Posted in True Story, Inspirational

Gratitude

gratitude

Haven’t done much writing lately due to a fractured finger.  Feel really lonely without my keyboard.  But today I have something to celebrate.  I really want to post something today. The best I could do is cheat.  I can’t type too much.  So therefore going to post some of the letters I wrote a couple of years ago.

Today marks 8 years of being cancer free.  But the whole battle started a couple of years before that.  I have so many to thank for my blessings.  The following is a letter I wrote 2 years ago to my personal trainer.

Hi Damien

Today marks 6 yrs and 2 days cancer free for me.  I am not sure if you remember the first time we met at Goodlife/ Zest.  Well, I do.  I was bruised and battered after my first surgery.  I was physically and mentally drained.  The thought the possibility of my life ending at 42 was very real.  It was not my life that I was worried about, it was my kids having to lead a life without a mother, how it would affect them was what really upset me.  I realised I had to get out of that head space if I wanted a chance to fight this.  Making that first step to come and join the gym was my idea, but being handed to you was my fate.  Each time you made me better I would go on to have another surgery and comeback weaker than when I started.  After my last surgery, I could not even walk in shops with my kids.  They had to stop and wait for me.  I am glad I tracked you down again. Now I am a city to bay runner.

I saw my doctor today.  All the tests are indicating that there is no sign of the cancer. But, the doctor was actually very amazed at my recovery, my fitness level and overall how everything has turned out for me.  I am a rare case in their books (I mean on a medical level).  He kept shaking his head, and said “with each surgery we took organ after organ and it proves if you are willing you can live without them”.

Damien, the doctors did all they can medically to keep me alive, but it’s you who has given me a life that’s worth living.  Without the core exercises and other strengthening exercises, I will not be able to lead a normal life.  Even though I am probably the weakest in the class, I know personally my fitness has risen leaps and bounds.  Honestly I didn’t think I could do certain excercises.  You challenging me, forces me to try these new exercises.  And many a times I am surprised that I can do them.

Damien, you are the best personal trainer and truly a gorgeous human being. I am truly blessed.  Thank you so much for making me fitter and feel the way I feel.  Feelings are similar 2 years on.

 

Not every one received a letter.  Some just got a hug.

Thank you Ganesh – sorry you had to shoulder so much stress.  Promise not to do it again.

Thank you to my two beautiful boys – again sorry darlings, you had to endure various people picking you up from school.  Sorry for not telling you at the beginning.

Thank you to my mum – Sorry for not telling you at the beginning.  I didn’t think you could deal with it.  Promise not to do it again.  (I will kind of promise not to break another bone too, at least I will try)

Thank you to my cuz Ranji and Ragu- next to my hubby the other supporting rocks. Thanks goes to your beautiful kids and my aunt as well.  Thanks Nimal for being my reassuring doc.

Thank you to my Doctors – special thanks to Dr. Kolias, Dr. Martin Tan, and Dr. Stewart Lynch.

Thank you to all the million nurses who were by my side.

Thank you Dad for watching over me.

 

https://www.facebook.com/fitnessfrontline/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/27/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-dreaded-c-word-cont/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-dreaded-c-word-cont-3rd-lot/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/the-dreaded-c-word-cont-part-4/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/the-dreaded-c-word-cont-part-5/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/the-dreaded-c-word-cont-part-6/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/the-dreaded-c-word-part-7/

https://uma197.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/the-dreaded-c-word-part-8/

 

 

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Posted in True Story, Inspirational

The Dreaded “C” Word (Part 8)

cancer

I got the same nurse Lyn Lee at CCU.  She was rather surprised to see me again.  But this time around the vomiting was very minimal. The doctor explained that they removed the rest of the thyroid, parathyroid and few lymph nodes and has been sent to the pathology for testing. I was recovering quite well.  It was day four.  The doctor walked in looking chuffed.  He was very happy.  The results were back and the cancer thankfully had not spread anywhere.  So, I think we got to it before it spread anywhere.  I am one lucky girl.

 

i beat cancer

This was the best outcome we could have had.  Still I had to go through more tests to make sure that it was not popping up anywhere else.  But for the moment it was GREAT news.

