By Kritika Kamthan:
It was a balmy August afternoon. Sitting in a posh New Delhi hospital my mind was dizzy with surreal memories the hospital evoked in me – frenzied doctors and nurses, intimidating operation theatres, and innumerable blood tests. I had never fallen sick before but while I waited to collect my biopsy report, I knew in my heart what my surgeon was about to confirm.
Dr. A (my surgeon) is a silver-haired, round-faced gentleman with a hearty laugh and a kind heart. As I watched him ponder over my report in mighty seriousness, I wondered what he might be thinking. Perhaps he was wondering how to break the news to me – news that the coming few months would take a deep toll on me and my loved ones. It was cancer. Thyroid cancer.
All hell broke loose when my family and friends got to know about this development. After the initial shock and grief, the resolve to see this through set in. Word spread and people began visiting in hordes – some acted almost as if I was on my death bed. Whilst some gossiped in kitty party groups others were genuinely disturbed. I consoled all of them. It is funny how sometimes you can ignore all the drama and derive strength from an unknown source – a strength which not only helps you stand steady but also enables you to motivate yourself.
Cancer became my everyday reality. I braved two surgeries followed by ‘therapy’. Random thoughts erupted every now and then – maybe this was my body telling me to take a break; maybe it is time to wrap up in a cocoon for a while and lie low. There existed the physical challenge of fighting cancer and then came the mental one. I started to experience extreme mood swings; forgetfulness became the norm of the day; irritation; hair fall; weight gain; all attacked me together. I thought I was falling into an abyss with no way to escape the darkness. The darkness surrounded me and my heart. I lost all hopes of making it back onto my career trajectory, which, before the diagnosis, was on a fast track. I wondered about tomorrow.
When my friends forced me to visit a psychotherapist, I was officially declared “depressed” in my first session with her. I cried for two successive days. Despite a dozen sessions, my condition did not improve and I eventually stopped visiting the counsellor. It seemed like life had ended. Two of the most stigmatised words had made an entry into my life – cancer and depression. Was I really depressed? What would people say and think? Would I have a career again?
People say that when nothing works for a man, he turns to God. Well, I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in energies. I made small changes in my life – living each day slowly. As the physical challenges began to vanish I sought to get my spirit in order. I found solace in meditation, sought to stay positive at all times, practised gratitude among many other things on a daily basis. I eventually began to find joy in small things. I became content with whatever little I had.
Of course, it took heaps of time and effort to introduce these changes in my thought process. I had the immeasurable support of my family who never lost faith in me. In retrospect, I think I learnt some very crucial lessons in life. The word cancer doesn’t mean death. It can be cured. The earlier it is diagnosed the better. The fight is both physical and mental. The latter has to be fought by you – others can help but it’s your battle.
Similarly, depression is not the end of the world. You have to start by accepting that you are depressed. Most importantly, you have to ask for help. We are human, we aren’t self-sufficient. Crying helps, but what helps most is talking especially with friends and family. Communication is pivotal, people help when they know what you seek. So, never suppress emotions – anger, love, hatred and especially pain. They need to be expressed, else your body is impacted and the suppression manifests into diseases.
Those who judge can’t help. My toughest times proved who is a friend and who isn’t. The truest friends stood by me while others scuttled away. It is significant to let go of people and situations because at the end of the day it’s a game of energies. What you think, is what you attract, is what you manifest. Rise above negative energies, situations and people who pull you down. Think positive.
Cancer made me believe that what is epic to the heart is ordinary to the mouth. It may read preachy but today I am reaping the benefits of cancer. I am a livewire again; I got an incredible job. I learnt the essence of my existence, overcame self-destructive thoughts and gained confidence again. Traumatic phases bring the best out in everybody. I survived cancer and it helped me come back with a bang. Thank you, cancer!