Friday, June 26, 2009

It's been one year. Time. Heals?

Appa (1951-2008)

Last year, by this time it was all over. The end of a troubling and painful battle against nature and what was meant to be. He braved it all along and never really winced too much about it. It's been a year since and I can only wonder what it would have been like if he was still around. Healthy, of course!

I looked at this photo for a few minutes today and in a flash, saw what I had seen of him in the last 27 years of my life. And it almost felt like he was looking back at me.

(This post was originally posted at, my blog)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Courage In The Face of Certain Death

Senator Edward Kennedy spoke at the Democratic National Convention today. In his short but eloquent speech from the convention stage, Sen. Kennedy reminded me about what courage meant. Just the fact that he was there today - eight weeks post surgery for a particularly nasty Glioblastoma Multiformae - was an object lesson in courage. At 76 years of age Sen. Kennedy has lived a life few will be able to imagine.

His being at the convention reminded me of the few days in February that Bhaskar actually went back to work. Just the fact that he went back - even if it was just for a few days - set an example that will serve us well.

It is now almost two months since Bhaskar passed away. I often wonder what he thought of in those last weeks and days. In between his frequent hospital visits, he did have periods of relative calm at home - time that must have been both precious and tortuous at once. Precious because he could spend it with Jayanthi, Rethas and Krishna, tortuous because he did in fact sense that he had but a few weeks remaining.

To know that the end is near and to still go through the day takes a particular form of courage. Bhaskar had the courage. Sen. Kennedy has the courage. So do the thousands of people around the world who suffer through this horrendous disease. I hope that the association of someone as prominent as Sen. Edward Kennedy sheds more light on this disease and someday leads to its eradication.

Friday, August 8, 2008

August 8th 2008

Time heals all wounds. Age old wisdom. True? Generally people grieve upon receiving a dire medical diagnosis. The entire world seems to close in on them and their families. After the initial shock and disbelief at Bhaskar's diagnosis of stage IV Glioblastoma Multiformae, the entire extended family busied themselves with tasks aimed at postponing the inevitable. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do. Yet, we seemed to have let the disease and the treatment define the last few months of Bhaskar's life Time that slipped away from us.

Enter Randy Pausch. He died recently of inoperable pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver and other organs. His inspiring story - "The last Lecture" was a great revelation on the surprising resolve and resilience of the human spirit. Read on. Watch here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The all important question - also the one with no answers - WHY??? A question unanswered after 2 sudden shocks in the recent past - Dad & Mum. History repeats itself.

The next one - WHY HIM?? A person who was careful about getting his tests done on time and more importantly making sure he followed doctor's instructions. Then again, who goes through an MRI or expects the worst for a simple headache??? Surgery over - doctor's opinion post surgery - 90% tumour removed - long term not so good, ok for the short term. Who is to define the short and long term here? Statistics is all we have to go by.

All lives directly and not so directly connected gone topsy turvy - in every sense of the phrase - emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. In and out of hospitals - seizures, sodium levels fluctuating, numbness etc...

Through all of these things, his spirits are up. Suddenly everyone is spending a lot more time researching on the web looking at information on the possibilities, talking to doctors and others and everyone is in the garb of a doctor. Doctor visits become more frequent. Blood tests become routine. The worst part is that there is nothing one can do to alleviate the pain he is going through and also be there just in case any of the other immediate care takers need a break.

Believe me, it is no fun when people call to find out what the situation is. There is really nothing great to write home about. Yes, one understands it is people who care and all of that but then..... Strangely our visits to Chennai increased and we would just drive down even if it was for a weekend. Spend as much time as one could with him since the writing was on the wall. But the most admirable aspect of him was the fact that he made the effort to go out and do stuff he wanted to and be part of an activity. For the most part he succeeded. I was surprised to hear that when Vicky was in Chennai, they were out for dinner. When I asked who all were there, he said Bhaski, Kaki, Kutti payya etc. Was not sure what emotions came over then.

Not an acknowledgement, but it would be unfair to Kaki if her strength in handling the situation was not mentioned. Everytime I spoke to Kaki either on the phone or in person, she would be steady and strong in her thoughts and actions. Lest he or the boys get demoralised. Patience has been one of her virtues.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

October 2007 -
Bhaski and Rethas drive to Bangalore for a concert. Night driving. Next day he had a faint headache- could be attributed to driving, lack of sleep, the hereditary migraine - any number of simple normal reasons. But, he goes back and the ever meticulous guy that he was, gets all the checks done. All "appear" normal. He has a blackout in the office and when further tests are conducted, the tumor shows up. Lime size, they said. Immediate surgery required. I was in Chennai before he went in for the surgery. After which the usual biopsy was to be done and the final verdict to be declared. Through all of this, having faced the dreaded "CANCER" thrice before and having researched on the net and speaking to doctors, the future was very discouraging.
The will to live and the spirit to fight helps us reconcile and not crumble and give it the best we have. Again the Swarna family rallies around. Kinda getting good at this!

Monday, June 30, 2008

My flight landed at Chennai in the early hours of June 29th 2008. The terminal was packed with people arriving from various places - the US, Europe, Japan etc. I noted that air travel had become increasingly democratic...

That thought brought in another one - cancer too was a great equalizer, knowing no bounds in its democratic zeal to strike at anyone, anywhere, at anytime. In the fall of 2007, had I asked any member of my extended family if they were aware of "Glioblastoma Multiformae", the likely answer would have been - "who's in the movie? what kind of movie is it? action? comedy?"

A horror flick. All the blood and gore that Hollywood could muster was no match for the horrors that had unfolded over the past eight months. The thing of it was, as common as the cancer experience was across the world, each individual one was unique in its agony and told the story of unmitigated devastation. A personalized horror flick.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Last Breath

The incessant beep of the blood-oxygen sensor overcame the feeble voice I heard on the other end of the phone. A feeling of dread swept over me and I realized that a world made smaller by our ever present communications devices was still very, very vast indeed. I was listening to the electronic sounds of my uncle's last breath, amplified in its clinical detachment and digital certainty.

A valiant battle was coming to an end, and I was hearing it unfold in real time. This was the ultimate reality show, and I had front row seats to it. It made me really, really angry. It was about 9:30 AM on Thursday, June 26th 2008.

Cancer: From Despair to Hope

Shiva's Abode

Shiva's Abode
The Final Destination

JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute - recent issues