We had a chat to the boys and mum and explained what has been happening for the last couple of years.  And that I am now cancer free.  Mum was over the moon.  Hari was quiet for a moment and then he said, “mum is only 5ft tall but she is tough, she will be fine”.  Arj went quiet.  Afterwards, he said almost tearful “mum, some say that they have got rid of cancer, but it comes back after five years or so, will that come back for you too, what if it comes back?” I explained that yes it could come back.  Once you get cancer, there is no guarantee that it won’t come back again.

I went on to explain further, yes, I have escaped cancer now, but I could get hit by a car around the corner and die too.  In life there are no guarantees.  But just because there are uncertainties in life we don’t stop living.  If I get the cancer again, I just have to pick up where I left off the first time and this time I have some experience.  Arj was happy with that answer.

I had to go for monthly tests and then they became less frequent, 3 monthly, 6 monthly and now only annually. I still had to go for the annual endoscopy and colonoscopy because of a little inflammation/cyst of some sort near in the intestines.  Once again my fitness level had dipped. So I met Damien my personal trainer again.  He was excellent. For me it’s not just about losing weight to look pretty.  It is more to do with being able to move my body and use my body effectively.  To feel fit and healthy.  And that is exactly what Damien is all about.  Especially when you are after an injury or surgery, it is paramount that you are careful and that you don’t make things worse.

Hari got selected to enter University of NSW.  I was so proud of him.  He worked damn hard to get there.  From a very young age he was determined to become a Robotics Engineer and now he is at the door steps of his dream.  We were looking for accommodation etc for him in Sydney.  I decided that I will accompany him to show him the ropes and help him settle in.  For the rest of the world he is an adult.  But for me the mother he is still my baby. I am going to miss my baby, but I am going to hide those tears so he can achieve his dreams.

We were busy buying and organising things for his new apartment when I received a call from my Gastrointestinal Surgeon. He wanted to see me when I returned to Adelaide.   I had a feeling that this was for another surgery.  He wouldn’t be calling to say that I’ve won a million dollars now would he, it’s more like “I am running low on cash, can I open you up?” Yep, the small inflammation/cyst thing had suddenly grown into a massive lump.  This was sitting on the junction of the intestine/ oesophagus.  Being on that junction it was like on the corner of an S bend, was going to be a tricky operation.  And essentially Dr. Bessell was trying to avoid opening me up fully as that would be a rather big surgery.  His team of doctors believed they could do a laparoscopic surgery.  This would mean easier recovery etc.  He explained that they will try their hardest to do it that way, but sometimes they might have to change course and open me up.

My friend Sally worked in this hospital as a nurse and she came to see me before I was wheeled in.  Wish she was there to see my reaction, when I woke up. I woke up to find that I was opened from top to toe.  I stroked my stomach area to see where the laparoscopic holes were.  But I felt my whole chest feel really heavy and then yes, a big cut from the top of the rib cage up to the belly button.  They’ve cut me up like I was a piece of fish, gutted and filleted, okay maybe not filleted.

This was by far the worst of the surgeries.  As the oesophagus is in the back (inside the rib cage) behind heart and other organs.  So it’s similar to a bypass surgery where they have to open the rib cage up to get to this spot. The lump was benign after all that.  But I guess considering the size of the lump and my history they couldn’t take a chance and leave it there.

Recovery was slow, but steady.  I was in a lot of pain though.  By this time we had a new addition to the family.  Galileo our little pugalier pup.  We called him Leo for short.  Leo was a major part of my recovery.  Once everyone is off to school and work, it was just me, Leo and the TV.  He knew, he could sense it, that I was in a lot of pain.  He followed me everywhere and slept on the edge of my foot.  Keeping watch and keeping company.

In time I was now back to normal.  However, with these repeated surgeries, my body had taken beating.  Also a few months after this surgery I also managed to break my ribs a couple of times.  I felt like an old woman.  Walk was very slow.  My back hurt, my shoulder hurt and I had gained weight.  I was still my positive self, happy and chirpy. Everyone around me was happy to give the excuse that I have been through a lot and carrying a bit weight was the least of my worries.  They were not wrong, and I was happy to accept the same.

