Saturday, October 01, 2005

Today has been heavy...

The day started normally. Got up in the morning, did some work, checked up on some other work.

And then, Mom told me that we have to visit a Cancer Hospice called Jeevodaya. A trip to Jeevodaya has been pending right from the time we went to Coimbatore. They take care of Cancer patients, in the terminal stages. The patients are usually abandoned, or they come there of their own accord.

As I entered there, I had no idea what I was going to face. As I had mentioned in one of my previous posts about Mayuri, a very small girl who was afflicted with cancer when she was 4, and she wanted to meet me because she liked my title song in 'Anbulla Snehidiye'. They got in touch with us and then I went over to meet the kid. This was at Apollo. 3 years back.

But this.........

One of the first things I saw as I entered was a board which talked about, the day's food donors and the death anniversaries of the people who had breathed their last there.

And then I went across to some sort of a notice board where they had posted the pictures of the people who were suffering from Oral Cancer. It was like NOTHING that I have ever imagined. And then there were notes from the patients, which told parents should make sure that their kids dont smoke, dont drink, dont have Pan Parag, keep away from bad company, and basically have clean habits. There was this one picture of a man who had oral cancer. To describe it grossly it was as if the cancer was just corroding the area in and around his mouth, half of his face had been eaten up by cancer, to reveal something that you might only think will appear in movies and nightmares.

Then the doctor, somehow, was maybe reading my face and the way it was changing, and she said she would understand if I didnt see the patients after all. That was when I broke down. And so did mom, but not as openly as I. I knew she was undergoing the same as I, but she had a ver dignified manner about it. I felt the air was charged with a feeling of dread, impending death, remorse, anger, desolation... all at the same time. This Hospice is at Madhavaram. Almost about 30-40 kilometers from where I live.

My stomach knotted, convulsed. Whatever. And it was then I realized how there were these hundreds of people I know who CRIB CRIB AND CRIB, about their lives, bosses, their Parents, Girlfriends, Boyfriends, Children, Spouse, wotnot... And how they think its sooooo God damn cool to smoke, drink or smoke 'POT' as I have recently learned, drugs.... what not. Why in God's name??? Its abuse to themselves and those around them.

How people fail to realize the gift of life that we have. That our face or any part of our body, insides or outsides is not being eaten up by something, that they are not looked at with pity, looked at by a repulsed face, and to lose what is most important to each human - self worth and dignity....That they can still move about, drive their cars, go out live their life, without having to wonder when its your time. And also that the body we have is such an amazing thing.

Mom then went in to see the patients and she told me that it was nothing like the pictures. And that I must come in to remove the grotesque ideas that I have imagined by then. I went in with the same feeling of dread. Saw a lot of people were down due to the same cancer stick or the bottle of carcinogenics. We lost our appetites. And I am still filled with the feeling of dread. Stillness looming around.. its scary.. the What If....? It will take us a long time to get back to normalcy.

I met a few people, clinging to my mom, heard a very old lady giving loud yelps of pain. And then there was another old lady who loved to sing. She kept singing one song after the other. There was another who was an attention monger, wouldnt let the doctor or anyone else look at anyone else but her, a 20 year old succumbed 5 months after she had been married, and has been paralyzed hip down due to a tumour in her spine, and its now almost 1 1/2 years since she is bed ridden.

The patients were then called and I sang for them. And then both me and mom sang. And this was the first time I sang without closing my eyes, and was never as loud.

Some of the things that the patients have to go through is the extreme pain, and then the odour. They live with it and they realize it troubles the others. A lot want to die. Some live for the moment. And they all realize how valuable life is. And live for the moment, with as much good thoughts as possible. Each day is a struggle, wake up to pain, strut through the day with pain, sleep with pain, dream of pain. And the curse of being dependant on someone else for your personal hygiene. That no one wants you anymore.

There was a lot of anger I felt after I got back into the car when we were leaving after having spent close to 4 hours there. Fury. That people can let something , well what can I say, as stupid as cigarette or alcohol rule their lives. And with smoking all those people ruin the lives of the others too. You drink, fine you drink, you spoil whats in you. You smoke, you spoil what outside you. Your family, friends who dont smoke. Why, maybe smoking should be an essential part of global warming as well.. it is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than vehicular emission. I wonder if this will lead to some kind of a genetic mutation as well. Maybe it will enter the gene pool.

