S K Rout (Caregiver): “Juggling love, care, and time.”

cancer care giver cancer diagnosis

My wife was diagnosed with cancer in December 2010. The detection revealed that she had an infected small intestine, and without any delay, we underwent the operation in January 2011. Following the surgical procedure, my wife had to take chemotherapy to heal entirely and get rid of the malignant cells that had made a home in her body. The chemo sessions lasted for approximately six months, and we followed a 15-day cycle. In total, she had 12 chemo sittings. She was great for one year after this and was recovering heartily. Since the body becomes weak after such a hectic healing process, she was gradually getting back to her usual lifestyle and fighting the side-effects such as weight loss, hair fall, fatigue, and loss of appetite. 

However, cancer struck back in 2012, around June. None of us had expected this relapse, and we were taken aback by the sudden development. My wife’s immunity had been compromised, and the deterioration was detected at an advanced stage. This time, the disease had spread to the lungs. Once again, my wife underwent around 6 months of strenuous chemotherapy to fight the battle of life. The body had immensely weakened after this second round of chemo, but we had no other option. To confirm the absence of any more cancer cells, we did a PET scan that reflected no traces of cancer cells. We were thankful that though the journey had been trying and extremely challenging, all’s well that ends well.

After a month or two of this recovery, the cancer cells surfaced again. It was the third time, and by now, things had started to get extremely uncertain. Though chemo is the way to recovery, we cannot overlook that it kills not only the cancer cells but also the healthy cells of the body. Thus, it is evident for the fighter to feel weak and lethargic. There was no energy left in the body, and my wife was bedridden. Though we had moved from one hospital to another for further treatment, my wife was on the ventilator for a significant period. She passed away in 2013 when her body succumbed to the pain. 

We have two children. Presently, one of them is 29 years old while my younger one is 21 years old. People often ask me how it was for the children because they were so young, and it must have been notably tricky for them. But I feel they are powerful. When I say this, I mean mentally. Of course, they had their share of mind turbulence because it was not easy for them to see their mother suffer so much each day. But they have always taken it in the right spirit and been responsible for themselves. Moreover, they had witnessed our hospital rounds for two and a half years, and that had somewhat played a significant role in preparing them for what lay ahead.

Here, I want to highlight how important it is for family members and caregivers to support the cancer fighter as well as each other. It is a time when every individual is going through so much. Undoubtedly, the patient has to face the worst, but everyone around him also has their quota of struggle. I was incredibly blessed to have such supportive and loving relatives who stuck with us through thick and thin. It is times like these that bond the family together, and we realized that we only have one another to survive. There was not a moment when anyone made us feel that we were a burden on them. 

Along with the conventional chemotherapy treatment in our routine, we also included Ayurveda. We had heard a lot about it and felt that there was nothing to lose. Additionally, we opted for completely organic products that would help my wife boost her immunity development. So, we started with natural supplements such as turmeric. Though I do not feel that it made much of an impact in her recovery, there is no certainty that it was altogether useless. We never know what works for the body, and we are happy that we tried everything within our capacity.

Talking about my wife’s mental state and her reaction to the diagnosis, I feel it was very sudden for all of us. Before this diagnosis, life had been running smoothly, and she did not have any health complications. So it was shocking for us initially, but we focused on the treatment instead of criticizing fate. My wife was an optimistic and strong lady who had high spirits the first two times she was detected. And it is her will power that helped her get better. However, both her mind and body were tired by the time we reached the third detection. It is natural for the body to get frustrated after such heavy chemotherapy sessions because as the stage advanced, so did the dose of chemo sessions. 

Professionally, I was working in a company till 2012 when I left the 9 to 5 job and started my own company. I am an entrepreneur, and I was in a delicate work situation then. Sometimes it would indeed become difficult for me to handle everything because I had too many things on my mind. On the one hand, my work would worry me, and on the other hand, I would try my best to prioritize my wife and give her all my love, care, and time. It was a juggle that I had to excel in.

My message to all cancer fighters and caregivers is to create a positive environment where everyone supports one another. A sound support system from the family and doctors is a privilege that I enjoy and wish for everyone. The doctors were helpful and informative, and I did not face any hassles in the treatment. Though there is no way that we can change fate, I was fortunate to be surrounded by such friendly people.