However, I was now convinced that I had to meet Damien again. If I am going to live, I am going to live well I thought.  I wanted to be able to everything I did when I was 21. I had cancelled my gym membership by this stage as the gym was not willing to put a stop on the payments when I go in for the surgeries.  I had whole heap gym equipment at home.  But I was worried again, if I was safe to use them.  Damien had left the gym.  But I managed to track him down.  He had opened his own gym.  A small boutique gym.  I started with him just on single personal lessons.  Back to Square one, or more like go backwards after each surgery.  One step forward and two steps backwards I thought.  Still I was prepared for the hard work.  Slowly I got the confidence to join his group class.  First class was just pure murder. But slowly I could feel my fitness improve, lose weight and feel great. I am probably still one of the weakest members, in the group. But it doesn’t matter.  I am not holding the gauge against the others, this gauge is a personal gauge.  The race is mine, and I am still winning the race.

18th September 2015.  With Damien’s encouragement I decided to take part in the City to Bay fun run.  As the day grew closer I felt very emotional.  Just an year ago I couldn’t walk 1k, now I am preparing to run 6k.  I wasn’t sure if I could really do it.  But I was going to try. I was going to give it a real go.

city to bay

I was very emotional that day.  When I saw the finish line, I realised this was really a start line or could say restart line.  My life starts again.

 

Posted in True Story, Inspirational, Uncategorized

The Dreaded “C” Word (part 7)

cropped-cancer.jpg

Relationship with my mum was getting a lot better.  Mum was already a volunteer worker at St. Vincent De Paul and World Vision.  But after she moved to her new place, she had started to work at the Cheltenham Community Centre as well, teaching sewing to migrants.  She was starting to enjoy having her freedom.  Mum had also started to going for computer and swimming classes.  We would visit her every Saturday for an authentic Sri Lankan feed.  Our kids would go and spend a night or two during school holidays.  Both parties enjoyed playing scrabble and monopoly.  They were very proud to see their grandmother on face book. They would help her with technical issues and so on.

Adelaide was having a horrid summer.  This was almost the 5th day of a heat wave.  Nil by mouth on a day like this was extremely hard.  Anyway went under the knife, around 4.00pm. Not sure how long the surgery was for. First night was in the CCU (Critical Care Unit).  Next morning I slowly walked to the toilet to have a wash and change with the help of the nurse.  I was a bit sore but I was able to talk and I was on my feet, I was rather radiant and happy.  It could have been the effects of all the morphine from the night before.  Just after the wash I threw up.  I usually have that reaction the day after anaesthesia.  I guess most people do.  So no big fuss about that and I was now transferred to the normal ward.

Hubby came to see me with a paper article in his hand.  It was Arj on the paper, he had given an interview about the short film he had done a couple of months ago.  I proudly showed the article to the nurse.  The vomiting continued.  I couldn’t keep anything down.   Throat surgery and vomiting doesn’t go hand in hand. I was put on anti nausea medication.  I was now moved to a private room.  I was meant to be going home on the 4th or the 5th day.  It was now the 5th day.  The vomiting hadn’t stopped and I was still on IV Fluids.  So they decided to have me in for another couple of days.  Adelaide heat wave was still ramping up.  Even the hospital A/c was finding it hard to cope.  The heat, vomiting and pain all combined I was struggling a bit at times.

It was probably the 5th or the 6th day. The doctor came around lunch time, about 1.00pm to see me.  This was rather unusual.  He normally sees me in the morning.  I was on my own. Hubby only comes in the evening with the boys.  He smiled and asked how I was doing.  I said “not bad”, he gently started to talk.  My test results of the Thyroid lump had come through.  Well, I have Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma.  A very rare type of thyroid cancer.  He sat on the edge of my bed and repeated “bugger, bugger, bugger”.  Not exactly professional for a doctor.  I’ve never seen him like this.

On the contrary I was rather calm.  I am really not sure how or why.  I guess I already had an inclination, that maybe this could be it.  To a certain extent I felt relieved.  We finally found it.  So I asked the doctor rather calmly “what next”. That’s pretty much me at most situations, “Madam your flight has been cancelled” and I would say “what your next flight?” then the rest of organising, I would let the pickup person know etc. You have to be practical about these things. I usually don’t see the point in fretting over things. So the news of cancer got the same treatment. Dr. Kollias either thought that I was a fruit cake or he was relieved that I was not bawling my eyes out. He straightened up.  He told me that he had already spoken to my husband.  The next step is to remove the rest of the thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes etc. And he went on to say that this totally explains the raised CEA marker.  I asked him if I had to go through Chemotherapy.  He said that Chemo and radio therapy does not work with this type of cancer.  At that stage I didn’t really understand the full extent of this particular cancer.  I didn’t realise that if it had spread then I wouldn’t have much of a fighting chance.  The talk of cancer had become so routine I was treating this as another procedure for a scan.

