Fighting Cancer with a shoulder shrug…

CANCER!

Even if I wrote this word in a point size barely readable and without the exclamation mark, it would still scare us the same way isn’t it?

There are millions who have fought this battle and millions who are fighting it right now.

So why a sudden interest in this topic?

Well, for reasons good or bad, this is not just a topic for me. It’s something that has been in my life for past many years now and I have been meeting cancer through many of my family members.

Everyone fights for their life… whatever may be the reason, they will try. But what’s special about some is the attitude they carry. I know a few incredible people who have fought back and HOW!

I was very young, I think a year old when it creeped into my aunt’s body and made a home in there. But my aunt, Sangeeta Vaze, was not in favour of welcoming anyone uninvited so it had to leave…and for good.  That was my first encounter with the ugly cells. But I was unaware of this till I was 10. One afternoon I was scanning through the books kept in my parents bedroom and as a ten year old would do, was searching for the thinnest book with an easy and understandable topic. Found a book, though not the thinnest, but with an interesting cover. It was white and had a big picture of a crab on it. I was too young to even know that the crab was symbolic of cancer. The title was in Marathi and so was the entire book but something kept me hooked on to it. My mom always wanted us kids to know our mother tongue – Marathi and so I had just started reading a few story books in the language. I thought reading this book would improve my language skills so I grabbed it and took it to my room.

Again, I was just 10 so the inquisitive side of me always won over the patient side. I randomly jumped from page to page to see if there were any interesting pictures but all I saw were pictures of some unknown people, that too in black in white. Boring! I thought and was about to keep it away when the last page opened and I saw my aunt’s picture there… Finally a familiar face! That made me happy, got my attention and I tried to read what was written next to it.

It was a citation for my aunt stating that she is honoured and is being given an award for writing this book. The award was given by  Mr. J.R.D Tata on behalf of the TATA Cancer Foundation. Tata was a name I was well aware of even at that age and I knew it meant something really big if you received an award from them.

I was very happy to notice it and felt a sense a pride that my aunt was an award winner and moreover… Im reading her book! Little did I know that it was about to change my outlook towards life…

The title of the book was – Majhi Cancer Yatra, I translated every word and came up with – My cancer journey. (Carries a much deeper meaning but as a kid, that’s how I read it)

I started reading it sentence by sentence, slowly, trying to translate the words and make sense out of it. It was a mix of emotions – joy, sorrow, struggle, belief, kindness, gratitude, fear and lots and lots of prayers…

It had stories of people fighting the cells… some made it, some did not. Some stories that made me cry, some that put a smile on my face. Some heroic deeds and some godly actions. My aunt experienced it all. I could not understand each and every word and it was very hard for me to understand the jargons cos of the new language but what I learnt was that love, courage, belief and positive attitude are universal and readable to all. Language does not matter. My aunt not only fought the battle but also inspired many others.

My mom was taken aback to see that book in my hand and now I can understand why…

If you ever get a chance, do read the book.

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Have you ever met a 55 year old die hard fan of Shahrukh Khan?? A woman who watches emotional TV soups but laughs at you for crying while you give a hug?? A lady who can keep your secrets from your mom despite of being her best friend?? Someone you know who you can run to when you are in an emotional crisis?? No??

Let me introduce you to my dearest, loveliest foster mom – Mrs. Aruna Khot!

She can fight with the world for Shahrukh! But what’s even more happening is the fact that she fought cancer with twice as much zest! I dont know what she eats in the morning that keeps her pepped up all day…

It was only a year back when I got the news that the ugly cells have targeted this aunt of mine this time. A dead nervous, helpless and a shaken-up me, tried to pull herself together to make a call. A call to my best friend whose mom was diagnosed with cancer. I did. All prepared to console her and stabilise the situation. But as it had to happen, I broke down. I mean what do yo expect? It was my best friend and her mom – my foster mom! I did not handle it well, but they did. My friend consoled me and said that everything would be ok. She is going to be fine and I need not worry. Wait! I should be the one saying all this right?? Well, thats how you differentiate the strong from the weak! (For a minute I really felt like a fool!)

It was aunty who actually made everything look like cough and cold. Throughout her treatment, she was solid as a rock keeping everyone and everything stable.

I did not get a chance to speak to her much cos I was in a different city but whenever I did, her kind and positive words made all my tensions go away…

Her positive outlook amazes me. If you are not friends with her on Facebook I suggest you be! Her messages can lighten up your mood, make a dull day bright and make difficult tasks really easy! Her daughter, my best friend Priyanka and her son, my lil brother took care of her with so much love and affection that the uninvited guests had no room left for themselves and had to eventually leave.

After she recovered, I met her on Diwali and what a fantastic look she had… short hair (some call it bob cut)…a chic kurti and a bright smile on her face! And when I complemented her, the come back was -” I think all I need is a leather jacket, boots, a Harley Davidson and Im good to go!” 🙂

Aruna aunty is a super woman and I know that with a brave heart like hers, loving kids like Priyanka and Akshat and a never -say -never attitude, those ugly cells can never harm her. She loves her life and lives it king size…Shahrukh might be her hero but she is one rocking superstar in my life!

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Recently, me and my husband planned a trip to San Jose. It wasn’t much of a leisure trip as our main intention was to visit his Hemangi Mami (aunt) who was diagnosed with cancer the second time. We were a little sceptical about the visit cos our visit days were colliding with her chemotherapy dates and we thought it might be uncomfortable for them to treat guests in such a situation. But we went anyways cos she assured us that it will be fine.

FINE?? It was much much more than fine!! Fine is an understatement! To my surprise she was totally pepped up, roaming around in the house, doing her daily chores. She was done preparing the breakfast and the lunch before we reached’ so we could enjoy a good chatting time 🙂

When asked if it was ok to do so much while undergoing therapy, I get a reply – ”Oh c’mon, its no big deal! And incase something happens, just call 911. Simple! ”

Not even for a second did I feel that I was in a cancer patient’s home. I met her for the first time and have fallen in love with her! We were chit chatting and I was discussing how it is a lil difficult to manage some things in a new place with new people around. To that I get  – ”Nothing is difficult. Do what you want to do. Keep faith and be positive. Things will work your way.”

To hear such positive words and see such a larger than life attitude is no less than a miracle in itself… And what’s more, this lady, while taking her treatment, counsels other cancer patients!

She keeps herself busy by painting, teaching art to kids, visits the hospital to meet other patients and takes such good care of her family. Oh and despite of having a beautiful wig, she prefers to go bald. She finds it ‘cool’ and more ‘comfortable’!

Now with such amazing people in my life, I dont think i’ll ever fall short of love, courage and positivity 🙂

They are just being humble when they thank us for our support… but in fact THEY are our support system.

They teach us how to live, how to smile and most of all how to fight the toughest of situations. When a scary, beastly thing like cancer approaches them with its full might, they simply shrug their shoulders and say ‘whatever’!

Take a bow ladies… take a bow…

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Aruna aunty and Hemangi mami are fighting this battle for the second time… they are very strong but our support can make a difference. Please pray for their speedy recovery…

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In loving memory of my dearest grandfather Bhau Ajoba, my Maushi Aji from Pune and Priti aunty – better known as Kiran Bedi amongst her friends.