In my post ‘Death Shall Die II’ of the 30th March, 2012, I have narrated about my visit to a relative dying of blood cancer. He died a few days after our visit. Now I have come face to face with another case of blood cancer. One of my closest friends, a retired senior Govt. officer and reputed short story writer, has got the same affliction. He retired a little earlier than me. His house is close to mine. My house is located near the route of his morning walk. Very often, he would drop in. (I do not need walks as I get enough exercise working in my garden in the mornings and afternoons.) He would straight go to my garden, I used to stop whatever I would be doing and then we would sit and talk about topics from kings to cabbages for about an hour or so and then he would leave. Often I used to give him some flowers and other produce from my garden.
I also used to visit him occasionally.
Suddenly, he stopped coming for what seemed an unusual period. When I telephoned to him, his son received my call and told me that my friend was suffering from fever for quite sometime and was sleeping at that time. During the preceding one month or so, he used to have fever rather frequently. I telephoned to him after a few days. This time, his daughter received the call (on his cell phone) and told me that they were in the hospital at Vellore and he had been diagnosed for blood cancer! I felt crest-fallen. I did not know what to say and only the word “What?” escaped my lips. Our conversation ended after exchanging a few words. My next call was received by his son-in-law, who informed me that my friend had responded well to the initial treatment and that the chances of his recovery were bright. My next call was received by my friend himself and his voice appeared confident. He felt happy talking to me. I felt equally happy.
For the next one month, I called him once a week and things appeared to be reassuring. He used to ask me to read out the headlines in the local Odia newspapers which I did gladly. Once a review of his latest book of short stories appeared in a local newspaper and I read it out for him. He was very happy. After staying at Vellore for about two months, he was advised that he could return to Bhubaneswar and have the follow-up treatment by regular visits to a local hospital. When I called him up the subsequent time, he was in a local hospital. But to my disappointment and apprehension, his voice was weak. His family-members told me that doctors had advised against his having any visitor.
Then he was discharged and the treatment is continuing at home. When I called his home, his son told me that he had been quarantined to avoid any possible infection as the immunity system of his body has become weak. I have been talking to him every week and his voice continues to be weak. Last week, I spoke to his son and told him that I deeply wished to see my friend once, even if for a few minutes. He agreed and so my wife and I went with a heavy heart to meet my friend. We met his wife, son and other members of his family. Then my friend came with a slow gait. The hairs on his head have fallen off due to the effect of chemotherapy. He came wearing a mask covering his mouth and nose to prevent any possible infection. I spoke to him briefly after which he went back inside.
My friend is a person of joyous nature and always used to talk with a lot of enthusiasm. Those were missing when I met him.
A couple of weeks before meeting him, I had come across an article titled ‘Joy of Cancer’ in an Odia daily. A part of this article was about the book ‘The Joy of Cancer’ by Anup Kumar. I found out some more about this book in the net. It is not only about the emotional and physical anguish following the diagnosis of cancer but also about the power of human mind and body to turn ‘a death sentence’ around. It is said that the real experts on cancer are only the cancer-patients themselves. The book deals with questions like these:
- How do you accept cancer in your life?
- How do you conquer the fear?
- What are the side effects of chemotherapy? What precautions should you take?
From the net I read about the 10 good things about having cancer listed by Michele R Berman, M D. a cancer-survivor. The author says that the first good thing is finding out that “I was stronger than I was, with God’s help.” Some other good things listed in the book are: finding out what great people you have in your life, discovering your inner control freak or other part of yourself, being able to come up with creative answers when you don’t want to talk about something.
I had lost to cancer another close friend of mine, who succumbed to it at the age slightly above 50 years. He was a bachelor and is survived by his sister, a spinster and elder to him. He had no other sister or brother. She lives in my city and when we meet, we reminisce about him. To end his own suffering and the difficulties of his family-members, my elder brother’s father-in-law committed suicide by jumping before a running train when he realized that he had no escape from the clutches of cancer.
In 2006, there was a small growth at a spot on my body. It was diagnosed as a cyst and after trying oral medicine, my doctor advised a minor surgery to remove it. After the surgery, it was sent for examination to find if the growth was malignant. The test result was negative. I have never seen my wife as happy when she saw the report. She lost no time in telephoning all our relatives and friends to tell them about the test-finding.
In the early 70’s I had watched the film ‘Anand’ starring Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachan. In this, Rajesh Khanna plays the title role and Amitabh plays the role of his doctor. The protagonist, Anand, is a cancer-patient. Fully knowing that he had only a couple of months to live, and as if to justify his name, he spreads joy (anand) and cheer all around him. Here is the film.
I am trying to get and read the book. I am not able to decide whether I should present a copy of the book to my friend or to suggest to him to watch the film ‘Anand’ as both Anup Kumar and the Anand had ultimately succumbed to the life-taking illness.
I don’t want to lose my friend.
Pray for him.