It wasn’t just the weather outside that changed the color of the vicinity; it was that quite roll down of tear from her cheek as Lali watched her kids play outside at the front porch. What will become of them if something were to happen to her as she recalled her appointment with the doctor the previous day, where she was informed of being diagnosed with breast cancer. she had a mammogram in April and it showed something indeed wasn’t right. So, she went to see her doctor to have a core needle biopsy done. This test was inconclusive. Yet, another test was scheduled, a stereo-tactic biopsy. It was painful. It has been over seven months now with many tests: mammograms, X-rays, MRIs, and three biopsies.
Lali turned her face away from her window and walked towards the bed. She hadn’t informed her husband or the kids about her recent discovery. Her hands were shaking as she dialed his number on the phone.
“hello, Ram ?” said she.
“yes darling what is it?” retorted the voice of her husband.
“can you make it early today?” she asked with a ping of pain sweeping across her body.
“is everything alright ? are the kids okay?” came the concerned voice of her husband.
“no, no the kids are fine” its me she thought in her head “ I just thought we could start the weekend early” she continued bringing some peace of mind to Ram. She cut the call when he responded with a yes. The time has never moved so clumsily slow before as she watched the clock strike from one hour to another.
Ten o’clock at night her door bell rang, she pushed her tired limbs to work, forcing them to move. She opened the door and on seeing her husband collapsed into his arms weeping . she told him she had breast cancer. Ram was taken aback. His wife , his beautiful, loving wife. The home maker of his house , the mother of his two beautiful girls. How could it be true? He finally took a step back to look at her closely. The cancer had taken its toil at her, she was always tired and had lost awful lot of weight that made a 40 year old look 14. Her deep brown eyes were now surrounded with dark black circles. He held her in his arms realizing that it was skeleton of a body which he hugged. How could have he missed all the signs of her degrading health ? how could he be in love with a girl and yet not be in love enough to keep her healthy and safe?
After a lot of tears and hugs and more tears Lali confessed “ a few months ago while in the shower I noticed a lump on my left breast , I didn’t think much of it but then the pain started and just to ease my uneasiness I decided to go see a doctor. Yesterday I got my report and its second stage of breast cancer” she finished again weeping into Ram’s shirt. He quietly shed a few tears himself and hugged her.
“what will become of the kids Ram? What will happen to our family?” she whispered between the tears.
“nothing Lali. Everything will be alright. We will fight it together love.” Came his husky voice full of warmth and love.
Days passed by and the trees changed colors , the leaves were paler and the sky was that shade of grey while the water of the lake outside her window showed the same reflection of the cloud covered sky. She didn’t concentrate on the work she was once so passionate about, her days passed by but her nights were a wagon of pain, her home was breaking piece by piece and she was neglecting every bit of the damage. She had made up her mind that she would die soon but had already started living as a dead soul. That is what cancer does to you , it makes you realize that death is terrible but more terrible is the thought of never having to live again with all your heart and soul.
It was 3am in the morning, Lali stretched her arm across her bed to feel the warmth of her husband but instead caught the sheets vacant of their occupant. She looked towards the bathroom and the light was off. She slowly stood up and walked towards her balcony. Ram was standing there with a lit up cigarette dangling between his fingers. He was just about to take a drag of his smoke when she stopped his hand mid way.
“why?” she asked and continued “ is one person dying of cancer not enough for you” her voice cracked as she stopped talking.
“ honey, you are willing to let your cells live and grow and thrive on your body maybe because you love them but I love you , the kids love you” a tear rolled down his cheek “ you don’t want to fight it, what will all the medicine do when you don’t have a will to live? Don’t you ever put yourself once in my place and see? We have been together since twenty years and married for fifteen and you think your cancer will kill just one of us ?” he couldn’t hold back his tears anymore. That night Lali hugged her Ram close to her bosom, caressed his hair with slow strokes of her fingers. As he fell asleep in her arms looking so vulnerable and child like, Lali’s mind started to race. A Number of thoughts crossed her processing system , she knew she could be hard on herself but to give slow death to her husband and her two adorable kids , what sort of a devil of a wife and mother was she turning out to be? if not for her own self, she had to fight for them. She realized that her life was as much hers as of the people who loved her. She decided to put on her armor and battle cancer both physically and emotionally.
The next day Ram came home earlier than usual , with a red colored box in his hand and a shy smile across his face.
“ Lali , the girls bought a gift for you.” He said handing over the box to her.
“what is it ?” she asked with a look of surprise and happy tone in her voice. On opening the box she found a red boxing glove which was signed all over by family and friends . she looked up at Ram for some clarification.
“everyone wanted to make sure you are ready to fight” he said.
Looking at that glove she told herself that she was a fighter and was not ready to leave the world. She was not ready to leave her daughters and family behind.
