February 4 is World Cancer Day.
I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show has been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?
- Health is wealth.
- Family is fundamental. If you are lucky, your family members are your angels. More so when the going gets tough.
- Money is important. Money enables you to have choices.
- Small is beautiful. So, there is immense beauty in taking a shower by yourself, standing in front of the mirror and putting on your lipstick, enjoying a cup of tea or cooking a simple meal of dal, rice and egg curry.
- Physical pain can make you feel naked. It can be really soul-destroying.
- Ordinary can be extra-ordinary if you know how to be present in the moment.
- Hospitals can be terribly lonely even when they are crowded.
- Enjoy the moment. You don’t know how one biopsy test can change your life’s narrative.
- Be gentle. There’s no substitute to being gentle. When you are gentle within yourself, you are a better care-giver.
- Looking after a cancer patient makes you erase irrelevant elements from life (This will happen if you listen to the truth within yourself). Somehow you start appreciating a sense of minimalism. Over the years, I have developed an aversion for anything in excess.
- It helps when you have solid friends standing by you. Having a conversation always makes things lighter. Never say ‘No’ to a good session of laughing. And to a large extent, friends are outsiders to the situation. So, they can give you a better perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- It’s very necessary to refill one’s inner self even as you are spending days and nights looking after a person. It could be a walk, conversations, a nice meal, good book, music, a new hair-cut, looking at the sky or just soaking in the Art of Being. You give better when you have something to give. For that you need to replenish your own self.
- Be kind to yourself. Some days, you will feel as if you are losing the battle. Some days you will feel the warmth of sunshine. Don’t run away from feelings. If you want to cry, go ahead. Tears can make you feel lighter. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s fine to be vulnerable.
- No matter how dark the night is, the morning will always break. And there are chances that you might feel a little better.
- One day, you will be larger than your grief, loss, failures. Till then, be open and compassionate.