So the next surgery was scheduled in two days.  I had to go in for another scan and a few more blood tests.  It was the day of the second surgery, I was in immense pain already, the thought of the doctor opening up the same wound and fiddling around, made me feel nervous.  My blood pressure was sky rocketing.  I took the last sip of water before the NIL By mouth curfew sets in.

I looked at the picture that was hanging on the wall. It was the picture of Venice. It was of a couple on the gondola. Venice has been on my bucket list for a long time.  There are many beautiful places in the world and I would love to see them all.  However, Venice is the only one I have put on my Bucket List. Well I haven’t crossed that off the list yet I thought.  I stared at that picture again.  I thought to myself, “Nah, It’s not my time yet, I haven’t been to Venice” I imagined the “nah” with an Aussie accent, well pretty much the whole sentence in the most bogan accent.  Rather laid back, but with conviction.  Not sure if the big man up there had a part in placing that picture, or just a mere coincidence.  But the picture served its purpose.  Your inspiration or conviction can come from anything.  And it doesn’t matter where it comes from.  It could be a picture of Venice, it could be the picture of the flower that blooms only once a year or just the thought of your kids. Just use any lame excuse to say “I have to be here”.

When I got wheeled in for the surgery I met the whole team the Anaesthetist, the Surgeon and the nurses.  I was probably prepped a little bit so I was already rather happy and mellow.  The surgeon mentioned to Anaesthetist not to use the same medicine as last time as that didn’t agree with me, and the Anaesthetist said “I am well ahead of you sir, I have a different plan this time”  and I asked him “what to knock me out with a frying pan”  We all had a chuckle.

Humour is very important to me.  I find this eases me and as well as those around me.  When you are going through something serious, it’s the big elephant in the room, and no one knows how to talk about it. I guess they don’t know how to behave around you.  But if you show them that you have the capacity to laugh then they will join you.  Then it becomes a happier place. A place where it’s filled with positivity and no room given for negativity or self pity.

The Anaesthetist also knew my name meant goddess of the earth.  He had Asian features. I asked him if he was from Thailand as there are many Hindus there. He said he was from Singapore and he is Chinese, however was very interested Indian culture and its stories.  I don’t remember any other conversations after that.  He must have got hold of that frying pan.

to be cont…  

Posted in True Story, Inspirational, Uncategorized

The Dreaded “C” Word Cont (part 6)

cancer

It was now a few months since my surgery, another blood test. The CEA/tumour marker was not down, instead slightly more elevated.  Not by much, but the main concern was that it was still present.  Some doctors were wondering if I still had scar tissues from the recent surgery and hence the raised tumour marker.  But Dr. Lynch was adamant that I see Dr. Martin Tan.  You could tell that he didn’t believe the scar tissue theory.  I was very annoyed.  I was on top of the world and this guy was talking utter rubbish.  But I thought I will just humour him and went to see Dr. Tan. He looked me in the eye and said “I am sorry Mrs. Ganesan, but there is a malignancy somewhere and we need to find it” rubbish I thought, but never mind I will do the tests and prove that I am fine and you lot are wrong.

So they started with the most probable and were going to work their way up.  First stop the stomach region.  So it started Colonoscopy, Endoscopy, scans and MRI’S.  Sometimes, four procedures on the same day.  The procedures itself was not painful but the preparation, fasting and eating jelly day after day was just becoming tedious, and then the concussion that they make you drink before the procedure was even worse.  That stuff was making me sick.  Barium!! Keep away from that.  To put it bluntly you start shitting bricks.  With all these tests, I was either constipated or down with diarrhoea.  My stomach was churning with radioactive isotopes.  It was a wonder that I was not glowing in the dark.

glow in the dark

 

Hubby didn’t bring me roses, instead he would bring me sushi.  Because he knew that was the only thing that I was able to keep down.  Everything else churned that stomach even more.  He didn’t sing me any songs (thank god for that) instead he would just be there for me, telling me that I was strong and doing great.

