I got a call from maa late in the evening just as I returned from the office. Her voice was shivering and she seemed to be in a state of shock. I couldn’t understand a single word and soon she started crying. I tried soothing her and asked where’s baba. She then cleared her throat and said, “Your baba is not well.”
Today, I still remember that day when maa made the panic call. It was the beginning of a year-long battle. A battle that was physically torturing baba and emotionally killing all of us from within. A battle to stay strong, keep our faith in God alive, hide tears, manage finances, deal with hospital formalities, stay away from home and also maintain a work-life balance. It was a long and exhausting battle to fight deadly cancer.
Baba was diagnosed with throat cancer and the moment we got the news our world came crumbling down. Doctors advised them to immediately move to another place as there was no treatment available in my hometown, Dhanbad. I was living in Pune at that time with my husband and we had no idea about cancer hospitals and the treatment.
Later that evening I called up my manager as her husband was a doctor so I thought he might be of some help. Talking to her helped and her husband recommended Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Mumbai. Without wasting any time, I asked my parents to immediately come to Pune.
Next week we were all headed towards Mumbai. We were surprised to see the rush in the hospital. This deadly disease didn’t spare anyone, kids, men, women, old age people, everybody was a patient there and the sight was disheartening. Soon we were guided towards the registration and payment formalities.
Later that day we were all waiting impatiently for our turn to meet the doctor. The waiting area too was flooded with all types of patients and their concerned families. From toddlers who had no idea what had happened to them to critical wheelchair-bound cases who depended completely on their family members.
We met people from different countries all waiting desperately for their turn. There was no confirmation of how long it might take but they surely asked us to wait as our file was already submitted. We then decided to take the lunch break in turns, though nobody had an appetite.
Finally, our name was announced at around 7 p.m. and we hurried toward the doctor’s cabin. After some physical examinations, they gave us a list of tests to be done. All this took no more than five minutes for which we were waiting since morning.
We then collected our luggage and moved silently towards the cafeteria. We ordered four cups of tea and some snacks. That was the most silent tea break I ever had in my life. While I continued to wait in the cafeteria with my parents, my husband went out to look for a nearby hotel.
The next morning again we were waiting in different departments for all the tests to be done. We also had to extend our hotel stay to collect the reports the next day. This went on for a week and then the doctors confirmed he was in the first stage of throat cancer.
We were given another date for operation so we went back to Pune. Life was not the same anymore. I tried resuming to normal work life in the office but couldn’t concentrate. Even at home, the environment was stressful. There were days when none of us were even bothered to prepare dinner. Even in such situations, baba was the one who was the most composed. He would prepare dinner for all, serve it and even force us to have proper dinner, saying, “Nothing will happen to me. Why are you all so tensed?”
I salute his willpower, confidence and the positive manner in which he handled the entire illness. I wish I inherited even a percentage of his positivity and optimism. We went to Mumbai again for his operation. We were tense about it but at the same time, we were also happy that after his operation he will be fine again. After a few initial formalities he was taken to the operation theatre. We waited impatiently in the waiting area.
To be continued…
Coming up next-
P – Pune-Mumbai-Pune
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