When you have been diagnosed with Cancer, on the grand scheme of things and with the sense of responsibility the false illusion of time seems to give us, everything in your life pauses for a short while. And you know that with the eventuality that the universe retains its natural order, there are only two outcomes. Either you live to tell the story or you die with it.
I felt on top of the world for the first time in my life. It was an experience I would do anything to feel again. Some say it was the feeling of love. They were wrong; I was dying. This is my story.
It was days before Christmas and the crisp smell of celebrations and festivities were apparent in the air. High afore the classroom, before the constellations of eager eyes, in the large expanse of space stood my teacher whose countenance I wished I could mimic for an eon of my life. She was smiling like no one else has before. Her smile was like pure non adulterated gold built on the essence of the framework of a goddess. There are very few things in this world that beats the opulent smile of a dignified woman. “Today we are gathered in your honor, Manny. Can you tell the class your story?” she said.
I made my way to the forefront of the class amidst the traffic and chaos that was everywhere in the air. Everyone was eager to hear what I had to say. I was eager too. But it was a different kind of eager. My eagerness was the one where I would do anything to get off the stage. If there was ever a time I was afraid of being human this was the moment. But I had to tell the world my story. Okay maybe not the world, but the class. But the class is in the world, right? Not today, the world was in this particular class.
“You are not defined by the number of times you fall down but by the length of time you decide it’s okay to remain down.” There was a loud cheer. I continued “Exactly five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer.” There was deafening silence. And a few echoes of sympathy. Keep your sympathy people I have been through so much sadness I have had a lot of that.
The hall was pitch-silent so I broke it. “The doctors felt it was okay to play with my life so they put me through lots of medications. But who am I to blame them? The overall five year survival rate for cancer was a whopping 80 percent they said. Crudely put of every 100 people who are living with cancer, 80 of them are living only five years after diagnosis. Which should mean that I should have been dead by now, most likely? But that’s not the problem; I have died a thousand times before today and I can explain.
“In the beginning the doctors said it was just a tumor. This is not life endangering the doctors said. What is endangering is the spread of the tumor and we are going to stop that they said. I felt safe. I was re-assured. I was scheduled for surgery and I went in hopeful like a new lease of life has just been bestowed on me. Half dead and partly alive, I could feel the constant stings of needles and metals pierce through my skin or so I imagined. And this didn’t just happen once although if it did it would have been beautiful. It was 5 or 6 times or maybe a little more so you could imagine how ugly it must have been.
“After about 6 failed attempts the doctors conceded defeat heartily. It hurt me you know. You know the feeling you get when your barber ditches you?” I said trying to add a little humor. “Why didn’t they admit from the onset that it was beyond them rather than lie? That didn’t hurt me enough. They also said my only shot at survival was cutting off my limb. Cut my..? What the…? I left that hospital and never went back.
“I know you would be thinking that I perhaps went home and waited patiently to die. Hell no. I went back with resolute and resolve to beat whatever it was I was going through. If I as a person didn’t see myself worthy of life – how about my family and my friends? I was going to stay alive for this beautiful people.
“India was my next stop. I was told everyone who was fighting death came to India or most of them. That’s great. At least they knew what they were fighting. I had no idea. I wish I had any idea.
I met lots of beautiful souls in this place and I owe a great deal, my ability to survive today to this people. The doctors here were more experienced or so I thought because they didn’t have to lie to me. After my first endoscopy the doctors knew exactly what was wrong with me. I’m sorry but I’m afraid you have cancer the doctor said. In my entire short life, that was no doubts, the saddest thing I have ever heard. What you don’t know won’t kill you. Whoever said that deserves a Nobel Prize. The moment I discovered I had cancer, my dying howbeit slow as it might have seemed only began from there.
“I remember this particular moment quite vividly for some reasons I think I should share it with you all. Amputation or Limb-salvage surgery – the doctor had asked? How was I to know? This was quite easily, the toughest of multiple choice I had ever answered in my life. And after over half an hour of explanation of the details of both I was still yet to make up my mind. ‘Amputation is not something I recommend for anyone but let’s face it, Manny, what would be the essence? To play safe when obviously we are in danger? See Manny, I am in the best position to tell you what is best for you. If we decide not to go ahead with amputation, we cannot carry out Limb-salvage surgery. Limb-salvage aims at removing all the cancer cells and still leave you with a working leg. At the moment, the major cancer cells are on essential nerves and arteries. To attempt to remove anything there would be utter madness.’ After long hours of tedious sermon and aimless deliberations I had made my choice. Look Doctor, you had better put your shit together because we aren’t cutting off this leg and that was final. It turned out the doctor was wrong anyway and he apologized for that.
“Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy were my best friends and my bald head is testament to that. But they were only good friends while they worked. They worked for a while anyway. Everything was beautiful for a while. India was beautiful for a while. Life was beautiful for a while. And then there was a backward swing. My whole world came crashing down like poorly arranged pack of cards on a steep surface in the wind. My life was the cards and cancer the wind.
“Everything that used to work before stopped working. The chemos. The radiations. My self belief. My life was like an imaginary quadratic equation with no real solutions.
“I remember particularly this time when one of my doctors came to me in the late evenings. It was a good thing he came at least I thought so. He was clearly staggering in vivid pain. He was a grown man of about 5 decades of life. And he was in tears crying like a baby of about 5 months. He said to me, ‘Manny, I have over drugged you for your age. I just had to. I have been practicing Medicine for about 25 years and I have never for once seen a situation as bad as yours. Sincerely, I don’t know what to do anymore.’ Then he went numb. I looked into his gloomy face and all I could do was smile a smile of impending death. He was so real I couldn’t even cry. He was so real I felt bad I couldn’t even cry with him. I was the sick one, he was the healthy one, he was crying and I was consoling him. After that rollercoaster of events I felt it was only right I returned to my country to embrace the spirits of death. If I was going to die what better place to die than in my motherland? So I went home to the call of death whose shrill whispers I heard quite clearly.
“It turned out that coming back home was arguably one of the best decisions I had made on this journey. Here I thought I was coming back to prepare for my funeral and I had no idea that I was in fact returning to life and health. It was on coming home that I was declared free of cancer by many accredited hospitals. Ladies and gentlemen what greater joy is there in the world, than obtaining happiness in a place where it was never sought for?
“I stand here today as an insignia of miracle and if you do not believe in the existence of miracles, that’s totally fine with me. But I do hope I have inspired anyone undergoing this black cloudy journey of death or any other difficult journey of lifelessness to not give up. Maybe today I can effectively say with a little hubris which you would agree with me is more than necessary, that it is Manny 1:0 Cancer and of course it is full time.” There was a great burst of energy ringing through the hall way.
“Thank you all for listening to my story however ugly it might have been. And also to cancer thanks for putting up a good fight and for bowing out defeated in grand style.” Everyone was buzzing. I added “And perhaps, one day cancer would only be a zodiac sign…?”
It was a question I wished one would answer. It was a question no one would answer. I collapsed to the floor almost immediately as you would see in little theatrical plays. The curtain was drawn. The cancer had relapsed. This time, quite probably, I was going to die. In my dying bed I conceded graciously, Okay cancer, you win.
(All Images excerpted from the Internet)