Sorry guys the last blog was very long. The dreaded C word part 5 … Well this is what happens when you let cancer sufferers live. They never shut up. Stay tuned guys …
I am not a regular temple visitor. Even when I go to the temple I prefer to go after the pooja and have a one on one with the Almighty in silent prayer/meditation. I don’t ever ask for anything. I go there to thank him. So this particular visit was a strange one for me. I couldn’t stop the tears running down my cheeks. I felt it was not fair to ask him to spare my life as there were small children dying of cancer; there were pregnant mothers dying of cancer, I was just asking for a postponement by 3 years if possible. In 3 years Arj would join Hari in High School. The school drops offs would become so much easier for Ganesh. In fact, there was a school bus. The two brothers together in the same school would mean they can be of support for each other. These were my reasoning.
Some ask me if I was worried about death itself. Was I scared of dying?
It never crossed my mind. I know it sounds almost untruthful. But really it never did. All my fears were about the two kids and how will their lives be. If the question was put forward to me now, if I was scared of death, I have to say no, death is the last of my worries, death is the easy part, and living is much harder. I have to work hard to live. Once I complete living today, I have to live again tomorrow, with all the responsibilities and commitments.
I don’t know about heaven or hell or an afterlife. I don’t really know if any of them, or some them exist. I see no point in knowing that. I don’t think my behaviour in this life is going to change in anyway by knowing that. I do good, not for the dangling carrot, but just because it is the right thing to do. I don’t really care if I make it to heaven or I come back as a bird in my next birth. I feel I have no control over that. But I sure can have some control over what happens in this birth.
I know he can say “I will give you cancer any time and take that smugness out of you”. Maybe so, but damned if I was going to go without a fight. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain for the sake of my kids. You twisted bastard, you picked on the wrong woman.
Things with my mother were becoming tolerable but not great. We were behaving like guests living in each other’s house. I knew I had to make some serious decisions and make some serious changes. I didn’t tell my mum the date of my surgery. One of my cousins lost her husband a year ago and mum has always felt guilty that she couldn’t make it to the funeral. It was his one year death anniversary coming up. This was all in Perth. I booked her flight to Perth and suggested that she spend some time with her in her time of grief.
I had decided that its time that I made my family capable of looking after themselves in case I lose the battle. I wasn’t accepting defeat, but I thought it was like having a will, life insurance, just having a game plan. Training started on using the washing machine, putting the clothes out, bins out, vacuuming and helping me with cooking.
Obviously my mum was not happy when she found out that the surgery was going to be when she was away and wanted to change her flights. One of her concerns were “what would the people say?” I put my foot down and said, if I need you I will definitely call you back, but you taught me to be capable and an independent woman. This is a simple surgery and there is no point in you changing your flights. She was hell bent on staying. Her adorable friend Lyn came to my aid. She could somehow feel it was something more than a hysterectomy. She took my mum for coffee and made her understand that she needs to respect my wishes.
I needed all my strength to fight this battle. I couldn’t do it with the negativity that was looming at home. Even though I raised eyebrows by sending my mum away at a time most people would have asked their parents help, I knew this was the right decision for me. One was the negativity, the other was while mum was around, the three men in the house would not learn any of the domestic basics. This was very important to me. No loose ends. If I am gone, there is no way that hubby and mum could live in the same house. It wouldn’t be a healthy environment for the kids either. They needed to be self sufficient.
I did think about the two adults in this equation as well. My husband as usual wouldn’t show his grief, bury himself at work with zero patience and maximum irritation. I can’t even imagine what this would have done to my mum. Grief would have destroyed her. Unattended grief turns into anger. And that’s what would have happened to hubby and mum.
We also come from a culture where the men think, all is achieved by making money. And for the women, it’s all about getting home cooked food on the table. If only, those two things were the only things needed for solve all the issues in life, it would be much easier to live.