She began with chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. Immediately there were three heavy and hard months of chemo therapy charted ahead for her. After every session she became weaker , throwing up, so weak that she had to hold onto anything in sight to make it to her destination. As if the throwing up and exhaustion wasn’t enough, then she lost her hair. What was once long and black and thick went to a short cut and then weeks later fell out of her pillow as if saying “I am leaving you too”. at those moments while she was lying in bed trying to sleep with the thoughts of “ how will I survive this?” though family and friends surrounded her she still got time to be alone with her churning thoughts, no one could really know what she was going through.
There were so many days it would take all her energy to get out of bed. She would pray for god to give her the strength so that her daughters could see her normal when they got home from school. The masked smile and “ mommy is fine. Just tired.”, hurt as much as the multiple surgeries that she had. She didn’t want her girls to lose their mom.
Her chemo treatments went on for over a year, followed by radiation, more surgeries and after cancer treatments. On the weeks she did not have chemo she would go for short walks with Ram and the girls, or go to the mall with them even if just for an hour, just to show it to them that she could do it.
Everything was going smoothly, the treatment was working and the cancer cells dying when suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel got blocked by a boulder. Ram had been facing some trouble with his business and each time Lali asked him what was bothering him , he shrugged her with just a “ nothing , a little stress of work my love.” It wasn’t until the last sum for Lali’s therapy was to be paid and Ram put in the check in the bank to withdrew money and it got rejected.
Ram. He was the calmest person that one could ever meet. He always wore a light smile on his clean shaved face, the kind of smile that touched his eyes. He was ‘worlds best daddy’ when it came to the girls and he was Lali’s support system since as long as she could remember. His family looked up to him for love, care and support. It was the second time his hands were shivering , he had cold sweat beads appear at the corner of his brow .
He knew things were bad but he didn’t think it would come to this. He was hoping that his latest proposed tender would pass and everything will be back on track . it had been over a month since he had proposed the idea now. Tears threatened to fall as he pushed them back. That day he prayed. He doesn’t remember the last time he closed his eyes with such immense faith and uttered the words that were coming out of his trembling lips. I have never seen an atheist who turned into a believer ever at this pace. But that is what love does to you. Love makes you fly high , cross the ocean or if necessary crawl on the ground.
That night while Lali’s head was on his chest she was playing with his fingers, Ram knew then that was something was bothering her. 20 years of togetherness and he knew what even the rise and fall of her breath meant.
“what is bothering you Ram? Don’t worry I will recover soon, soon all this will be over.” She said nuzzling her face deeper into his chest.
‘ I wish it would be over soon, how will it end unless the last sum is payed? How will I arrange the sum?’ was on his mind but his lips uttered a different tune “ yes my love, it will all end soon” he spoke as he kissed her on the forehead.
He had a week’s time at his disposal to produce the required amount of sum. He was religiously praying and vigorously knocking at every and any door from where he had hope of getting the money. It was Friday already and her last chemo was scheduled on Sunday.
No door was opening . he had lost all hope. He decided that it was time for him to tell Lali the seriousness of the situation. He opened the door to their room, Lali was lying on their bed covered with a quilt. The temperature wasn’t that cold but it was the aftereffect of all the treatment that she had had to undergo. He forced himself to smile at her failing miserably at the attempt he went and sat beside her . he held her hand and kissed it. As he was about to tell her the situation their family was in , his phone rang.
“ what happened then? ” asked one of the patient in the cancer ward as I turned to face a 30 year old lady suffering from breast cancer 3rd stage.
“ what do you think happened Mrs Sharma?” I replied
“oh god, did she die? Could he not save her ” came a half cracking voice from behind.
“please let her not be dead, please let them stay together” came the pleading voice of a 13 year old son of one of the cancer patient .
I couldn’t help but smile . I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and knew immediately by the touch that it was my mother. I turned to my much awaiting audience present in the cancer ward of lilawati hospital and said “ why don’t you ask her yourself?” and turned around to face my mother who looked younger than ever even at the age of 62. Yes Lali had survived and she was very much alive, way alive than she was ever before. 22 years have passed since she was informed that she had cancer and since then she decided to fight and look ahead , she has not even once ever looked back.She held my hand and sat beside me , signaling me to continue what I had stated and so I did. I told them that the call was to inform Ram that his tender had passed and they had transferred the advance already onto his account, I told them how Lali came out from the clutches of cancer that very much wanted to engulf her. Lali now speaks at cancer awareness events talking to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to help them cope with their diagnosis and treatment and myself being her daughter, the warrior with a shining armor that my mom is, acts as her side kick and tell people her story. While my dad works harder than ever before and never once fail to thank god as he counts his blessings.
“ none of you should ever forget,” I held my mother’s hand tighter than ever before as I continued her story “though the disease is ugly, there is hope on the horizon , a sunrise waiting, marking the start of a new beginning over the mountain that you climb.”