The question of whether cancer can be hereditary is a debatable issue. There isn't apparently, concrete proof, about this. But the doctors do say, that if there is more than 1 case of cancer in your family (in your blood line), you must take more number of tests, be extra careful. But it certainly doesnt mean that you will get it.

True, there are people who have been smoking through their lives have had nothing wrong with them, and those who have had clean habits and succumbed to cancer. To all those who pooh-pooh all this, well God save you.

There are some cases which can be prevented, like oral cancer. The bottom line is this,
Dont smoke
Dont have Pan Parag, tobacco, and avoid alcohol as much as possible
Women - Get your Pap-Smear tests done every year after you are 30, and also conduct personal routine examinations.
Have regular health check ups.
Have a high level of personal hygiene.
And I think it could be good to stay away from chemicals, in whatever form they come, a

After all this, even if people especiallywanna smoke, they can go into an air tight room smoke all they want, not get married, and even if they do, not procreate. Apparently, its not tough for the nicotine in you to enter your baby. I am ranting. But Guess that happens when you go so close to people who are living death.

Now I see why Dr. Shanta of Cancer Institute got the Ramon Magsasay. She should have been given the highest honour ages ago. And all those who have done and are doing significant work in the field of palliative care. Palliative care is the care of cancer patients, to give simple definition.

There are people, who work with patients on a regular basis and find out how positive they are towards life and how they live the moments.

And now what do WE need to learn to live the moments and live our life well? I guess we all can do some good to humanity, if we can just stay off certain practices which are totally unnecessary. And it would be good if the realization came, before we lose someone close to us, and maybe someone who is most important to most of us - OURSELVES. And this is when I feel that cigarettes should be taken out of the market.

This may not have been a very well worded post, but this has been a pouring out of sorts. Maybe I would wish I had written it better.

If this is not clear enough, maybe each of us needs to visit a Cancer Hospice closest to us. To realize that we are God damn lucky, that we are still in one piece, hale and hearty, and that we can make whatever choices and go ahead with it, and more than anything else, to show people who are suffering from cancer that we care.


Ganesh said...

a very moving post indeed.
We can only do our part,but some people never learn.
In US more and more employers are reluctant to give health insurance for those who smoke.
Here is the post I did in august when famous news broadcaster in US Peter Jennnings succumbed to cancer becoz of chain smoking.

Anybody interested can go through this post of mine.

what about smoking in public places, passive smoking more dangerous, back home we have beedi,suruttu,tobacco chewing,panparag guess people choose death in variety of ways.

Kirubakaran A said...

I found this animation on 'smoking kills' interesting.


Arvind Srinivasan said...

Sometimes, it makes one wonder, why do such ways of killing self even exist ?

Like Milton's Paradise Lost, where the Devil asks God - 'Am i not your creation too ?'

Rathi said...

Dear Chinmayi, sometimes it is not because of smoking or drinking etc that causes cancer.

My mom had gastrinoma and she went for numerous ops which resulted in them removing part of her stomach, part-intestines, gall bladder, a little of the pancreas etc. For now she is declared fine and we are keeping our fingers crossed and pray that she remains fine.

The worst part of this is that it is painful not only to them but to us as caregivers as well. That was a living nightmare. What I have learnt is that they do not need pity, but they need someone who can comfort them.

It doesnt matter what someone has done or hasnt done to take care of themselves. When cancer strikes, it doesnt see reason. The not smoking not drinking measures we take is only precautionary and is not 100%.

PS.sorry for the long post. Got your link from your mom's blog.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Nice post. I am sure Cancer will be conquered one day soon.

Awareness is very important. Celebrities can help. I am glad you are doing your part.

Chinmayi Sripada /Chinmayee said...

Rathi: Apparently 75% of cancer in India and abroad is due to smoking drinking and especially Pan Parag in India. This was what the doctor told me yesterday. As I said, there are instances where cancer can strike without any reason, like the 20 year old in Jeevodaya, she has a tumour in her spine and now she is paralyzed.

True its very troublesome for the care givers as well. And yes they dont need pity, not in the least, but as I said, they need to be shown that we care. There is also the comment that Ganesh anna has written. Its a good one.

Rathi said...

Dear Chinmayi, I do agree fully with what you said. Was just telling things from my view. No offence.

And everyone has been made aware of the health hazards of smoking and drinking but they still choose to continue doing so and they affect everyone around them too.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Chinmayi Sripada /Chinmayee said...

Rathi, We are yet to get over the shock from this visit to the Hospice. In my anguish, ruefullness and bitterness, I had missed the vital point.