My advice to the young ones, don’t look at the size of the diamond, just look into their eyes and see if you see kindness.  When the chips are down, diamonds and muscles wouldn’t matter.  You need someone who would walk the journey with you.  Find that rare diamond. 

I met with the school teachers and explained that there is a bit of a concern with my health, and if they could help keep an eye on the boys, watch them for any behaviour changes, empathy etc.  They were great, they were amazing.  One teacher in particular, who was also a mother in that school, met me after Hari’s soccer game.  She came up to me and asked if she could give me a hug.  I didn’t even know her that well.  She gave me the biggest hug.  It was so sincere and genuine.  This world is a beautiful place and that is because of these angels. Don’t be afraid to give a stranger a hug.  It may not mean much to you, but to the receiver it is thousands of unspoken words.  Ranges from, I empathise you, I feel for you, I am there for you in any small way I can, have hope, everything is going to be okay, you have a friend in me and you are not walking alone.  It means everything to know that you are not walking alone.

Most of the tests came back negative.  Some of them highlighted the fact that I am indeed a unique person.  I had a few extra bits and pieces inside.  I guess it makes up for all the stuff the doctors removed out of me.  An added attachment near the naval area, an extra spleen to name a few.  Finding the extra spleen was a string of  interesting tests.  One of the scans showed that my pancreas was of an odd shape.  By this time there was a pool of doctors who were working on my case.  Initially they thought that it was possible to have a slightly different shaped pancreas and nothing to be concerned about.  But it didn’t sit right with some of the doctors.  One of the doctors had this silly idea that I may have two spleens and one may be sitting in front the pancreas and hence causing the picture to show an odd shaped pancreas.  So they took my blood, added radioactive isotopes and after a couple of hours injected it back into me.  Then another scan.  The spleen works as a blood filter.  So when it filters the blood, it would trap the radioactive isotopes and be rather visible on the scan.  So, yep I had two places gleaming like the Christmas lights and the conclusion I had two spleens and nothing wrong with the pancreas.  Phew.

For some reason I was a bit anxious the day before this test.  Not sure why, but the whole procedure freaked me out.  My hubby kept saying, “don’t worry, this is nothing, you will be fine”, I didn’t want to hear that, his words were just irritating me, I thought “what do you mean this is nothing, this is big, have you done anything like this, this is freaking me out and you are trying to make it look like I am fussing over nothing”, he knew I needed someone other than him at that time, he suggested “why don’t you ring Merryn and see if you could catch up with her”.  So I rang Merryn, she was going to drop everything and come to see me.  This was all happening in the car.  I didn’t want to see her at home.  I didn’t want the kids to see me like this.  We decided to meet in an hour’s time in a restaurant.

I am not sure if I believe in Telepathy or not, because it seems almost impossible to be just a coincidence.  A few minutes after I planned this with Merryn, one of my old friends from Sydney rang, they are heading towards Adelaide and wanted to catch up.  They have been on a road trip for months.  The last time I heard from her was from Broome in WA.  Now she was going to be in Adelaide in a couple of hours.  I was so excited.  I had not seen her in years. Tears to cheers in two minutes.  Cancelled the plans with Merryn.

Kylie’s husband is another that I have always admired.  He was struck with a rare type of Kidney decease.  He didn’t stop living, as a family they did everything.  They had to alter a few things to accommodate his treatment.  But they wouldn’t settle for just moping and coping.  There were road trips, fishing, camping, cooking and a whole lot of entertainment. Joe had gone through a similar test and he said “honestly, it’s not nice”, you could see in his eyes that he empathised with me.  Somehow, I felt less freaked out after hearing this from Joe.  The carer’s job is such a hard one.  You have to know when to say “you are going to be fine”. And sometimes you have say, “this sounds really horrible, I wish you didn’t have to go through this”.  But hubby was great in knowing that sometimes, he had to allow another person like a friend or my cousin to take on that role.

Test after test went on for about 2 years.  At times they had to stop as I had too much radioactive garbage in my body and scans were not clear.  I requested a small break and we went to Queensland for a holiday.  We had the best time of our time.  In spite of all the tests we tried to live a normal life as possible.  Holidays, inviting people over for meals, kids activities etc went on as normal.  Just took a bit more planning and organisation on my part.  I couldn’t feel the cloud over my head.  Remember I was doing the tests to prove everyone wrong.  But on my part I thought if I didn’t know either way that would annoy me even more.  Tests became almost routine.  I had become an expert at the fasting procedure.  Being without food was not that hard, but no water is harder.  I will push the envelope to the last possible minute for that last sip of water.  Test after test came negative.

