The Big ‘C’ Word

I have seen enough people getting the exit pass from this world because of cancer. I have lost a parent to it. I have friends who have lost a parent to or a losing a parent to it.  The Big ‘C’ word. I grew up thinking that cancer is this ultimate romantic disease u can die of. It is a disease where in  u know when u shall leave this world. It is GOD’s way of giving you time to tick your bucket list  and u die with the “Babu Moshai” dialogue on your lips like Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand

But when I saw my father disintegrate in front of my eyes I could not imagine him singing  “ Zindagi Kaisi hai paheli” on the  beach. For the longest time, my sister and I were scared of using the word as if it was some green eyed monster. We used to call it the ‘C’ word. I have realised one thing about cancer – there are no cancer survivors. All there is , is delayed death. It is like running on the treadmill with a leash round your waist. U may run as fast as u like but someday that leash shall be pulled. Like they sing in the Hotel California song “u can check out any time u like , u can never leave “

When you see your parent suffer- the brave , strong person who taught you everything you know, fade  away in front of you. When someone comes and tells you this is God’s Will, you either feel like bashing them up or GOD  wherever he is. You act brave, not because you carry the gene , but because that is the only defence mechanism you have. When my father fought the losing battle against the dreaded disease, my sister and I used to go about the house as normally as we could yet each morning when we woke up, the question was very evident in our eyes, “Is he breathing?” It may sound very unbecoming for a daughter to say this but at times we were saddened to see his lungs not give up on him because that meant watching him suffer one more day.

No, he never was a burden. Don’t get me wrong. We could have carried on taking care of him forever if that meant having him in our lives forever but to him become a shadow of his former self was heart breaking. He used to call himself the Iron Man and seeing him turning into this delirious, comatose, zombie like being whose eye balls had sunk deep into its socket, broke us all into a million pieces. My sister and I prayed to God for his deserved dignity, we prayed for his release from sufferings.

My sister regrets not being there when he breathed his last. I regret being there when he breathed his last because for me that is the most prominent memory I have of him to account for the 33 years that he was my Hero. What happens after Cancer stakes its claim on its victim? It is like watching yourself and the others you know acting in a play. It probably takes six months to realize that you shall never hear that baritone voice again and that ,there is finality which you never bargained for.

Death has a certain amount of certainty to it. It either breaks you or builds u into the person you are. People have written odes to Death, celebrated death. I feel there is nothing romantic about Death yet it is more welcome if it is sudden. Having Death as a constant in your house is killing in itself. Being able to smell it , feel it and then waiting patiently for it to strike, is a sweet torture. On good days when you see your loved one smiling and talking to you, you taunt Death but on bad days when you see your loved suffering, you feel Death taunting you.

So as a friend of mine advised me when my father was detected of the disease. Be with him as much as you can because that is all that will matter in the end. To all the caregivers out there –  your loved one shall leave this world , all you can do is make that passage as comfortable as possible.