It’s not easy. Trust me. It’s not. I have seen myself how much difficult it is for them to face the society again. I am talking about breast cancer survivors.
When my Ma was diagnosed with it, for us it was like half the battle lost. We were a family of four, I was too young then even to realize how difficult it would be for my family. But the reports stood bare staring back at us as if it were our fault.
Our fault?? Yeah, sort of. My Ma had observed the lump in her left breast when it was very small. She watched it grow and never disclosed her little secret to anyone in the family. For, two long years she inched towards her death everyday happily serving us and keeping us happy. Definitely, she must have cried alone when no one watched her and that I suppose would have been very often because all her children had left home to seek a career in other cities. So she had ample time to brood over her health and no one to confide to. That was the biggest mistake we did as children. We took our parents for granted. We never took out time from our busy schedule to make her confide in us. It was always she following upon us as we lived a distance apart physically.
Those were the days when we queued up in front of the telephone booths on Sundays to call up our folks back at home. Even visits to home were more of a celebration in the honor of our homecoming rather than discussing health issues with Ma. Days would pass by just meeting relatives and friends who would come down to meet us. And soon it would be time to return back. So yes the fault was ours.
Ma never had that courage to share her nightmare with us. She had watched her younger sister lose the battle to cancer. So maybe inside she was preparing herself for the worst and praying all the happiness for us in the meantime. That’s how mothers are and shall always be. For them, the family always comes first. But they forget that they are the pillars of the family that holds the walls of the home together.
So coming back to where I had started. Ma’s treatment started. She was operated in one of the renowned medical institutes of India and her left breast was removed. That changed her life forever. She went into hiding completely. She would spend hours sitting alone in the balcony looking down at the street crowd from our Lajpat Nagar flat. She despised meeting anyone, even the family members. Maybe inside she felt she was not the same person anymore. Her mastectomy had shattered her self-confidence completely.
In our country, physical attributes matter a lot, no matter how old you are. If you are beautiful people will love you if you are not they will find reasons to avoid you or mock at you. And mastectomy did exactly that to my Ma. She felt she had lost her identity as a woman and it was killing her inside.
I had seen how the ladies in the hospital ward react after mastectomy. Maybe they all went through the same trauma. But we didn’t know how to react to Ma’s behavior. We had no practical knowledge of actually handling patients leave alone understanding their emotional lows. What mattered, at that moment for us, was that she was alive and still breathing. And that was all we cared for. We never thought she might be in need of a counselor or someone who had undergone the same trauma like her to understand her emotions at that time. We did everything to keep her happy and smiling but we couldn’t connect to that chord which her heart wanted to hear.
We lost her after two years of fight minus the emotions she always sought. And all these thirteen years I had never realized that until today.
I realized it today when I went to attend an event for breast cancer awareness and support, Raipur Pink Marathon.
I got an invite for the event a few days back and I was very determined to attend it. I asked all my female friends out and two showed interest to come along. One of them happened to be breast cancer fighter. I have known her for a couple of months.
A very lively lady about my age, very focused upon her health and all. She practices yoga every morning and went for long walks in the evening. She inspired me to walk in the evenings. Soon after knowing her, I came to know that she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, of course from other sources. She never hinted anything about it and I never asked her too. We simply joined other ladies in the long evening walks and talked about MILs and other topics females always loved to talk about.
So here she was with me in the event supporting Breast cancer awareness support initiated by Raipur Pink Marathon at 6:00 am in the morning. We had assembled in a park along with several other people. The hostess initiated the program with yoga followed by two kilometers run. We were pretty happy to participate in the event. It basically focused on women health and exercise to keep fit which Indian women needed to do desperately. Till now we ladies were giggling and enjoying ourselves. It was our morning out without any baggage. Otherwise, we usually met with our kids along.
After the event, our host introduced my friend to a few more members of her team who were breast cancer survivors and fighters. Some of them were too young. My friend greeted the girls with moist eyes and after they left spoke almost in a whisper, “And I thought I was too young for it.”
My friend had been playing brave all these months but her guards were down when she met someone even younger than her who was fighting the same battle as her. And for some reason, my friend felt positive that she wasn’t alone anymore. There was a big support group waiting for her where she could discuss things she was going through without any inhibitions something which she apparently could not discuss with us.
That one line took me back to my past, thirteen years back, to my Ma. I haven’t realized till then that just meeting someone could ease your wound so much. I wish I had taken Ma to such support groups where she would have felt better while fighting the disease alone.
As they say. If you want to empathize you need to get into their shoes. Sympathises doesn’t always work. I appreciate the efforts of such programs that helps women come together for a cause and fight at it together.