Living with a cancer afflicted parent — A Series — Part XII

Look past the reality of the disease, look past its fear

Does death intimidate you? Does its reality bother you? And if yes, then how would you like to die? Abruptly, without a warning, a sign, or a symptom? Or, with a prolonged spell of medicines and treatments, of cures and remissions, of judgement calls and second opinions? I don’t have an answer to that, and neither does my Dad I guess. Cancer, is one of the worst alarm in a person’s life, signalling a time that we all have to face one day. Possibly an alarm you never set in the first place.

However, its onset is not just the knowledge of uncontrolled cells growing inside your body wrecking the natural immunity; it is the knowledge that your life’s finite, and accompanying that is the fear of its end. I write this post, just when I get the news that a friend’s Dad passed on. A sudden, untimely death. And as I was writing a condolence message to her, it brought upon me the realisation that pain of death arises from the missing of love. We fear that death of loved ones, will mean the loss of the love and care that we receive from them. Similarly for someone who is sick, the biggest fear is losing out on the love of people around them. Losing out on the moments that one has hoped to witness in his/her life, celebrating successes and milestones, being there for the hard times. Losing out on living life, fearlessly.

In the past few weeks, Dad’s broken down, as pain would increase, or as he would see all his kids laugh around him, or when he saw me walking towards him in my convocation robes. I’ve seen his eyes go teary, and heard him say, “Ab kya hoga? Tabiyat theek nahi hogi? (What will happen now? My health wouldn’t improve?). Sometimes, the tears are of love and affection, other times of fear and worry. I’ve been at a complete loss of words, on such occasions. Most of the times, I’ve told him to chin up; sometimes, sternly told him to stop being so negative; often, laughed over his silliness, and sometimes, plainly told him, that no one knows what’ll happen next. Never cried in front of him, not yet. Cannot.

What I’ve learned through those times, is that despite it being impossible maybe, Dad needs to build courage to accept the way life is. I know it’s hard, maybe even unrealistic at this point, but I don’t see another way for him to fight his negativity and fears. We know the disease is present, but we also know that the medicines are being registered, the his wife is with him, that his three (often annoying) kids are with him, and so are the prayers for his good health. Dad has shown immense courage in the past two years, since his disease recurred, but that courage often seems to be waning, because the symptoms creep up again.

However the best solution right now has to be to look past the inevitability of the disease, and rather take each day as a success. I write this hearing my Dad groan in sleeplessness in the adjacent room. It’s terrible to see him like this, but it’s also inspiring of him to carry on each day with revived spirit. He needs to see himself in brighter light, pride himself for having fought the disease so far successfully, and continue doing so. As easy as it is to write, it is much difficult to follow, but there’s got to be a positive outlook. Otherwise, what else would being positive mean?

The fear has to vanquish, to give way to reason and reality.