We had started our Cancer Awareness Campaign in association with ZuviusLifesciences and YouWeCan. We were enjoying this journey of taking wakefulness and knowledge across college students and interacting with them while killing the myths about cancer. During this campaign we often came across stories of survivors and quite a lot of people falling prey to this dreadful disease.
Last December, I was on my way back to Kochi after a couple of my client meetings in Mumbai and Delhi. I was seated next to this elderly couple. They looked chirpy and zealous despite their age and fragile bodies. The lady was thin, fair and seated next to the window. She was all excited about the take off. The gentleman seemed equally enthusiastic and kept holding her hand while leaning on her shoulder. I was witnessing an ancient scene of Public Display of Affection in modern times and I couldn’t stop smiling!
The flight took off and it was a long journey. It must have been about 20 odd minutes when I realised that the elderly woman was enjoying her forty winks. The flight attendant arrived and served what we had pre-booked. During the service, the man initiated a conversation with a hello. Mr. Agarwal was travelling to Kochi to spend the winters by the sea and to enjoy the exquisite beauty of the backwaters. We spoke about what I do and where I come from. Minutes later, we spoke about the Cancer Awareness Campaign we were dealing with. It was unusual to see a face cheerfully lit up on hearing cancer. His expressions had ignited a curious spark in my mind and I had to ask him the reason for the same.
The delightful story that followed is what I wanted to share.
Mr. Agarwal, apart from being a chronic bachelor and enjoying his life at 50, was busy with his business of importing fibre and plastic goods from China. He would often travel a lot and his busy work schedule would enervate him. It was not unusual for him to have back pains. It was on one such trip back from China that he felt a dull ache in his abdomen and groin along with the persistent back pain. He reached Delhi and fixed an appointment with his doctor. His doctor suggested a few routine tests and at the same time asked him to meet one of his colleagues. A couple of tests, meeting with the doctors and was diagnosed testicular cancer. The sense of fear and hopelessness engulfed him, his mind kept asking him the same question over and again, why him? He had abstained from alcohol and tobacco all his life, he was living a healthy lifestyle, he had been independent and hardworking, so why him? He, eventually, decided to go with the flow and fight this serious ailment with all the nerves he had.
The treatment prefaced and came the Satan of physical weakness! He lost his mental strength too in the concourse. He wanted it to end; he just wanted to bring an end to this uncertainty! His friends suggested to take up some hobby and indulge himself to keep his mind away. He took their advice seriously. As a child he enjoyed painting and sketching, so he decided to find some hobby classes near his hospital so that he can visit and be engaged whenever he could.
It was during his hobby classes that he met Manorama. She was a couple of years elder to him. Endowed with mirth, Manorama was a very friendly human being. He never spoke about his on-going fight with cancer because he hated the idea of people being sympathetic to him. He continued with his treatment while visiting the hobby classes whenever he could. During this period, he had found a sense of comfort and a friend in Manorama. She was a widow, who once used to work with an automobile group and had been living with her son and his wife. They would spend hours talking about life, philosophy, art, their past but never did he speak about his malady.
It was after a brain-numbing session of treatment, he felt very lonely and he decided to call Manorama to meet up for a conversation. He wanted to open up and he did. All the while when he spoke about his fight with cancer; Manorma held his hand and had a comforting smile on her face. She didn’t utter a word but patiently listened to him. After his full stop, she told him one thing, “You are a good human being and nothing bad will happen to you again if you defeat this one. Also, you are not alone, I am with you in this one.” He felt relieved having opened up and all the more because he found an ideal companion in her. He thanked her for being there and that is when she said- “When I said I am with you, I also meant that we are on the same boat. I just got done with my tussle against breast cancer 8 months ago and am cancer free now. I am confident that you can beat this one.”
He didn’t know what to say, he had not only found a friend but also an inspiring story. He was sitting in front of a survivor who had gone through what he was going through.
It has been four years now, today they spend more time together. They travel together, paint and explore the unexplored. She often helps him with his business and his home.
I couldn’t stop smiling listening to his story. “So apart from the sorrows, Cancer also brought some hope and companionship?” I asked him.
He smiled and replied, “Cancer is just like any other problem in our lives, just that it has a lot more stigma and fear attached to it. We often give up, I almost did and if it was not for her own story and the successful strive against cancer, I would have given up too!”