Love can. I believe it can - transform a cruel countenance to a kind one, bring a smile to lips that have forgotten joy, get a tear in eyes that for years have remained dry. And it can help in curing cancer!
Yes, you read it right. No, I am not a doctor; neither do I know of studies that can prove this to you. All I know is that it is true - and I have experienced it in my own life. August 1, 2005 was a turning point for four people – my dad, mom, my sister Nidhi and me. We found out mom has breast cancer, Stage III. Usually our house is filled with noise – old melodies played by dad, soap operas being watched on TV by mom (followed by sporadic comments passed by her), chattering on the phone from Nidhi and continuous humming and giggling from me. That day there was silence. We were all preoccupied, looking around but seeing very little, hearing very little and feeling nothing.
Always the dreamer, I found refuge on my terrace and gazing at the skies wondered, ‘Hey God, will we ever be okay again?’ When I came down, I saw dad sitting besides mom and stroking her hair. He was looking at her with such care and tenderness in his eyes that I could feel, bit by bit every trace of anxiety leave her beautiful face. Nidhi too was sitting close by, holding mom’s hand. We looked at each other and knew. This was not mom’s fight alone. We were with her. Her health would not just be the doctors and medicines responsibility, it would be ours too. Fear gave way to determination, anxiety gave way to hope and we wanted to conquer cancer - every cell of it, with love.
At the time of moms operation, one that went on for about four hours (instead of one, as the surgeon had said!), only dad, Nidhi and I were not present in the hospital. The reception of the hospital had become a family get together and wearing sad expressions about fifteen relatives sat, wondering what would happen next. Where were the three of us? I was at home, dreaming of what my next my article would be and how I would make mom read it and how she would smile happily at me. Nidhi sat in a garden somewhere, an iPod in hand, humming to tunes that she and mom often listened to together. And dad was at his office, lost in deep meditation imagining that he is sending rays of love, to counter every cancer cell in mom’s body. Undoubtedly, the operation was successful. My relatives went back with a sigh of relief and our smiles deepened and we grew in faith, as a family.
One of the reasons why cancer is so scary is because its treatment itself is painful. Chemotherapy makes one feel nauseous, fatigued, down in the dumps and ‘sick’ in every sense of the word. Since mom’s cancer was at an advanced stage - her medicines too would be very strong and the doctors warned us that her health would deteriorate quite a bit. We saw a few other cancer patients and they re-iterated that it would be a terrible four months. Hmm! Is that so? We looked at each other again and shrugged our shoulders, almost in unison, as if to say, let’s see.
We didn’t allow any negativity to touch her. An injection? We countered it with a ‘love you’ and by holding hands. A negative comment? We responded with a hug and an expression that said, ‘this person knows nothing’. A random tear that found it’s way on our cheeks? We followed it up with much laughter- thinking of distant eccentric marwadi uncles and aunts. Trouble sleeping? We were up, through the night, chatting, playing cards, listening to dad’s collection of beautiful old melodies. Loss of hair because of chemotherapy? We had an answer to that too! We called her the “Bald and the beautiful!” and she would giggle like it was the world’s funniest joke. Of those initial days, some pictures stay in the mind. Dad meticulously applying special ayurvedic oil on mom’s scalp, a smelly, sticky liquid, that, however, promised rich, lustrous growth. The four of us going for hot sizzling brownies once in the middle of the night, just a day after her first chemotherapy because mom had a sudden urge to celebrate this phase too!
The result? The level of RBC (Red Blood Cells) and WBC (White Blood Cells) which should have fallen tremendously, stayed almost normal, through all the six rounds of chemo. While most other people, even those being treated for initial stage of cancer, take about a week to recover from side effects she took only a day. And even that wasn’t too bad, mom calls it “uncomfortable” because she had to be in bed and could not go in to the kitchen or talk on the phone! The doctors were awestruck! One actually said, ‘Mrs. Bajaj, everything is absolutely fine, please leave so we can check someone who is actually ill!”
Love grew, not just within the family, but even within mom. Until now she had always placed us before her, our health before hers. Not now. She began to invest time in herself. Morning began with yoga, healthy food became routine days ended with meditation. She started developing a love for her body, which I never saw before - she started applying some nice smelling cream on her arms, she started looking for pretty clothes for herself and said to us one day, out of the blue, ‘I love dancing, teach me a dance’. It was clear, something very beautiful was happening within. It remained to be seen, if this beautiful change had the power to defeat cancer as well? She went for her tests recently. We waited outside, holding hands. Yes, she was all clear! Not a trace of cancer anywhere. In fact, her reports show that her health has improved from what it was even before she had cancer.
Today, three years later, my mother has got her hair back, which by the way is softer than ever before. She dresses herself prettily and goes to an NGO called Helping Hands to offer hope to other cancer patients! Just seeing her, radiating with love, I am told patients get inspired. She tells them, “Love and cancer cannot co-exist. So love yourself. Love people around you. And yes, love life. Believe you deserve to live and watch how cancer, recalcitrant as it may appear in the beginning, slinks away.”
I believe her wholeheartedly. Indeed, love works. If it can help curing cancer, if it can transform a cancer patient to the very person who offers hope to cancer patients within two years, then the little things in life can definitely be left to love. If love cannot, nothing can. And love can.