Spare a thought for the “Care- Giver”

Dr Niranjani – Hyderabad, 2011

It is one thing to suffer from a serious disease but it is another thing to watch your spouse (or child) suffer from it.

I am a care- giver. I am a doctor too like my husband Dr K. Raghu. My children were eight and ten years old in 1999. I was pursuing my super specialization course after my M.S. degree and we were part of what seemed a pretty normal average family picture. Suddenly we had to face this heart breaking news. Raghu was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Both of us were shattered. Bone Marrow Transplant wasn’t an option for us. A trip to the Chicago Hospital did not help. Interferon became the only available option in 1999. Interferon changed my husband. The side effects were so severe that the pain in both legs brought him to his knees both literally and figuratively. He was always angry and irritable because of pain, frustration and worry. He would say , “somebody should cut off my legs” – there was so much pain.

It is one thing to suffer; it is another thing to see your family member suffer helplessly.

Dear reader, what was I supposed to do? Cry with him? Allow my children to see both parents cry? They were too young to understand anything. Did I have any parents to turn to for solace? (I have not had the comforting , loving presence of parents in my life for many, many years). With friends it is easier to share happiness than personal grief. There was no one to turn to.

I decided I will keep my equanimity and maintain a semblance of balance in the house, for Raghu’s, mine and my children’s sakes. Was it easy? Of course it was not. I was accused of being unsympathetic and uncaring. That was one of the most horrible times of my life and I dread to even think about it. He was suffering and I had to watch him suffer, not let the children know that life had changed; smile and carry on with both my professional and personal life. No sir, it was not easy at all.

Then my brother’s phone call (like that of a saviour’s) came with the news that a Singapore General Hospital is taking patients for a drug (STI- 571 -Imatinib) trial. Finally we saw a light at the end of the turned. Then of course, his meeting with Pramod Agarwal & his mother, Viji Venkatesh and all other lovely people in the “ Core Group “ of Hyderabad followed , and we gained health and a whole family

Today, I stand with my hands clasped together in gratitude for everything, especially for giving me and my children, Raghu back.