In all of these dramas hubby was no angel, but he has a visa, a permit, granted to him, under the clause of “whatever said and done, he is nice man at heart” which translates to he can be a brat as long as, time to time he shows signs of a gentleman. My mum, my father in law and a few others or our kin are recipients of this privileged permit as well. Somehow I wasn’t privy to one. I read in one of the pregnancy books, that pregnancy brings upon tantrums and melt downs on the mother as her hormones are all over the place. Reading that sentence out to my husband nearly caused another tantrum. So there was no room for Uma to be a diva. I didn’t want to be one anyway. If you are surrounded by drunken people and you are the only one sober, you realise how badly they are behaving and you become more and more sober because you just loathe what you see. Mean while the drunk is thinking I am great, I am funny, I am strong and I am it. While they are gleaming in their egoistical glory unfortunately the sober one is suffering, she/he is thinking, this is my family, this is my friend, and I can’t leave, they will self destruct, no one else will put up with them, not for long anyway, and I am the only one thinking straight and fair.
We tackled Diva behaviour by dealing with the Evil Eye. We believed that evil eye was the cause of everything evil that happens in one’s life. Same reason was given for domestic arguments. The reason we had an absolute melt down was because of this darn Evil Eye, “I said, you said, what will the people say” was all due to the poor schmuck who visited you that evening and complimented your kids. I failed to pick up on the fact that it was not a compliment but rather the work of casting an evil eye. So we finish the argument by mum making a ritual of burning chillies in a pot with soil and other magical ingredients. We hug and kiss and all forgiven (but rarely forgotten, memories are stored away for a later use).
The concern of cancer, young kids, just day to day chores, work, money or how little I was earning at this stage, future and like I needed a hole in my head the two divas was all consuming my thoughts. But mum in Perth, there was a sense cease fire and we were starting to build a relationship. We were actually happy. It is a strange thing to say when you have a cloud over your head. But then again, I was not thinking about it, not all the time anyway. I really didn’t see the point in dwelling on an issue which I had no control over.
I woke up from the surgery, at this stage I didn’t know if they had gone ahead with the hysterectomy or they had just closed me up because they found the cancer. It was good news. The surgeon explained that they removed everything as the endometriosis had progressed real badly. They had removed both ovaries and everything attached to that, even the tubes. They had to scrape down the walls of the kidney, liver etc as this growth had spread that far. Everything removed was sent out for more cancer testing. Results came negative.
I came to the conclusion that the raised tumour marker was due to this extensive endometriosis. I felt that we had dodged a bullet. I wanted to make use of this experience. I was mad at us for having petty fights. None of our fights was on serious issues, no one cheated on another, and it was not related to assets and property, we had everything to be happy for, but still we wasted time squabbling over stupid things.
Again I say the reason for bringing the laundry into the public is not to compete with the Kardashians, but to say that life is precious, time is precious don’t waste it. We have been given a second chance, not everyone gets that wakeup call and unfortunately for some it’s too late. Don’t hit the snooze button, just wake up NOW. Then again, if you haven’t dealt with the issue, however trivial it may be to the other, that fight/argument is going to revisit you again. Learn to listen to each other. Be fair, and accept compromise, but at the same time don’t let the other bully you. If you let the other bully you into silence, you are playing Ms/Mr Amicable, while boiling on the inside. Eruption postponed to a later date.
My mum was married off at a very young age, sixteen or seventeen, almost a child bride. Her formal education ended with that. However, my dad believed in her abilities and talents. More than anything he loved her unconditionally. He was an educated man. But in his eyes, mum was still an equal, worthy of his love and respect. With dad’s support mum flourished in her confidence and started to hone on her talents. She got herself a Diploma in Dressmaking. Dad’s sudden passing shattered mum. It shattered both of us. It came from nowhere. No warnings. Start to finish was just sixteen days. He had a brain aneurism. I have an enormous amount of admiration for the way she rose to the challenge of bringing up her only daughter.
Little does she realise, that this is where I drew half the strength for my battles. She lived the life of Riley’s until my Dad’s passing. She lived in a great big house with an aide for each chore. She was Chauffer driven to anywhere and everywhere. She was treated like a queen by the staff at The Tea Research Institute, where my dad worked as a scientist. These were the perks that came with my dad’s profession. After, dad’s passing we moved to Colombo into a small flat. Life began with no aides and no cars. We had to learn to use public transport. We had to learn to live on a small pension. Mum realised this was not going to be enough. She did not hesitate. She thought she could make use of that diploma in dressmaking and accepted a job in a Garment factory. Most relatives and friends were very supportive. But there were the odd ones who couldn’t resist sniggering at mum for going below her social standing. Mum didn’t care. Mum was just forty two. She may not have a formal education, but made up for it with her conviction. She was very strong, even when it came to my marriage; some were not very convinced with my choice for a husband. But she stood strong; her daughter’s happiness was paramount for her. She wasn’t going to let anyone bully us. Dad had given us the confidence to be independent and she was not going to fail her husband. She missed dad immensely, we both did, and we had to be there for each other. This was the period I realised how strong my mum was. Each day she was becoming more confident and embracing her independence.
