Coping with Cancer
ESHRAT MUSTAFA ESHITA
Since that night, life has never been the same. The news has struck our lives so hard so unexpectedly that everything appeared to have come to a standstill. It was indeed the most distressing blow for every one of my family. We had never faced anything of this sort in the past, so we didn't know how to confront it - emotionally. It has doubtlessly brought us unparalleled helplessness and insurmountable vulnerability. I wish ours were the last family to have encountered such aspect of human existence.
Yes, I am one of those unfortunate daughters whose mother has been detected with cancer. Mom had been suffering from unknown aches in the region between her chest and stomach for almost a year and none of the diagnoses like X-Ray, ECG (Electrocardiography), and Ultra sonogram to name a few would ever furnish a valid reason, neither would any of the prescribed medicines relieve her from the untold pain. Finally, an endoscopy did it. The biopsy report of a mass of flesh brought out during the endoscopy confirmed that the certain growth (tumour) found in my mother's esophagus was malignant.
The night my father came with that report, felt like a thousand nights in confinement- dark, helpless and powerless. My mother had, by then, already fallen asleep - defeated by discomfort and cramps and unaware of the fact that she was carrying the worst assassin within her. We pretended to be strong to each other as if this was just a bad dream and would soon be over. However, no one but the Almighty knew, the utter helplessness inside each of us. We were afraid that my mother would shatter into pieces after knowing about her illness and thus we decided not to tell her anything about the seriousness of her disease; we would just call it ulcer. We religiously stuck to that until the inevitable happened.
In the course of her treatment, my mother was taken to Mumbai where a doctor re-confirmed, to her face, that she had a fatal disease which had moved to a bit advanced stage, however the possibility of her getting fully cured remained, provided she received proper treatment. If it had not been my mother, it would not at all have been a tolerable scene. She turned out to be by far the strongest (an innate quality that she had always possessed) and the most composed amongst us. She wasn't afraid; rather it was her fighting spirit that kept the rest of us alive. From then on it was like a battle that we all vowed to fight together in full strength and with utmost belief that the Almighty has a better plan for my mother.
My mother was brought back to Bangladesh, mentally prepared and physically ready to combat one of the worst diseases ever. She was admitted in a hospital specialized in oncology where the doctor under whom she's currently being treated fortunately happens to be the best cancer specialist in Bangladesh and is renowned for his job worldwide. She will be given six chemotherapies in total of which she has successfully undergone four already with the grace of the Almighty.
The reason I said that it is not just my mother's battle, rather ours, is because it really is both emotionally and financially for a middle class family like ours. Starting from being confined because of tremendous weakness to encountering the innumerable dreadful side effects of chemotherapy -losing appetite, feeling queasy, throwing up whatever she eats, losing sleep, having drastic drops and rises in blood pressure, becoming cranky, short and ill-tempered, getting unreasonably emotional at times, showing signs of depression and the biggest shock of all-losing all body hair (baldness, losing eye brows and eye lashes to name a few), all take place in front of us - the family members and we have to deal with this day in and day out. In addition, we have to invest relentless effort and time to ensure that she takes her medicine timely, to motivate her to live a normal life every day, to keep her amused by being beside her at all times. It is entirely upon us: her spouse and children, how we lend her a hand to cope with these uncomfortable transformations of life. To help her deal with these unfriendly circumstances, we had to prepare ourselves in the first place.
For example, seeing my mother, who is so beautiful, becoming totally bald has never been easy. Initially, I had to suppress my grief, as it would make it even harder for her to adopt with the ruthless reality. I guess nothing else could ever be more tormenting for a woman than to see herself lose clumps hair every time she combs it and finally losing all of it at a go. This took place after the first cycle of chemotherapy.
It also requires patience and understanding from your end when you watch your sick mother or your ailing wife yelling at you without a reason. You have to calm her down when she says that dying is better than taking so many drugs. It is all the more difficult when you see your spouse passing sleepless nights even after having a dose of a sedative every night. And things get worse when you see the symptoms of depression taking grasp of her. Now, if you lose patience, there is a high likelihood that you will lose the patient. Care, love, companionship, endurance and unconditional emotional support are a must to help the cancer patient revive from the trauma.
My mother has been going through all these odds now for months but we have helped her cope with the changes so well with help from the Almighty that she has turned out to be the source of inspiration for other cancer patients in the same hospital. They really admire her for the way she has handled herself and we, as family members, feel proud to see her advising others on how to tackle the chronicles of chemo-therapy. My observation says that the best encouragement and motivation for a cancer patient is to see some other similar patient living a healthy and normal life. It develops the confidence and hope of leading a better life.
Dedicated to All The Cancer Patients and Their Near and Dear Ones.
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