Friday, January 18, 2013

When sometimes even courage is not enough


In retirement, he remained fairly active, finding avenues to keep himself busy and be productive, one of which was writing, the other, speaking to students in colleges about rural marketing, a subject close to his heart. After all, the advertising agency he established years ago specialises in rural marketing. He had authored a book and in it he mentions how courage was his constant companion, how it took him places in his career – he was one of the youngest to head an ad agency in India. Retirement meant spending quality time with his family. However, even as everything seemed smooth-sailing, tragedy struck unexpectedly like it usually does. His wife was diagnosed with the dreaded C.

Unfortunately, as it happens with many cancer patients, the disease was diagnosed late, when metastasis had already set in.  Several tests conducted, many of them intrusive and painful, showed that the primary area was located in the ascending colon and the disease had spread to the liver and lungs.  Looking at the CT scan report, the family doctor and three doctors at the Adyar Cancer Institute where she was registered for treatment said no cure was possible because hers was an inoperative case.  All they could do was provide palliative care. Tibetian and Ayurvedic doctors were consulted. They, too, agreed that cure was impossible. The family lived on hope, on a miracle.

Except for the occasional mild cough she had during the past few months there was no indication of anything alarming. He recalls how she had withstood the rigours of a holiday they spent together in Kashmir just six weeks before the diagnosis. It was sudden weight loss, of four kilos in a month, which led to a visit to the doctor.

While he looked after her physical and emotional needs, he deeply regrets not being able to do anything about the bone-rattling cough.  “There was no way I could take over the pain so that she would feel relieved. She had to suffer all by herself. During the day time, she had other distractions to keep her mind away from her body, nights were always nightmares.”  Though pain relievers helped her to some extent, they had a limited time span.  In the middle of the night, she would get up writhing in pain, turning and twisting until the next dose started working.

She underwent six cycles of chemotherapy. As one of her lungs was filled with fluid, doctors had to aspirate before therapy. The process was painful.  The only good news was she showed no side-effects. But even as doctors were debating whether further tests should be carried, her condition suddenly deteriorated. The disease had invaded her bones and brain. She started becoming weaker and found it difficult to consume food and medicines. There were bouts of breathlessness, speaking difficulty, blurring of vision and hallucination. That is when he decided to bring her home. The three children and grandchildren tried to keep her in good cheer and showered on her all the love and affection they could. And so did he. But the end came sooner than they expected, a few days into the New Year. She was only 61 and had not wanted to die. Once again, it would be courage that would help keep him afloat.


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