“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. — Paulo Coelho
It was just not sinking in! Nothing was making sense. My mind was completely blank. I was trying hard to join the dots and make sense out of it but the dots seemed a maze and I found myself trapped in it.
My gynaecologist was speaking to my husband and me. His words, soft yet firm fell on to my ears. My biopsy report had come positive. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. He was explaining the treatment plan. First a surgery would be done followed by radiation or chemotherapy, or both, whatever was needed.
The doctor’s words simply filled my ears while my eyes were busy seeing visuals of our children, our parents and our friends. Our son, Akarsh, had just joined an MBA college and our daughter Ahaana was doing her graduation. While Akarsh was in another town, Ahaana lived with us. From the very beginning of his classes, Akarsh would very excitedly speak of the high pressure of academics and other activities in the college, that he was enoying and that missing even a day, would affect the grades. He was sure to come by the next flight, the moment he got this news, I was sure. Staying back for the surgery would mean missing college for at least 4–5 days! How could I let him do that, I was thinking.
Giving a straight go-ahead with the treatment plan to the doctor, we returned home. I think when there are a sea of thoughts in your mind, you don’t know , which one to voice out, so both of us were silent. Abhik, my husband had a very important meeting at work so I insisted that he left for his office. I got myself busy with the daily chores.
In the evening, Abhik and me sat with our mugs of coffee. The whole day, most of my mind space had Ahaana in it. Ahaana is a brilliant girl who loves to take up challenges. Like myself, she has dreams and always works toward fulfilling them. Her college was about to host its nationwide popular, annual festival, in just about two months. Ahaana had been selected, the chairperson of the festival.This had been her dream for the last three years and steadily, she had worked towards it. Now, having achieved it, she wanted to give her best and make the festival, the most successful, so far. She had already been working like crazy, for it.
I could foresee her reaction after hearing this absolute, unexpected, development in our lives. There was no half measures for her, in anything.
“Hi Mamma! Dad! I am absolutely famished!” I could hear Ahaana in the kitchen. Entering home, she had walked straight in there. With a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies in her hand, Ahaana came and sat with us.
“ Why this silence? Are the two of you discussing something important?”
She looked at me and stopped ,
“ Wait! Is something wrong? Mamma, I can see it written all over your face! Please tell me Dad, what has happened?”
Without beating about the bush, Abhik said softly,
“ Mom’s biopsy reports have come; they are positive!”
Ahaana seemed to have been hit by a thunderbolt! The room seemed to be bursting with the dreaded silence. Ahaana broke it.
“ I am resigning from my post, the first thing tomorrow.” She came and hugged me tight, as tight as she could. Mother and daughter, kept sitting like that for a while. Abhik came and stood there, stroking our heads.
This time, I broke the silence. Taking Ahaana’s face in my hands, I looked into her eyes and said,
“ You will do nothing of the sort, Ahaana.” Silencing her lovingly, I continued,
“ I know how precious are dreams, to you, Ahaana for they are extremely dear to me as well. It was your dream to be the chairperson of this festival and with all your dedication, you have materialised it. We are so happy and proud of you, for this. I can’t let you go of your dream, my child! I know this is a huge challenge that has come into our lives, threatening us, trying to overpower us, but we will not let that happen, will we? We will all face it together, fighting it with all our might and belief in our heart that we shall overcome it.”
I had to speak out my emotions.
“ We will all stretch ourselves, while challenging it but we need to prevent damage, as much as we can. Starting my fight at the cost of your dreams itself, will weigh too heavily on my heart. You know Ahaana, both Abhik and me have always given you and Akarsh, wings to fly and reach out to your dreams. Please don’t clip those wings! Instead, make them stronger to take this additional weight of our fight. We can do it together, Ahaana, I know we can.You agree, don’t you?”
Ahaana’s eyes were brimming with tears when she nodded in the affirmative and buried her head into my lap. Oblivious to my streaming tears, I sat there, stroking her head, with all my love pouring through my fingers.
I was hospitalized. A sea of faces, of our family and friends, was there to wish me luck and pray for me, when I was wheeled into the operation theatre. It was a long drawn out, a bit complicated, almost a six hour surgery. The rest of the routine followed; shifting to the room, gaining and losing consciousness, hushed voices in the background and deep sleep.
As decided upon by us, Abhik would be there with me the whole day. In the evening, as sweet as honey, Ahaana’s voice would fall into my ears,
“Hi Mamma, how are you?” And she would breeze into the room. After cleaning herself up, she would come to me and tend to all my needs, while filling me up with the tiniest details of her day. I would almost forget my pain and post surgical problems; Her excitement was so infectious that I would be able to visualise everything that she would be recounting.I was in the hospital for two weeks. Every single day, Ahaana would leave early morning for college and return to the hospital to spend the evening with me. It was stretching herself quite a lot but she did it without compromising in any way, with her work.
I was discharged from the hospital. In less than a month’s time, Ahaana had her college festival. It was a grand success. I saw her pictures in the paper and read about the great things that were written about her. My heart swelled with pride.
We indeed should never be paralyzed by obstacles life throws our way. In fact, they help us discover who we are.
Fighting the deadly disease and surviving is truly something that made me realise the beautiful words of Albert Camus;
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”