Living with us I realised, she had to live according to our whims and fancy. It wasn’t always fair. We were taking each other for granted. When things got heated we didn’t mind telling her that this was our house and that’s how it’s going to stand. So, when mum returned from Perth, I explained to mum it would be better if she moved out. In my mind I wasn’t just thinking about my needs, I was genuinely thinking of her needs as well. She is an independent woman, and we are keeping her here with her wings clipped.
She didn’t see it that way. She was very upset. She was really angry. Well, why wouldn’t she? She felt betrayed and used. She looked after the boys from their birth. She was the full time child minder, when I returned to work. Now, that the boys are grown up, I am just discarding her. I tried to explain to her that wasn’t the case. I explained to her that, I love her very much but living under the same roof, we are just tolerating each other. I don’t want to tolerate my mother, I wanted to yearn for my mother and her company. And I explained that living separately but close by, we could achieve that. Again Lyn made mum consider my suggestion. So she reluctantly moved out. She was still very angry and hurt.
I was still recovering from the surgery. So, in everyone else’s eyes I was being crazy. Why would I disregard her help? She could cook for me and take care of me. Everyone thought I was just being spiteful. Well, probably mum thought the same. In life there is nothing called a free lunch. Help usually comes with control and obligation. This is how I felt at that time. This is how I was made to feel. I wanted my independence and sanity back. And I knew in time mum will start to enjoy hers.
It was about a month and half since the surgery. I had started to drive and do simple stuff. This was a strange surgery. You feel fantastic one minute and the next minute a dizzy spell. I felt that I was starting to gain weight. But more than anything I felt unfit, my stomach and my back were like jelly. So went to see the personal trainer, I met years ago for a shoulder injury that I had. He was amazing. He explained to me that as the stomach region is compromised due to the surgery, and that in turn is not supporting my back. So it was gentle core exercises to strengthen the weaker muscles. Progress was very slow. But gradually I got fitter and thinner.
Life was good again. Life was actually fabulous. I felt like a new woman. Many showed concern about a hysterectomy as they felt worse after the surgery due to the lack of hormones. For me it was the reverse. I wish I had done it earlier. I just felt so great. Until…. Until Dr. Lynch decided to spoil it all.
As I said before I am a very practical person. My method of parenting was also very practical. I had much to do, minimum amount of disruption was vital. “Mum he started it” was dealt with “I don’t care who started it, I can finish it” punishment was for both of them, my theory was one of them escaped the dreaded wooden spoon one time or another, so it was all even at the end of a long week. I wish I had a similar method for my mum and husband. Their relationship was straining. In turn, it was affecting me as well. I usually keep my peace with mum; as when she erupts it’s a few days of misery. But after continuous prodding by the GP and the Gyno, my stomach was in all sorts. Pain was in its absolute peak. Unfortunately my mum was not privy to any of this information. So she kept pushing everyone’s buttons. I made a slip. So the day I went for the first of the scans, I was not entirely thinking about the scan or the dreaded tumour marker. Hubby and I were mostly discussing the eruption we had the night before. It was a very good distraction.
My reasoning for bringing this part of the laundry into the lime light is not to discredit my mum, my husband, father in law or anyone else. This is to point out, that just because you are going through cancer, the rest of world doesn’t stop to lay you that red carpet, not always anyway. Life goes on as normal for the rest of the world. Your closest and dearest are forced to change their routine a little bit, the bit where they were reliant on you, is now on them to carry on, on their own. It’s not like when you have the flu, where the inconvenience is just for a week, but with something like cancer, it’s a long road. A long bumpy road, with many potholes. The driver is going to try and avoid those potholes and the passenger hopes the same. But unfortunately the wheels are going to hit those darn potholes once in a while anyway. Pain is experienced by all. You have to just keep driving. Driver fatigue is very possible in this journey as well. It’s important that you involve the passenger to take on the wheel at times.
