You may not remember me. I am just a small inconsequential back up character to your main story. Which is understandable. You are the protagonist, who makes the whole world talk about you. Everyone always gives you their utmost attention, ponders over your visit, learns how to manage every month with the added expense of tending to you. Yes, you, I am talking to you, Cancer.
Since the past year and a half you tried to wreak havoc in my family. It started with my nani (Hindi for grandma). She never hurt anyone. She never wished anything bad to happen to others. As far as I know, she was a very live and let live kind of a person. But you couldn’t bear that, could you? You had to come visit her. Scare her. And the way you did it was awesome too. Catch her when she least expected it. When all of us were out on a family holiday, where you assumed we wouldn’t notice it among the fun and frolic.
It was an earth shattering moment when we realized that she was battling cervical cancer. Mom tried to be strong for all of us. Taking care of nani, accompanying her to her weekly visits to the hospital. Sitting by her side, giving her words of encouragement. It was a strange transformation, for the daughter to take on the caring role of a mother, to her very own mother, no less. Mom would cry, yes, but never let anybody else see. Because if she lost hope, all of us would. Funny how a supposedly strong unit like our family would keep an appearance of normalcy based on my mom’s hopeful stance.
Dad was the epitome of a rock during this tough time. Never complaining, making light of what has occurred and giving unflinching support, monetarily and emotionally. Never did he compromise on anything. Never did he cut down on the growing expenses rendered by his two kids, never told us no. That would have been tough, very tough. He just set his jaw, went about his way and provided for the family.
My brother was still a teenager when this happened. He never talked about it to any of us. Never made it seem like it was a big deal. But he started acting out in other ways. He started cutting classes and lying about it. It wasn’t like he was going out to party. He would climb up to the roof and lay there watching the sky for hours together. He lost interest in studying or anything related to academics. He seemed to prefer the make believe world of anime rather than the real one.
I was living in another city when this happened, pursuing my academics. I was surprised at my reaction. I didn’t feel sad nor angry. I just felt something cold placed upon my chest, unwilling to move. I refused to talk to my friends about it. Nor read up on it. Ignorance is bliss is the route that I followed. I am ashamed of that. I threw myself into work. I called nani, but it was only for a few minutes. It was very weird. I had so much to say to her, to encourage her. But every time I called her, all that would die at my lips and the only words which came out were the cursory greetings, asking her how she was. I sounded like this cold, distant person who didn’t care about anyone.
Thankfully, a year’s chemotherapy and other assorted medical treatments later, you have gone away from our lives. Nani still has to have regular check ups, always on the look out, always trying to be one step ahead of you. But the fact remains that she has survived you, outsmarted you this time.
But this letter is not to blame you, this letter is to thank you. Thank you for affecting our family. Usually when you read the stories of cancer survivors, it always focuses on the patient. But in reality, the whole family is the patient. Recovering together, taking all the blows together, being there for each other. Always. You made us realize how fleeting life is and how small things don’t matter. You brought us together, even though it wasn’t in the way I would ever think possible. It made me revel in the sense of closeness that a family lends you. The support and the shoulder to cry on. My family grew as a whole because of you.
Although you were some sort of twisted good luck to our family and you in your rash unreasonable generosity thought better than to take nani’s life, I would never wish you upon anyone. It took all of us a lot of strength to overcome you, and sometimes it almost tore our family apart. Its a very strong almost, and no one should be affected by that kind of almost.
A Cancer Survivor.