It was now Dec 2008.  I was referred to Endocrinologist as one of the other scans indicated that I may have a cyst in my thyroid.  Ultra sound to the thyroid revealed that it was indeed a rather large lump on the right side of the thyroid (it could be the left, any way one of them).  I was back at the St Andrews radiology the next day for a biopsy of this lump.   By this stage I was on first name basis at St Andrews Radiology.  There were a few people in the room.  One was the ultra sound technician from the day before who was doing an ultra sound to show the other two where to prick me to get the cells for the biopsy.  The other two looked like characters from Sherlock Holmes, brief case and magnifying glasses.  Someone taking a needle to my throat didn’t sit well with me.  I thought the best thing to do is to make light of the situation. I told the other two that they looked like they are from Sherlock Holmes.  We had a chuckle. Dr. Watson turned into Dr. Vampire. First set of cells were taken.   Ultra sound guy was holding my head or hand not sure what, but he was a gentle soul, who was almost apologetic for the procedure. The other two Sherlock Holmes Characters told me to stay put until they checked to see if they had enough cells.  Nope, they need to go in again.  They suggested that they give me a local anaesthetic as they were probably feeling guilty for sending a needle through my neck.  I was very happy.  My happiness didn’t last long.  The local anaesthetic goes into the neck as well and that hurt more than the other needle for the biopsy.  Once the numbness set in I didn’t feel anything and not sure how many more times they went in. I didn’t care, I didn’t feel anything.

Hubby came to pick me up.  I was chatting to him quite well.  Half way through the journey, it was like someone had an on/off button and flicked the switch, sudden pain took over my mouth, throat and neck area.  I stopped talking midway through the sentence.  I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva. I had gone through so many tests until then, they were uncomfortable, some a little painful, but this was the first time it was just unbearable.  I just cupped my neck with my palms hoping the warmth of my palms would make it feel better.  Hubby drove the car very gently, avoiding all the bumps and ruts on the road.  We got home and I slowly mumbled, “This is it, no more”, tears escaped and ran down my cheeks.  Hubby said gently “just rest now, we will talk about that later”, I kept saying “no more”, he gave me a hug and asked if I wanted a cup of tea, I signalled that I can’t swallow.  He went to pick the kids or return to work.  I am not sure, I just wanted to be left alone.  I put a pillow between my neck and chest and held on to the saliva in my mouth.  I couldn’t swallow it.  Severity of the pain subsided by night time.

The test results came back saying “inconclusive” My specialist suggested that I see a surgeon at the earliest and said due to the size of the lump it is probably advisable to remove it. He made the appointment with the surgeon.  Dr. Kollias  was fully booked.  But he still managed to fit me in by coming in early to the surgery and hence creating a spot.  This was on X’mas Eve 24th Dec 2008. He suggested that we remove one side of the thyroid, the side where the lump was.  He was looking at the first week in January for the surgery.  I requested that it be after the 19th of January.

Our wedding anniversary falls on the 19th of January.  I knew a surgery like this would mean I would be on baby food the following days.  I wanted to go out on our anniversary, wine and dine with my man.  Hubby was anxious, he would have preferred it to be sooner than later.  Dr. Kollias was not so worried and we set the date for the surgery end of Jan 2009.

I was feeling fine overall, however, the lump was now becoming a bit more prominent and I could feel its presence when swallowing.  Not exactly painful, but it was there just a minor irritation.  At times I felt extreme tiredness.  I put this down to be being a working mother with too much to do.  None of this stopped our way of living.  We had guests, we had dinner parties, a whole lot of cooking and our house was an absolute entertainer’s paradise. My end of year party was a blast as usual.

Someone asked me recently how on earth did I drag the attention to the day to day chaos and happiness even though I was going through a horrible ordeal of my own? I think for me it is the day to day chaos that got me through all this. There was no time for self pity. I believe that idle mind is a temple for negativity.

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

The Dreaded “C” Word Cont… (part 5)

cancer

 The Dreaded C Word

The dreaded “C” word cont….

The dreaded “C” word cont…. (3rd lot)

The dreaded “C” Word cont… (part 4)

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.

