her daughter D gave her a note when I was there as to how much she misses talking with her mother. D suddenly came to me and cried “ I don’t feel myself because Amma cannot talk”. It was painful for me to see both my cousin and her child go through this. Doctors have still not given her a clear picture of what the problem is with respect to the swallowing difficulty. At least the good news is that they are reasonably sure it has not spread to the other regions in her throat.
I put myself in my cousin’s shoes and wonder how she feels. Especially after becoming a mother I often tell B that neither of us can afford to be anything but totally fit. Until we have made our children fairly independent. We just cannot rely on anyone else in this world. At least for B or me, neither of our surviving parent is young or independent enough now to be able to take on our responsibilities. We only have ourselves to rely on to raise our children. And no one in my opinion can take the place of the mother or father in caring for the children. Unless it is an adopted child they wanted on their own, any one who assumes the responsibility with a sense of duty cannot do it with the same enthusiasm or patience it takes to raise a child. May be I am making wrong assumptions here. But that is my opinion. Only the mother and father can feel bubbling pride at the child’s every little achievement. They are the ones who will feel the pain and be willing to give their time, sacrifice their work, sleep and toil with single-minded dedication until the child feels better when he/she is sick. Someone else may also do this, but the feeling will be different. If I were told that I had some disease that is going to take a toll on me but will not be life threatening – I will be grateful but I cannot escape the fear that this message would come with. What if....
I think of my cousin and wonder how she feels. I don’t talk about this too much to her especially considering she is now in the thick of things. But this was the first time I saw fear in her eyes. This was the first time we did not laugh at all. This was the first time I saw her after she had cried to her husband. I keep praying that the doctors should soon figure out what exactly the problem is and treat it on time. I am praying for her that there should be no recurrences. Unlikely as it is for her type of cancer, it is not ruled out. She can apparently lead a normal life except that she has to be on the watch always. I am so fervently praying for her good health for her sake and her dear sweet daughter’s sake. If there is any merit to collective prayer, I request you to do so too. And for the coming new year my top wish for every one reading this is good health for you and your family. Health is wealth. Priceless. Precious wealth indeed. We take it for granted until something comes and rocks the boat. You can only take care of it so much. There are things beyond your control too when it comes to health. And this is where I pray that our children especially should be in good health (for I can’t think of worse pain than seeing you child suffer in anyway) and that all of us should be in good health. Even if old age will later bring its share of health issues, as long as they are manageable issues, I will be thankful. For now, I am sitting here praying for my cousin – that things should only get better from this point on.