How it began
My aunt always taught me that courage is the most positive trait I can possess in life. I am Kamesh Vadlamani from Andhra Pradesh, located in South India. I have been taking care of my aunt, Padmavathy, for the past year. My aunt was around 50 years of age when she was diagnosed with a rare uterine cancer called leiomyosarcoma. She had undergone a hysterectomy a few years ago. She had first felt the lump in her lower abdomen, after which my family rushed her to the hospital. We were informed that the cancer was in an advanced 4th stage, and there was not much hope left for her survival.
I asked them if surgery, radiation therapy, or Chemotherapy would help, but the doctors’ responses were not favorable. Due to her age, the tumor’s critical location, and the advanced stage, Chemotherapy would cause more harm than necessary. We consulted several doctors, but all their responses were similar. That’s when my aunt and I settled on the option of alternate therapy. We dropped allopathy and visited a Homeopathy care clinic in Kolkata. The treatment was not a cure. But it delayed the onset of the deteriorating effect of cancer.
Making sure the patient was comfortable was their topmost priority. I helped bring about several lifestyle changes in her daily life. She stopped consumption of processed, chemical-laden food. She only ate home-cooked meals with natural ingredients like turmeric. She reduced her sugar intake as well as sour foods such as mangoes. During this time, I would continuously speak to many people, search the internet, and look for any home-remedies that could help her. We knew that this treatment would not cure her cancer, but it would give her psychological satisfaction and delay the end. With this treatment’s help, her condition was stable for five to six months, but unfortunately, she passed away last February.
I am grateful that she did not suffer much after her diagnosis despite the advanced stage. But in the last two or three weeks, when she was admitted to the hospital, she suffered as her condition deteriorated. From her diagnosis to her final moments, my main aim had been to keep her happy throughout her journey. As a family, we could not do much for her physical pain, but we were determined to reduce the sadness she must have felt when she heard about her condition.
Her children are relatively young, only in their 20s. So it was vital for me to assure them that they had someone they could come to with their worries. When you know that something is coming to an end, you try to grab on and make it last a little longer. I knew my aunt’s end was near, so our family would always normalize her condition. The environment was never that of sickness but always of happiness. We would spend hours talking about anything that came to our minds, and we would recall our childhood days and share stories from times long forgotten.
Funnily enough, it was always my aunt who would soothe me and give me strength on days when I would falter. She is and will continue to be one of the strongest women in my life. She always taught me to be brave, never lose hope, and stand firm to face what may come. She always told me to do my best and leave the rest to the Almighty. She knew very well and had accepted that everything in life has an expiry date. She was aware that her date was close. Her condition began the countdown. On days when the road ahead did not seem so positive, she would always tell me never to lose hope even when there are difficulties.
Overcoming the struggles
But of course, the difficulties at that time seemed limitless. During the days of treatment, I would work from 6 in the evening till 2 or 3 in the morning. Every month we would travel to Kolkata to consult the doctor. I would come back late from work and immediately leave to catch the 7 a.m. flight. I would never sleep even at the airport because I did not have anyone to look after me. So the moment I entered the plane, I would sleep. We would return the same day. It was a tough time in our lives, and even my aunt’s doctor knew what we were going through. She always told us never to expect anything. When we work very hard for something, we tend to attach expectations to it. That is where all problems begin. It became one of the essential life lessons that I learned.
My grandfather had been diagnosed with carcinoma of the intestine and gluteal region seven years back. He had undergone Surgery to remove the tumor and Radiation therapy. He is doing much better now. I am also taking care of my mother during this pandemic. Unfortunately, I am away from my hometown and cannot travel due to COVID-19, which has dealt a hard blow to my mental health. As a person who has had several experiences being a caregiver, I wish to counsel caregivers and patients to make their journey happier.
I have learned numerous things from my aunt’s battle and journey. On some days, I am relieved that my aunt did not suffer too much. If she had survived, she would have to suffer through the Pain that this illness brings with it. What makes me content is that she passed away with happiness and without much suffering. During her life, there have been so many ways in which she has inspired me.
She taught me that what is fated to happen cannot be avoided or controlled by us. What is meant to happen will happen, no matter how hard we try to change it. My support system was my aunt. Her positivity was enough to give me a burst of energy. Till the very end, she continued to impart her knowledge and strength to us.
She remained optimistic, brave, and healthy, and that alone was a beacon of hope for me. I also learned that you must never leave anything for tomorrow and regret it for the rest of your life. You do not know when you may lose those you hold closest to your heart.
To those people who are going through hardships as devastating as cancer, always stay strong. Accept your fate and do not panic. You start making mistakes when you panic. Always have faith in God, and with this firm belief, prepare yourself to face any difficulty in life. Talk to your loved ones – your partners, your children, your family. Educate your children so that they are not left entirely in the dark. Teach them everything they need to learn so that they can live life comfortably even after you are gone. Most importantly, spend quality time doing what you love the most, and whatever makes you the happiest.
To those who are caregivers, I would say – do your best. Talk to different kinds of people and keep a close eye on what is happening. A positive attitude is the simplest thing that will change a situation of crisis to one of happiness. Every day is a new day, and things will always take a turn for the better.
Lastly, as my aunt would always say, be courageous, and do your part well.