At times, getting back to the ho-hum of everyday life seems good. I had an exceptionally busy summer on the home front, with getting carpentry work done at my house in the first week of April, followed by guests visiting us for summer vacation. My daughter was delighted to have her aunts and cousins visiting us and enjoyed the outings to NTR Park, Chilkur Balaji Temple, Pragati Resorts ( an ideal family and friends getaway), Snow World and Havmor for the pizzas and the Titanic Ice Cream.
During this busy phase, I couldn't speak on a daily basis to my mom who lives in Kolkata. We practically spoke everyday, as either of us would call each other. When my daughter had her exams, my mom unfailingly called me everyday in the evening to find out how did the exam go; the call was actually to ensure that I was not harsh with her grand daughter. Even if I did not call her, she would call and find out about my well being. But this time she didn't and I presumed it was probably because I was busy.
I managed to find time from my crazy schedule and called her around April 25th. Mom's voice sounded very feeble and weak, she also seemed disinterested in a conversation, and was giving some irrelevant replies which was very unlike her. When I inquired, She reminded me how the summers were always a tough time for her and therefore her weakness was due to the heat. And trust Kolkata's heat and humidity for torture! I told her to take care and drink a lot of fluids, etc and she reciprocated my sermon with a "OK".
The same week, my sister-in-law Suma called me from Dubai to find out if everything was fine with mom as she and my brother felt something was amiss in her conversation. The call disturbed me and I spoke to my doctor brother, Ravi with whom she lives in Kolkata. He told me that he had in fact noticed some memory loss and severe physical weakness within a weeks time and expressed some serious concerns. He assured me that he had an appointment scheduled with the specialists on May 12 at the Military Command Hospital, Kolkata. Ravi is a Paediatrician in the same hospital.
On every Mother's Day, ever since I became a mother, my mom used to be the first one to call me and wish me. On May 11, 2008, I called her and wished " Happy Mother's Day Ma" and she replied " Happy Birthday". I felt dizzy and couldn't hold back my tears. I knew all was not well.
On May 12, she underwent a MRI of the brain and it showed three tumors with the largest one measuring 7 Cm's, located in the frontal lobe of the brain which is the seat of reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving. Cancer had reached the brain and an intelligent and active woman had turned into a small girl. Her behaviour and speech was that of a sweet, well behaved 4-5 year old. She was more or less in a semi comatose state. The oncologists advised twenty sessions of radiation therapy which she had to undergo everyday with immediate effect. She has already undergone a radiation therapy and two chemotherapy sessions since the advanced stage breast cancer was diagnosed 18 months back. Since then, she has been very positive ,strong and active all through the treatment. Mom was immediately admitted to the Command hospital which is next door to where Ravi and his wife, Ashwini stay.
My other brother Nagaraj, flew in from Dubai on May 16th and I reached Kolkata along with my husband and daughter on May 17th to see our mom . She appeared frail, but normal. Only when she began to speak, the problem was noticeable. Amazingly she was very "time" conscious and had command over all the languages she knows. She was very polite to all with Hello, Thank you, Very nice of you , Don't worry - Be happy and Bye, dominating her conversation. We had to feed her for nearly 15 days as she would not know what to eat from her plate. For a lady who loves to cook and eat tasty food, it was tough to eat the bland food, She never complained. She kept talking to herself saying 'the food is very nice and tasty... no salt... no chillies...no sugar'. She wouldn't allow us to sit with her beyond two hours in the afternoon and night. She would get restless and insist on sleeping only after we left. She was aware that we would be late for our lunch and dinner respectively.
Mom was unable to recall anything from the past. She only remembered us as very small kids and my youngest brother Ravi as a baby. She did not remember my father's name, but promptly recalled her mother-in-law's name. So we bestowed her the "Best Daughter-in-law" award for this feat. She was not able to remember names and any significant events; it appeared like all the stuff must be there in the head but she was unable to co-ordinate and it was all getting jumbled up. Surprisingly she addressed my husband, her son-in-law correctly by his name during their conversations. She also read the name plates pinned on the uniforms of the doctors and nurses to address them. Of course, she would immediately forget the names. Mom had this peaceful and divine look on her face and on our request, recited the " Hanuman Chalisa" and " Sri Raghavendra Stotram" without any flaw. She is an ardent devotee of Sri Guru Raghavendra Swami.
She had to undergo the ordeal of travelling to and fro to Medical College, Kolkata for radiation therapy everyday at 11. 00 am, braving the Kolkata heat and humidity which was hell for normal healthy people like us.
A few of my cousins, aunts and uncles travelled all the way to Kolkata from different cities in India to see her. She was apologetic to all of them stating that she couldn't remember their names and her memory was bad. It has been a shock for our family and friends to see such a beautiful, charming, active and intelligent lady transformed like this. In fact I and my brothers have derived profound strength to face this adversity, from my mom herself. Her toughness to face any hardships, immense will power and positive attitude towards life is unmatched. She has touched many lives with her helpful, spiritual and affectionate persona.
Mom remembered Ravi's and my birthday dates which is May 31st and June 1st respectively. She told Ashwini to buy me a gift and we had a cozy birthday party at home (thanks to Ashwini and Adithi for the arrangements) with mom joining us for a couple of hours from the hospital on both the days. My two aunts (mom's sisters) came to Kolkata from Hyderabad to see her on June 1st. So she was happy to have them join the party.
In the past two weeks there has been significant improvement in her memory. She is unable to recall events from the initial two weeks, such as how she came to the hospital, my brother and husband's visit, etc as they stayed for a week and then left. She kept asking me, what had happened to her and how she reached the hospital, etc. And as I described the events, she vaguely remembered some of it. She has again lost all her hair and appears disappointed about it. Earlier she had taken her bald head look with elan. I returned back with a heavy heart to Hyderabad on June 5th as my daughter's school reopened on June 9th.
Mom came back home on June 13th, exactly after a month's stay in the hospital. The latest scan shows traces of cancer in the liver also. She is very weak, but her memory has improved considerably. She is getting the best possible treatment and care. The doctors, nurses and helpers were very caring at the Command Hospital. Mom's charming smile attracted many friends ( other patients and their family members) at the hospital. In the initial two weeks she wouldn't converse much, but in the weeks that followed, she was talking to people.
She is now eagerly waiting for Nagaraj and his family's visit on June 20th, especially to see her grand daughter "Gauri" and grand son, little "Raghav" who turned one on June 8th. In the past one month she had no inkling about "Raghav" as she was unable to remember him. She only remembered "Gaura" (Gauri) and of course my daughter "Aadu" (Adithi) who was entertaining us live with her histrionics in the hospital.
Adithi was very impressed with the hospital room where mom was staying. She felt it was an ideal place to live; AC room with attached toilet, Colour TV, clean bed and last but not the least, Food, which was visually very endearing. In fact she was envious of "Ajji's ' (Grandmother's) comfortable abode!
I thank all my family members and friends who have stood by us in these difficult moments and continue to do so with their prayers and best wishes.