 

 

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

The dreaded “C” Word cont… (part 4)

 

cancer

The Dreaded C Word

The dreaded “C” word cont….

The dreaded “C” word cont…. (3rd lot)

 

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.

Cont…

Posted in True Story, Inspirational

The dreaded “C” word cont…. (3rd lot)

 

 

cancer

 

 

The Dreaded C Word

The dreaded “C” word cont….

Read the above two before you tackle this …

My journey begins. For years, I suffered from endometriosis.  Medical explanation to this is a tissue that lines the inside of the uterus starts to grow out side.  I also had a few fibroids in my ovaries.   I just like growing things inside my body.  If I had done so much growing on the outside of my body I could be six feet tall instead of 5ft. This meant for years I had suffered from bleeding and severe stomach cramps.  Naprogesic (a pain killer) was my ever loving friend. I was anaemic at most times. It was unbearable pain and discomfort.  However as a working mother of two over energetic boys and a wife of a domestically under contributing husband, I had no choice but to soldier on.  The GP’s were shying away from a hysterectomy as I was under the age of 40.  Damn hormones, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.

With a busy lifestyle my visits to the doctor was not that frequent.  I turned 40, but we also moved states and yes there was so much else happening.  So, no trips to the doctor, just trips to the chemist to get more Naprogesic.  I was 41, I could feel that things were getting really bad; a job got cancelled last minute.  That day was no different, I was in a lot of pain, I was already in the car when the client declined, so decided to drive to the doctors and get this pain sorted out once and for all.

My reasoning was that I had two kids, not planning on another, I had enough, I want the whole thing out.  Well, did I open the Pandora’s Box or what?  Ultra sound confirmed that I had plenty of rubbish in one of my ovaries, and the endometriosis was well cooked. Next stop, the Gynaecologist.  Met the Gyno, nice man, apparently his dad was a Gyno too, and his sister was a midwife.  Hope they were not talking shop at the dinner table.

Didn’t, realise that this would be the start of all tests.  At this stage, things were rather simple, decision was made to remove one of my ovaries, so that the other could produce enough hormones and we could avoid hormone replacement therapy.   This was around June/July. I was told that I will need two months minimum to recover.  I am a very practical person.  I thought well I will have to do it in one month.  We set the date for the surgery one week before the school holidays in September.  I had endured this for so long I couldn’t see the urgency.  I had so much to plan before the surgery.  Two months gave me enough time to cook and freeze food for the domestically challenged and his kids.  School holidays meant no school drops offs, and sports drop offs, no chess clubs and no debating.

I started cooking. My surgeon had given me scripts for a few more scans and blood tests to be done before the surgery to assist him with the surgery.  Blood test completed.  Two weeks went past and my life remained the same. I was still yelling at kids to get up in the morning, and the husband to get out of the toilet.

I was at work, it was 11: 30 am.  Just had a coffee and biscuits, too late to feel guilty about that chocolate bikky that I downed.  Yep, it’s Lyn, my surgeons’ nurse on the phone asking when I had something to eat.  I said just now, thinking “Christ I am only going for a hysterectomy not a lap band surgery”  She said politely, “Can you not drink or eat anything anymore and can you please come in for some scans at 4.00pm?” My blood test revealed that my CEA count was high.  That was a  Pauline Hanson moment – Please explain.  Carcinoembryonic Antigen.  She said “best if the doctor explains it, he will see you tomorrow after the tests”.  She said it’s a type of tumour marker. I am still in the dark. But I realised, that there were some alarm bells going off, at the doctors. I didn’t have much time to ponder if it was a false alarm or not as I had to organise school pick up and everything else.  It did stun me for a bit though.  Talked to the girls at work, they were nurses before they started their own business doing physio therapy, they had some idea but I was probably not in the right head space to take in all the information. Went outside to get some fresh air, and to call hubby, ask a friend to pick up the boys.  Time passed very quickly.  Had a CT scan of my lungs and a MRI of the stomach.

Little did I realise that this was the beginning of radiology cocktails.  Most of them were white, some of them had slight pink tinge, some pale yellow. It didn’t’ matter what colour it was, they had one common component.  They all tasted rotten.  Anyway, I was asked to come the next day to meet the Doc.

cont …. Continue reading “The dreaded “C” word cont…. (3rd lot)”