Cancer: Losing The Ones You Love

When I was 11 years old, I came home one evening and found my parents talking in hushed tones. My mother was crying and my dad had a sad, grim expression, that made me really uncomfortable. We (my brother and I) were later told that our aunt had been diagnosed with Cancer. It was the first time I heard this word and I had no idea how devastating this could be. My aunt was only 32 years old, much younger than what I am now, as I write this. She was full of life and laughter, a mother whose world revolved around her daughter. She was soft, loving, caring, at the prime of her life and she was my favorite. Cancer did not see all of that. It just attacked her and slowly proceeded on its evil mission to destroy.  

Diagnosis was just the beginning, when the innumerable hospital visits, tests and questions quite literally decided if she could and was ready to fight this monster or not. While surgery and chemotherapy followed, my aunty had a fierce determination to fight in every possible way she could. As her closest family, we cried when we heard how Uncle bought, not one but several wigs to comfort her when she lost her beautiful hair to chemotherapy. Laughed when heard her recollect how she teased doctors and nurses in the hospital. But the one thing we did most was hope and pray. Hope that God would somehow grant a miracle, pray that one day this would all be behind and that my beautiful, aunty would live a happy, cancer-free life. 

The results from chemo were quite uplifting and it certainly seemed that the cancer had disappeared, for the time being. But it returned, a while later and this time, there was no chance because it spread so quickly. It was only a matter of time. This did not deter her spirit in any way but she was more determined and not ready to give up in spite of being told otherwise. When I saw her that year in August, she was still so full of fun, making everyone laugh with her witty humor and a laugh that made it quite difficult for anyone to be serious. If I saw sadness, it was when she showed us how she'd started boxing up stuff and labelling them so that Uncle and her daughter would 'know' where to find things when she wasn't around. Yes, I cannot even begin to imagine what they went through on the sad days and as their closest family, all we could do was to take each step with them, smile through the good days and comfort them on the bad. 

In the last days the Cancer spread so quickly, she had to be hospitalised. Even during those final days, I remember her enquiring about everyone else and worried about how her daughter was managing at school. I could tell she knew that time was running out. I cannot imagine the sadness she must have felt and that of her husband and daughter who knew it was only a matter of time. My beautiful and brave aunty Sharmine breathed her last on a Sunday afternoon in November of 1994.

12 years later we lost my Uncle to Cancer.

Eight months later we lost my father to a form of Brain Cancer.

Everyday, I receive messages or forwards from people who are doing their part and spreading an awareness but having lost so many loved ones to Cancer, I still find it hard to know if I'm saying or doing the right things. From a carers perspective, even though we've made peace with the fact that they are in a better place, the memories of their suffering will stay with us forever.

For me, support is more than just spreading the word. It's being there, listening, holding someone's hand as they go through the most darkest moments. Cancer can be lonely and isolating so while we certainly must raise an awareness, we can also choose to listen, support and encourage someone so that they do not have to face this monster alone because the will to fight is stronger when an army of support is right behind.