Diagnosis / Detection
My mother was diagnosed with Colon Cancer exactly a year ago around 14th June 2020. That time situation was very bad due to the coronavirus crisis. She started having trouble with acidity in January 2020. The diagnosis happened late due to some negligence & fewer opportunities because of the lockdown. My mother couldn’t survive the cancer battle and passed away in August 2020. Throughout the journey, she was courageous; she kept smiling no matter how much pain cribbed her.
In January 2020, my mother ate this famous Rajasthani dish called Dal Baati. It is a heavy dish, so after eating that, she had acidity. This was the very first symptom. At that time, I was in Mumbai, doing my job from the office & my parents lived in Bhopal. I was in contact with them via video & phone calls. I used to say to consult the doctor if the acidity problem is not resolving. My mother took acidity medicines. In February, all of a sudden, my mother lost a huge amount of weight. Her diet was reduced. We reached out to the doctor, and he suggested doing sonography just in case. The doctor said it can be a case of hyperacidity. So she was given medicines accordingly. The medication went on, but we could not understand what exactly she was going through. She felt tired & weak all the time.
Then lockdown happened. Due to lockdown, everything was closed & even the doctors were resisting seeing any patient. No one was focusing on any other cases other than covid. I was also stuck in Mumbai & it took me two months to arrange everything. I wasn’t able to travel from Maharashtra to Bhopal. I came over there on 10th May 2020. I saw my mother, who became very weak. I wasn’t able to understand why she lost so much weight in such a short duration of time. She was eating very little. So we started giving her fruits. We were terrified to visit the doctor in this crisis time. The pandemic was the biggest drawback.
The prescribed medications were not showing any result, so we reached out to the doctor. The doctor changed the medicines to higher doses. Then they stated it could be due to ulcers. We also thought it is a possible scenario. The doctor suggested keeping my mother on a liquid diet. Suddenly diarrhea happened. She got loose motions at least 2-3 times a day. Lose motions were another major symptom as she was entirely on a liquid diet. We consulted the doctor on the phone. This symptom made him question why this was happening after all. We were then suggested to do a hemoglobin test. The tests revealed that the hemoglobin was very low. It was 6. After the results, my mother was given iron shots and four units of blood. The blood hardly increased to 8 points which was a huge deal. The doctor again gave her some medicines.
One day, my mother touched her stomach & she felt something on the right side near the navel. When she asked me to touch it, I also felt something. But after some time, it vanished. This was not revealed to the doctor. I asked my mother why this was not disclosed to the doctor. She replied that she was shy to tell our family doctor to check this. I told this incident to my father and advised him to visit the doctor once. After visiting the doctor, he told us to take the CT scan. The scan revealed that there was something in the stomach. As the picture was still not clear, we were suggested to do the endoscopy. Nothing wrong showed in the endoscopy, which made my mother very happy. The doctor advised her to do a colonoscopy to see what was there in the large intestine. When the results came in, we noticed something big & bad was happening. To clear the picture, a biopsy was done. By the time biopsy results came in, internal bleeding started in my mother’s body, which didn’t stop.
The doctors said they had to operate on my mom at that very moment to stop the bleeding. We agreed on seeing the situation my mother was in. The surgery took place, and it was not successful. The doctors failed to remove the tumor as it was very thick. The doctors had to cut the large intestine to give another path. They said they would be doing another surgery after the chemo sessions when it will shrink in size.
I was unaware that the biopsy results detected cancer. My father didn’t tell me about any of it. On the day of surgery, when I was in the hospital, I asked the doctor what is the case was with my mother. He told me to look behind at the picture and then explained everything. He said it is a very big tumor that’s troubling my mother. They told me my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. After hearing these words, I gave up. I have lost my aunt to cancer and had seen her fighting this battle. I was utterly clueless about everything. I did not know how to disclose this news to my mother. My mother was my aunt’s caregiver. She knew about everything essential in the cancer journey. So I told this to the doctor and suggested discharging her for a few days so that my mother can recover and start the chemotherapy.
Those 15 days were challenging for us as we couldn’t tell her what she was fighting for. She was in the ICU. We used to smile in front of her and cry outside the ICU. I gave hope to her that everything will be normal soon. My mother’s strength to fight gave me back hope. I used to tell her funny incidents and laugh with her. I used to make cards for her.
My mother came back. Her PET scan was due. This scan happened in Bansal Hospital & it was then diagnosed that my mom is on stage 1 of colon cancer. After two days of PET scans, the doctor said they have to start the chemotherapy or it will be very late. We had only two days to tell my mom that she had cancer. We were so confused. We were still figuring a way to say to her. So we decided to call my father’s friend, a doctor, to disclose the news regarding cancer and the beginning of chemotherapy sessions. When the information was revealed in front of my mother, her reaction was simple. She said this was the only thing that she never wanted to happen.
