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Cancer Survivor Overcomes Difficult Times By Painting

By Madhulika Gupta,Womens Feature Service

(Excerpted from ‘Hope Soars’; Edited by Jyotsna Govil; Published by Vitasta Books/Indian Cancer Society, Delhi; Pp: 214; Price: Rs 395.)

Me at the beauty parlour. This time I emerged as an ‘eternal beauty’ in the true sense.

My tryst with cancer started at the beauty parlour, when over a massage a small lump was discovered in my breast. I brushed it off with a laugh. Nevertheless, the thought of the lump kept nagging me every now and then, and so, I went for a check-up a few days later.

After it was confirmed that I had a malignant tumour, I spoke to my kids on the phone; a call like any other routine call to them (both were working away from Delhi at that time). They both sensed something. “Ma, you sound different. Surely you are not your normal self. What is the matter? You were to go to the doctor yesterday. What did he say?”

“Oh no, nothing much, but I may have to go again.”

I thought that this is a bad phase and it will pass off. I had steeled my mind and resolved to be a winner.

Well, somehow my kids came to know and were in the hospital by my side, when I underwent a lumpectomy as advised by my doctor. After the surgery, the doctor remarked, “Your mom is very brave and courageous.”

Strange as it may seem, I was strengthened by this incident and truly empowered to face the difficult times with a smile. Once back home, I started reading more, gathering more information and spoke to my friend Veena, who had also undergone a similar surgery a few years ago. I can still remember her words clearly, “Come on Madhu, these are trying times, but they are manageable. You and your creative talents can easily help it pass.”

Tring… tring… a phone call. It was from a European designer in Delhi who wanted to learn painting. Alina pursued me time and again to take classes from me. Each time she’d call me and express her desire to learn painting from me, I’d tell her that I was not well and to contact me later. At times, I did not even answer her call.

One day, I gathered myself and spoke to my inner self….

Though I used to ignore Alina at first, later I was myself surprised when I used to wait for her eagerly. My kids had left for their work and I was mostly alone at home. This was when I developed a strong bond with Alina. …We started painting together… I missed her on the days she did not come for classes. She always made me eat in her presence and even brought gifts for me to keep my spirits up. She would take out time out from her busy schedule for me and our relationship blossomed from strangers to that of a mother and daughter. She was a cosmetologist and a beautician and would often pamper me with a facial or a massage…

One day I realized that my affected arm was giving me unbearable pain and I could not lift it. I went to the hospital where I met Sahyog volunteers. They pepped me up and through these interactions I met Santosh Sood.

This was another silver lining to the dark clouds. Santoshji was my source of valuable tips, which even the doctors were unaware of. She became my mentor and advised me on food and exercise. Whenever I felt low, I would just ring her up and she was always ready to talk to me and seemed to have a solution for all my problems.

In the meanwhile, my creative self was experimenting with different forms of art and developed new styles, which were absolutely new to me, and something I had never done before.

May, June, July… Long afternoons were a little tough to pass when one day an old student came to out of the blue. “Ma’am, I want to learn new techniques from you and I want to start from tomorrow itself.” Thus started another session of creative art in the afternoons.

Then came September, my birthday month. Calls from loved one poured in with one common demand, “We are going to have a great celebration, we want a big party.” Complying with everyone’s demand, we had a big bash and my family and all my well wishers, including my brother, a senior officer in the Army, who especially flew in from Cochin, came from far and near.

Life was pumped into me once again. I could take chemotherapy with more ease. At the hospital, a co-patient remarked, “You have a unique glow on your face. You look prettier without your hair.” The doctor complimented me too.

After my birthday, time passed easily with those cherished memories. My daughter flew in at least once a month and spent good valuable time with me…

With positive thinking and happier times ahead, the not so good time passed off. We planned a long and lovely vacation to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Needless to say, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

Now I have emerged as a more beautiful self, more confident and courageous to take on life. With my new thick, curly dark hair, and my skin clear of all the blemishes, which had developed during the treatment, I feel good, in the real sense.

Now here I am going ahead, enjoying my life fully with ‘Beautiful Me’.

Excerpted from ‘Hope Soars’; Edited by Jyotsna Govil; Published by Vitasta Books/Indian Cancer Society, Delhi; Pp: 214; Price: Rs 395.)

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