My mother is a Ovarian cancer survivor and a real fighter. I am only the caregiver, which I consider as a fancy term because I feel I am only being a daughter to my mother and it’s my responsibility.
It was April 2017, when my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage 3C at the age of 51. The doctors said that she was one of the youngest patients in the context of ovarian cancer. That was the day I was introduced to the ‘C’ word and the journey as a caregiver has begun. Till today we grip our hearts every time her reports fluctuate.
On the day of the report
Like every other day on the 19th of April 2017, I went to the office but had a weird feeling in my stomach that won’t go away. My brother went along with my mother to get the report of the CT scan. As I couldn’t wrap my head around the work, I excused myself from work to get home. On the way home I spoke to my brother on the phone about the reports, to which he answered me to get home. The very answer got me nervous.
When I entered home the words my brother said were ‘ mom is diagnosed with cancer, and dad went to the doctors’. My grandfather and father were general physicians themselves, yet dad went to discern the reports, which made me rethink the situation.
Mom was sitting calm among all the chaos, everyone in the room was trying to act that everything was okay. I did not cry on the day of the news, but I get all emotional when I share the day with anyone. The first call I made was to my manager to inform him about the situation and ask for leave to start the next step of getting the treatment, and finding the right doctor. I hoped I could get any sort of help in the form of information about the doctors so we could start the treatment in time.
Who was the emotional support to you at the time of caregiving
No one asked me about my emotional support during the cancer-fighting journey of my mother. In customary, mom being the emotional support of the family and something like cancer happens to her, the entire family started going through the pain. That was the time when I realized my father and brother being a man, thought they are strong in nature. I saw their vulnerability and unexplainable actions came into the scene, as the treatment went on.
There were no relatives of mine that could lend me a shoulder, for my support. They only added negative thoughts to my misery. There was a time in life where I prayed to God to help me not to take the negativity around me, as I couldn’t hold on anymore.
The ones that I thought of as my relatives, the loved ones, were not able to bring any positive energy in and around me. But the office mates in the organization with whom I was working at that period, gave me emotional support through little things, like good words, stories, small tips, and many more. I consider myself so fortunate that I found the support I needed in the corporate world. That makes me sad that it was not from the relatives or family members I thought I would get support from.
My mom always stayed strong and did not cry even when she knew that she was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. The first teardrop in my mom’s eyes was when she had her first chemo session and a bunch of hair strands came out when she combed her hair with her fingers.
The happy memories from the journey
It is hard to remember but, we have tried to find hope in everything we could. We have stopped celebrating birthdays or anything like that, as my brother got all defensive for every small thing. There was no vivid memory of moments except one bobblehead toy I saw in a shop. When I saw the toy I felt like I needed that toy and then bought it home. My mom fell in love with the toy and always keeps it near her. In these little ways, we made happy memories and made our way through the journey. We tried to make most of the little things that made us forget the pain and made us happy.
How did you pass the negative thoughts?
I became that filter in the house and around mom, making sure that no negative words, thoughts or any ounce of negativity is reaching her. I took it all upon myself. I stood up to everyone who spoke negatively, be it a closely related member or anyone.
I got home printouts of three quotes, for my mom to see and stuck them to the wall near her bed. They are “muddai lakh bura chahe kya hota hai, wahi hota hai jo manjure khuda hota hai”, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”, and the last one is “jako rakhe saiyan maar sake na koi”. I wanted my mom to see them all the time.
My mom, herself, is a very positive woman. One of the times she became negative was when she started losing hair and going bald. Still she said that she is “Bald and beautiful”.
The person that motivated me is my mom herself. On the day of the surgery as a part of her treatment she told my grandmother to pray for the well-being and success of the surgery, my mom told her mother not to worry and that she’ll return for sure.
Post-Cancer phase for the family
My mom had 3 chemo sessions before and 3 chemo sessions after the surgery. The doctors suggested my mom should go for counselling after the treatment. But she never opted for counselling.
Looking back at the treatment phase it is all about my mom. She was so strong and positive and that is how we managed during the treatment phase. After the completion of the treatment, many known and unknown people came to her asking how she managed during Ovarian cancer treatment, and without any hesitation, she shared her experience.
After the whole phase, I saw myself changing 3600. I have learnt and understood many things. I realised the one who seems to be strong are emotionally weak and women who seem weak are strong. After seeing the person you love the most is near death, all the false pretence just blows off.
Have faith and courage, and try to pass this phase also like any other test.
Don’t be hard on yourself while taking care of your loved ones, because taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your loved ones.