Friends became co-drivers in terms of school drop offs. We headed to the doctors for an 8.30 AM appointment. This Gynaecologist was recommended by a nurse friend of mine. She told me he was thorough. This man takes thoroughness to another level. What we learnt later is that this blood test that flagged the tumour marker, is not usually a test that Gyno’s worry about. It’s not a conclusive test, it’s something used as an indicator on advanced cancer patients to see if the cancer was returning, rising etc. Not sure of his thinking why he asked me to have it done. Anyway, that inconclusive test is the main reason why I am still around to tell my story.
Dr. Munday went on to explain that the tumour marker count on a normal person should be around 0-10, and mine was around 175. Quite high I guess. But at the same time this is an indicator, in laymen’s term, (this is how I convinced myself that it was not that serious) it’s like saying if you have a headache it could mean you have brain tumour, or it could even mean that you just have a migraine. He had already looked at the results of the tests performed the day before. Lungs were clear. The liver had some white masses, so he had discussed it with the liver specialist before my arrival and the opinion was that it is rather a normal feature in women of my age. The intestines/ oesophagus had a small area that they wanted to have another closer look at. So he had already made an appointment for me with a Gastroenterologist. Dr Munday went on to explain that until we explore the possibility of the cancer and if I had cancer that had to be dealt with first before the hysterectomy. Three days later I was going for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. Fasting, jelly and the rest of the glory began. Mum thought that was all part of the hysterectomy. I didn’t see a reason to correct her. I needed support and strength, someone who would say and feel it was going to be okay. Not the other way around. I didn’t have the energy to console my mum. It would be hard for any parent to not fall apart. Let alone for one who has lost her husband and this was her only child. Not telling my mum the whole story meant she didn’t see a reason to let go of the fight that started 3 days ago. Hubby may be domestically challenged but when it came to the mental strength that I needed, he was like a rock for me.
I had taken on a new client. This meant their books were an utter mess and years behind in reconciliation. The Tax department was breathing down their neck and so were the creditors. The added trips to the doctors and specialists meant I was behind in my work. So, before going in for the scopes the next day I promised that I will have all reports emailed to them that night. I was working till midnight with the jelly and toilet trips. I was like a woman before labour. Nesting instincts had clicked in. I was doing it all, cleaning, ironing uniforms, helping with homework and profit and loss statements all tackled.
Scopes were done and the results drew blank. So Dr. Munday decided to go ahead with the surgery. The cancer cloud had not completely cleared. The possibility that the endometriosis was giving an elevated reading was talked about. Still no real answers to why it was high. Dr. Munday was going to have an oncologist on site, so if he saw anything untoward, then they will stop the surgery, close me up for that day, take actions for the cancer and so forth.
With all the tests and doctor’s appointments completed until September for the surgery, life was back to the same old. Reality was starting to sink in. I could have cancer. I talked to a selected few of my friends and to one of my cousins who lived in Adelaide. Other than that we didn’t want to alarm any one before we knew the exact story ourselves.
Moments of sadness crept in. I lost my dad at the age of 19. He was only 53. My life completely changed after his passing. I lost my whole identity. From a girl who was full confidence and conviction, I became withdrawn and almost very insecure. Not that I lost interest in my studies, but I was not firing with all cylinders. I knew it would be the same for my kids. They were much younger than I was when I lost my dad. Not that I had lacked confidence in Ganesh to be a good dad, but I knew, without me the house would turn into Capt. Von Trap and his two sons on two minute noodles.
Hari had just moved to high school and was slowly finding his feet. It always takes a bit of time for Hari to make friends and accept a new place. He already had his challenges with his hearing and the issues that brings on. I feel somehow responsible for his hearing loss and then on top of that to lose his mother at a young age would just make things worse. He had an amazing final year in his primary school, winning scholarships, chess tournaments, Maths Olympiad and South Australian Champ for Robotics. He showed so much promise. Arj was just blossoming as a young actor, orator and debater. He had Midsummer Night’s Dream under his belt. He was just nine years old and a star already. I was going to derail everything.