My mom did not know her surgery was unsuccessful. After hearing everything we saw, her will was so strong that everyone in our home fought with her on this journey. We informed the doctor that my mom is ready for her 1st chemo session. When the discussion was happening about the case, my mom became sad that she would lose all her hair. On this, my dad replied so beautifully. My mother’s name was Meena. So he said, “Meena, I don’t want your hair, I want you”. Hearing this, mom had a priceless smile on her face.
Chemotherapy started. 1st chemo session was a success. After four days of chemotherapy, mom came home for 15 days. After 15 days, she went for the next chemo but unfortunately, she couldn’t return. Her news of passing away was very devastating for everyone. When she was in the hospital for the 2nd chemo, around 30th July 2020, I used to read Hanuman Chalisa for her, bring Hanuman Ji’s picture for her so that she could pray & worship her god.
Till the end, my mother had her bubbly nature. She used to laugh, and smile with us. So I thought she would be able to make this journey. Unfortunately, things only went downwards. There was no day when the doctor said any good news that could give us hope. That time was very hard for us. The doctor said that her kidney had been impacted. We used to go inside the ICU and smile in front of her. We pretended everything is going smoothly despite knowing the reality so that my mom could never give up.
Symptoms during the overall journey
There were many symptoms before my mother’s cancer got detected. The very first symptom was hyperacidity. Then she started losing weight all of a sudden. She lost around 10-15 Kg suddenly. Her diet reduced, and because of that, she felt weakness and fatigue all the time. My mother also suffered from diarrhea. After some time, her hemoglobin decreased to 6. Even after giving her iron shots & 4 units of blood, her hemoglobin only came up to 8. It is best if both patient & caregiver notice every minor symptom that can help in early detection. Don’t let any minor symptoms be neglected. Reach out to the doctor for every small detail
My lifestyle took a big turn, especially in lockdown. I don’t usually ask for any help. I used to do all the work on my own. This led to excessive exertion. I did my office work without telling anyone about my mother’s situation. After that, I used to do the household chores and did daily up-downs of 20-22 km until the hospital. Hardly 2 or 3 of my friends knew about the case.
My uncle and aunty helped me a lot during the whole journey. They used to send groceries and lunch or dinner whenever they could. My mother’s friends visited us during the crisis time. They used to talk to my mother and me. We took precautions by doing social distancing and double masking.
My friends were very supportive, even my family. A childhood friend of mine, Itisha, supported me from the very beginning till the end. She talked to me; she came at the time of surgery. She even visited me daily when my mom expired. I am lucky to have such supportive family and friends in life who did not even think about the virus and helped us during our tough times.
Advice to Caregivers
For caregivers, it is essential to take care of themselves first. Only then a caregiver can take complete care of the patient. Try to follow & maintain your diet and health first. After my mother’s 1st chemo session, when my mother returned home for 15 days, we used to play bhajans so that everyone feels some positive vibes around them. Our whole family & friend circle was so supportive that they even came to help in Covid 19 crisis.
Do regular meditation. It releases stress, boosts up a person’s energy, reduces their negative thoughts. Meditation had helped me relax so many times, especially when I got anxious regarding my mother’s case. My friend, Sankalp, introduced me to meditation in April 2020. I am doing meditation since then & it has helped me build my emotional stability.
Caregivers must do what they love to do in their free time. Try to take care of yourself too. Try to light up the environment. Give coconut water instead of tea or coffee to the patients as it is a healthier ingredient. Try to bring back old memories in the daily conversations to relive those particular moments. We use to talk about our vacation in goa.
Maintain & create an Aura because my mother never cribbed about her pain in the entire journey. She kept smiling till the end. So keep smiling in front of them as the patients try to do their best to fight. Try to create a healthy environment where the patient doesn’t feel ill. Practice & do your hobbies every day for at least 10 or 15 minutes. Make everyone do meditation regularly. I made my mother, father, and sister do it when I was stuck in Mumbai, and they were in Bhopal.
Every fighter is strong as they are willing to fight this battle with their full potential, and strength. The cancer journey is tough to discuss with anyone, even more, when you are going through one. It is okay to talk about emotions while going through something. Don’t hesitate. A patient must ask for help even from their children, no matter how hard it gets to ask. Try to share everything, even the minor details that seem off to you. Try to surround the patient with a healthy, sound environment where they can enjoy themselves rather than feeling ill all the time. If you want to fight for anything, just do it with your full potential. Fight with all you have despite the consequences.