Mothers are very very special human beings and to know about your mother has added to our sorrow. We can also understand the trauma you are going through. We know another girl called Gurupriya from Bangalore, who lost her mother to cancer. Mom has adopted her as a daughter.

Mom says she appreciates your agility and cheerfulness. We both are intensely praying for your mother and more courage for all of you family members. I want to say that Mom has a soft corner for you even before seeing this and you can understand what you are to her.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chinmayi,
This is the first time I am visiting your blog. I appreciate the fact that you visited cancer patients and wrote a lot about it. I hope that at least by reading this, people will realize how precious life is.. Keep up the good work going.. If you have time, visit

Subramanian Ramachandran said...

hi Chinmayi,
we could understand your feelings

the pain, both physically and mentally, suffered by a cancer patient is really an agony. in most cases, more than the physical pain, it is the mental agony that is associated with it makes cancer a really painful disease.

but i guess music, humor alleviates (if not cures) some of the pains suffered by the cancer patients. If only we can make them feel peaceful at mind, which would give them the additional strength to combat it more effectively. I am pretty confident you could help a few of the ppl in alleviating their pains through your musical abilities.

Subramanian Ramachandran said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rathi said...

Dear Chinmayi, Thanks for your wishes and prayers. My mother is getting better by God's grace.

I came across the children's cancer ward at the hospital my mom was in and I used to spend time with the babies and children there who were undergoing treatment for cancer. Just reading books to them or holding their hands when they were having a procedure done. At the the end of every day I wound up crying my eyes out in the toilet! So I know how shocking it can be.

Dont let it get to you too much though. I believe that the One who created us will know how to take care of us and alleviate our sufferings. Thats how I got over my shock and the both of you will too.

Convey my regards to your mom. I appreciate her kind thoughts and words.

Rathi said...

P.S. Your mom is a real gem for adopting Gurupriya as a daughter. All the best to Gurupriya.

Subramanian Ramachandran said...

rathi, dont worry GOD will bless your mother and of course you too and give u the power to take care / alleviate those who suffer

Vaazhga Valamudan

Chinmayi Sripada /Chinmayee said...

Dear Rathi

She sure is... Am I Glad, that she is the one and I dont have anyone else but her. Wonder what will happen to me without her.. i would be lost. totally in everything that I do.. You know Rathi, its soo hard for people to understand the bond that I share with my mom.. and the problem is they all feel insecure.. or at least most, the others who are in a close interaction with us it doesnt make a diff to them.. but those closer to us are either jealous, or dont understand.. guess most are jealous cos I hav a mom like her..

JB said...

Hi Chinmayi
Am glad to know that you spent your time with the cancer patients..ITs a real good gesture.! Was really moved by your post..Probably should i say you inspired me to plan for a visit to some asylum/hospital/orphanage soon...Will do it ASAP.

Rajesh said...

Your post made me to think about the efforts made by Dr.Shantha.
How come Dr.Shantha could serve the people for the past 50 years with a strong heart??.Thats really amazing. All she needs is Volunteers who can make some difference in a patients life.

When she spoke in the Unity of
Light concert in Chennai,the audience were moved by her humility.

Chinmayi Sripada /Chinmayee said...

Rajesh: I guess it te first or second time that it hits you, after which you are fine.. like some people I know said. They work with the patiets. And they dont have any problems now.

expertdabbler said...

Hi Chimayi

moving post indeed. sometime back i happened to read a book called 'Smiles and Tears' by anoop kumar. A book on cancer survivors (and those few who succumbed later).
they are nothing but real heroes and heroines to me.

Anonymous said...

Yes Chinmayi,When I was in chennai,two of my roommates' mothers had cancer and both succombed to it.One had lived with it for almost ten years.Exactly 4 months before her death,I had a chance to visit her...and her face and body condition was looming in my mind for long.....
Whether smoking and tobacco definitely causes cancer or not, its our job to protect our body...the only thing on which you have total control...

Anonymous said...

The best thing is to avoid them totally...But many who smoke are educated---particularly professionals who well know about the problems that they might face and still smoke...
The problem is within the person itself...unable to put a control on one's own mind...we wait for the danger to come and once its on us then we realise our mistake..till then we show dumb ears to those who are concerned about us...

Rathi said...

Chimayi, I guess they are just envious that they do not have the kind of relationship that you have with your mother with their own mothers.
No need to worry about what other people think. You are blessed with a wonderful mother and that is all that matters.