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Terminal Illness and Death- Quality or Quantity, the Debate Goes On

Terminal Illness and Death- Quality or Quantity, the Debate Goes On

What’s more important to You, Quality or Quantity of Life? How far do we want to go to prolong our lives?

What a complex life!! Amidst the web of relationships I am entwined in, I am caught in this strange cycle of life and death. Where birth brings in joy death sure does bring sorrow.  But strangely, in my 36 odd years of existence, I have learnt that not always must death bring in sorrow. I have had situations in life when the death of my loved one has brought in an altogether different feeling. It is that unique feeling of relief and sadness mixed together.  At such times, you seldom shed those tears of sorrow, but give a sigh of relief instead, thanking God that the life has come to an end. Strange isn’t it, but I have experienced this weird feeling twice in my life.

Appa’s last few years were a fierce battle- with cancer. And it was not only his, it was all of ours. Metastatic colo-rectal cancer has a poor prognosis with only 5% of the cases crossing the five year mark, post diagnosis. I still remember the doctor telling me this. Yet, we decided to go ahead with the fight. Despite the multiple surgeries, and numerous rounds of Chemotherapy, Appa didn’t make it to the five year mark. Amma and I still ponder over the fact whether it really was worth fighting such an aggressive form of cancer, ‘cause despite the treatment prolonging his life by a year or so, it did reduce the quality of his life drastically, and also burnt a big hole in Amma and Appa’s savings. A healthy Appa was reduced to a mere frame.

I still remember the last day of his life. As the body began the process of shutting down, I sat by his side rubbing his palm that was turning cold by the minute. The cancer had spread through his body and the pain it caused is indescribable. As I sat there that night, I said those silent prayers hoping those few traces of life would leave his body soon. Every minute of pain, seemed to be a lifetime. And finally after more than twelve hours of moaning in pain, Appa slipped away slowly.

I was glad his life ended!!!!

My Paati was the kindest souls in my life. I still remember my childhood days spent in her lovely little home in Chennai. The kitchen would be stocked up with the most yummy savories and sweets and every meal would be a surprise.  She did belong to a generation that was far healthier. No wonder Paati outlived many family members who were younger than her, finally closing her eyes at the age of 97. Despite having lived a contended life, her last few months were spent simply lying on the bed. Unable to move, due to a stroke, she would have pipes to feed her and an attender who would take care of the body and its needs. It seemed to be a mere existence as Paati slowly failed to recognize any of us. It was a painful sight to see the woman who taught me so much, to be motionless. For some strange reason, her life clung on to her body, refusing to let go. Unable to see her that way, I would secretly pray the ordeal ended. And finally when it did, I gave a sigh of relief!!

Advancements in modern medicine present us with opportunities to live longer lives and keep life threatening diseases at a chronic stage for longer periods of time. But is it worth being kept alive in this way? Just how far do we want to go to prolong our lives?

It’s truly tough determining this, because there is no one right solution. The process of knowing what you want may take time and deep reflection as well as conversations with your loved ones. Of course we all want our loved ones to live for eternity, but prolonging life and living life are two totally different things.

Isn’t quality of life more important than quantity???

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

sSurviving cancer should have a mix of optimism and positivity. It is found all around us; however we often fail to notice them. Just like my friend “S”. I had done an earlier blog post of her battle with cancer. So filled with optimism is her story that I had to blog about her once again.

S was 34 when she noticed that first lump in her breast. A series of tests and a biopsy later, her doctor declared it to be cancerous. S was devastated. She had a beautiful family comprising of two young girls and a loving husband. She felt there was no hope of her surviving and was worried how her family would manage if anything were to happen to her. S was scheduled to be operated in a week’s time. The day before the surgery she sat in the hospital bed with a glum face. By her side was another young patient, admitted with lymphoblastic leukemia. He was all of 8 years old.

In S’s words, “That kid literally shook me up. He was playing a game of chess with his mother. Despite the dry skin and loss of hair resulting out of his treatment, you should have seen the glow on his face. He had all his moves right. Not that his mother was making the game easy for him. She challenged him in every possible way. But I could see that he was enjoying his game, and every move made. I chatted up with the duo. He was scheduled for a surgery in two days time. Despite the anxiety strewn across the mothers face, the child had none. He loved games he said- Monopoly, and Pictionary being his favorite. He plays to win and that made him happy. At that moment it hit me hard.”

S added, “Now that’s what you call being positive and being optimistic, with no fear of the future.  Giving every move in life your best without really looking far ahead. Life is sure full of uncertainties. Whether it is for a cancer patient or for that matter any one of us. Why not enjoy the moment and just be optimistic about the future? Why worry about things which really aren’t in your control? I prepared myself mentally for the surgery as the docs prepared me physically.”

Before I was to be sedated, I called my husband and said, “I don’t know what’s the outcome of the surgery or my treatment, but I am going in smiling. And I will come out smiling, so go get me the best wig in town!!!” He had a hearty laugh.

“I did come out of the surgery smiling. The months to follow were scheduled with radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. They kept me in bed for days. I puked like hell. But somewhere deep down I stopped worrying about the outcome of my ailment. Instead I played Pictionary and Scotland Yard with my daughters. Their smiles during the games made me feel better. It is nine months since my last treatment. Mentally I am prepared to face anything now. I have come a long way, since my diagnosis. That little boy taught me to enjoy every move of mine. I call this survival without having a fear of the future.”

A Cancer Patient's Caregiver – A support, a pillar and a strong fighter

A Cancer Patient's Caregiver – A support, a pillar and a strong fighter

When we hear of cancer diagnosis, the first thing that comes to almost all minds is the patient going through cycles of chemotherapy, battling out and getting tired. But have we every stopped and thought for a while, what a cancer diagnosis means to the care giver of the patient? A cancer patients immediate caregiver, goes through as much trauma, strain-both physically as well as mentally, anxiety, sadness etc… The caregiver is the biggest pillar of support to help a cancer patient in his fight against the disease.

Senior couple in love walking at the beach holding hands in a ro

Dad’s diagnosis of colorectal cancer way back in March 2010, came as a shocker to all of us. But for one person it was more than a shocking news. It was the beginning of a battle, a fight, and a journey to provide the best care to him.

Mother has never really had it easy in life. A tough mother-in-law and a short-tempered husband dominated her early years of marriage. And when things had just started looking better in the later years, her only brother passed away, leaving her to take over the responsibility of her 90 year old mother. So with dads diagnosis, she was all alone taking care of him as well as my aging granny.

A cancer patients nightmare is chemotherapy. The side effects of these sessions are aplenty. Fatigue, loss of appetite irritability, are a few of them. Mom handled each and every one of these side effects dad was going through. She worked out a diet plan for him. High protein, fruits for energy and alternative herbal remedies to reduce fatigue.

And if chemo is a nightmare, adjuvant therapies such as Avastin and Erbitux are horror shows. Erbitux especially caused skin problems and rashes. He used to cry in pain, of his face being on fire. So severe were his side effects that his irritation was directly aimed at mom. And hats off to this lady. She endured it all.

Dad sure fought cancer well for almost 5 years. And a strong factor in his being able to wage this war was because of Mom’s constant support and care. She fought with him. She was his armour. Towards the end of his life, I could clearly see him getting tired of fighting, slipping away and knowing clearly he was losing out. She probably felt the same. And just prayed his end come peaceful.

It sure did. Cause the pain commonly experienced by most cancer patients towards the end, lasted in him for only a day or so. Mom felt relived. She may have lost the battle, but she’s come out of it a stronger person.