Monday, March 19, 2007

The Pink Ribbon

Do you know what it feels like, to get up one morning and stare at your all-too-perfect life, beaming at the safety and security it represents, drinking in the glee of your anticipated victories… and then, to discover that a loved one has been living with a dreaded disease? Something that slowly gnaws at one’s being itself, until it has eaten up every fiber of it, leaving it’s victim listless and shaken

What bothers more? The fact that someone you love so much is suffering and the road is a one way with no return path… Or that you, for all the closeness you shared, somehow did not inspire in them, the confidence to open up and let you in?

To me, it was neither. (Well, actually both. But they struck with the force of a tornado only when the emergency had dulled a little).The reality of the moment was too grave to digest without philosophizing it (my favorite occupation!) but the timing was too incorrect for philosophy. So I plunged into action. But like all urgent actions that have been ignored long since, this too didn’t give me an actual solution, only temporary relief.

Okay, now… what are we talking about? The title “The Pink Ribbon” doesn’t seem to make much sense? It does. Ribbons are internationally used for causes. Red ones, say, are for AIDS awareness. Pink is the hue doused on women. Do you recall something?

The Pink Ribbon. Breast Cancer.

Breast Cancer… The beast I could cheerfully kill for invading a lovely home, shocking people into mute submission, not giving a chance to think, plan, talk, and just DO something! Except for suffer both actively and passively while the will to fight it out still envelops even though the strength fails, sometimes.

If it has taken my usual loquacious self an unbelievable one year to get to the point where I can talk about it, imagine how badly it could shake someone. From being someone who always gave hugs and sent smilie-infected personal messages (SMS), I turned into someone who wouldn’t hug as she feared that her pain would somehow carve itself into another’s heart when the chests came into contact while hugging. I gave up smilies hoping my abstinence towards smiling would be the much needed sacrifice that would somehow make her alright.

I would lie awake in bed through the dead of the night, praying hard. I re-established my relationship with God by talking to him everyday. My life and that of my whole family came to revolve around a single point: Watch over, pray, stay connected, love deeply and show it out more often. Though I am not a shy person, I had never indulged in public display of affection with so much intensity before. And I didn’t feel even a tinge of awkwardness while I did so. Despite all this, the doctor’s tone of inevitability would ring loud in my ears while I tried to shut it out with the power of prayers.

He had said, “If only you had brought her in a little earlier… In such cases, even a month makes a surprising amount of difference”

A month. One irrefutable, precious month. If only we could go back… If only mom had told me or anyone about it when she first suspected something (And she did suspect something!)

What happened after that was a complete blur in terms of the absolute. The doctor’s reluctance to try mastectomy given the condition of cancer, painful chemotherapy sessions, the nausea, loss of appetite, you name it. From being such a cheerful, witty, talkative person, my mother turned into a weak puddle of mouth ulcers that prevented her from not only talking but also basics like eating; tired and dazed but still, wanting and fighting to live…

To live with the realization that you are too late for something is the worst kind of regret. Anything else, you might affix a sense of not being in your destiny to it. But this, to know that everything would have been ok if only you had acted upon it earlier; if you had known about this earlier! Awareness is the word

Today, while I see that healthcare is growing into a major industry, my thought goes out for women like my mother, who, for some obscure reason, don’t go out to address or even acknowledge a problem. Is it the fear of emotional abandonment? Pa is the most loving, devoted husband I’ve ever seen; always extending his touching care and unstinted support to her. I’m a fairly ok daughter (Modesty prevents me from saying much over here!)

And even if a certain unfortunate woman has a callous husband, that’s still no reason for not addressing the needs and cries of her body. It’s about HER

Is it the lack of finances? That can be arranged. Trust me.

Really, how far can we plan issues like women’s health, which is even more an issue in developing countries than their developed counterparts? Unless these “Veiled Rebeccas” of the world come together to make a commitment for personal health and hygiene, not much can be achieved by medical advancement alone.

Doctors say that most cancers can be completely cured if detected early. And breast cancer has some “obvious” symptoms. So the issue is just with the awareness! As I said, awareness is the word.

I cannot even try to explain the trauma cancer causes. When the seconds counted, I was clueless about what was happening in my own home. Now, I live in the daily horror of, “Is it too late, as they say?”. In a matter of days, our lives turned completely topsy-turvy.

I share this very personal experience with the sole need to reach out to those women who have ignored personal health, with a message,

“If you see anything wrong or out of order with your system, however obscure that may be, please do attend to it. First acknowledge it. It is NOT shameful or derogatory to you or your loved ones. It is a privilege to attend to you. Lets kill the monster: Breast Cancer.
Health is the most important aspect of living; A woman, the most beautiful aspect of homes and lives”

And if this message touches even one single life, I am thankful for my literacy and ability to articulate :-)

PS: The image attached to this post has been taken from