The Joy of Suffering

Deepak Hemarajani – Faridabad, 2008


The 20th of June 2002 – a day that might have been an ordinary day like any other for others but for me it was a day that turned my world around –a day like no other! Never did I imagine that my life would ever take the turn of events it did like it did after this momentous day.

I remember very well; this was the day I was to make the trip to Delhi looking for a change on the job front. I was working as a marketing coordinator in Jaipur but somehow felt that it was not the right environment for me. I saw no growth, no evolvement and was eager to be in a big city with big opportunities that would be coming my way. I had some equally big dreams and hopes in my heart.

One of the reasons I was unhappy with the job I had resigned from was that it had left me with little time to care for myself and for a while I had been not been feeling in the best of health. I had been losing weight steadily, had no appetite and kept being laid low with attacks of fever. Of course at that time I lay the blame on my erratic working hours and the heat of the city. Oh! How mistaken I was in neglecting these symptoms for so long for I was soon to realise that this bit of carelessness was to change my life forever in an unimaginable way. If only we could know ahead what we learn in hindsight!!

Through out our childhood and growing years, knowingly or unknowingly we are making plans for the future and each day we have lived goes towards creating a collective bank of dreams that have to be fulfilled. My life too had been on this track waiting for a time when I would achieve all my childhood dreams and aspirations.
Now all those carefully gathered and nurtured dreams and aspirations were to crash and break into shattered shards.

So on this dark day, as I bent down to fasten my shoes I realised my feet were swollen in a most alarming manner. My sister and her mother in law, whom I also affectionately call Mummy, insisted I go and see a doctor immediately. They would brook no excuse from me so I decided to humour them and went with my “little problem” to the SMS Hospital.

I was seen by the doctor on duty who asked for my history of non specific symptoms and then sent me to get a few tests done. I was to report to him the next day with those results. And when I did so, Dr Parmar (that was his name) without saying a word to me asked me to go and see the Medical Oncologist Dr Hemant Malhotra. By now I had this ominous feeling that something was happening inside my body; may have already happened for all I knew and that it was no ordinary event.  It was as though some bomb had gone off in my body and the blast was yet to be felt; its echoes yet to reverberate!! My mind was galloping away on its own crazy course trying to find answers for questions it was even afraid to form. What was wrong with me? What did the tests reveal that I needed to see this senior consultant in the Cancer Wing of the hospital? What would he say? What would be the treatment? Could I afford it? Would there be a treatment at all for me or was it the end of the road?

All I had planned was a move some 400 miles away to Delhi- where was this new turn in my life going to take me?

I sat in front of Dr Malhotra and tried to understand what he was saying but it was difficult to look beyond the darkness that gathered in front of my eyes. I must have responded and we must have a conversation of sorts for now I was outside his office, Then what registered was that there were others waiting in the gallery outside the doctors room to see him. In those waiting faces I saw my own agony reflected. These were faces that like mine that had laughed once, had lived an ordinary life but now were living a life that was full of some kind of despair and hopelessness.

I knew now that my diagnosis was also Cancer and this horrific presence had so stealthily made it s home in my body and was now, calling out to me saying. Hey, I am right there under your skin, in your blood , all over you , inside you and around you  – see if you can get rid of me , try and defeat me ; come are you ready to wage this war ? Do you have the courage?

That night my whole life swept in front of my mind’s eye ; it was like someone was screening scenes from my childhood and I was watching it with great hunger . My mother’s unselfish love for me , my father’s pride , my sisters’ and brothers’ unconditional love for me ; those boring hours I spent doing my home work , the great burning desire to get into the Molalla’s cricket team – all those hopes and aspirations of a happy and innocent childhood and ambitious youth.

And then suddenly I remembered my dear mother’s last moments in this very hospital, securing my promise to live life truly and honestly. I am afraid I simply sunk into a most depressed and negative phase of life for I could see no way out of this pit of despair I fallen into. There was nothing, no light no lifeline no hope!!

My life became a dull and depressing routine of visits to the hospital and I had no urge to seek any solace or look further than my next appointment. There was no enthusiasm no energy for anything.

Then one day something happened that shook me out of this sad stupor –it was at the doctor’s waiting room and a most unfamiliar sound broke into my dulled consciousness. I looked around and saw the sweetest little child playing in the lap of her mother totally oblivious to all the misery around her. She had the brightest eyes in a face that was obviously ravaged by illness but the fire in those eyes belied that truth. I do believe I have not seen such peace and joy in any one’s face before! From her father I learnt to my great shock and surprise that this little child had about a couple of months to live and she had a fatal condition that no medication was going to cure.

This made me sit up and look at myself; so ungrateful and unappreciative of all that was given to me. A two year old child had the strength of mind and body to fight this death sentence with her smile and laughter bring sunshine into that waiting room and here I was, 28 years old and already given up on everything.

All it took was that moment of realisation and I made a promise to myself – I was going to live the rest of my life in dignity and action, not waste even a single moment in this kind of self pity.. I found a great strength rise deep within me calling out to that monster within me that had reduced me to a shell! I had the power I felt to wipe that out to be my own master and I felt like a new man indeed with all these positive energies flowing through me.

I actually felt that my cancer was not a curse but something the universe had given me to make some meaning out of my life; to give me direction. True, it robbed my family of our house and all the money my father had saved but it taught me some valuable lessons; lessons far more valuable than the worth of what I lost.

My CANCER for me is
C for Courage to face any situation
A for Aim in life
N for the power to say NO while making decisions
C for Confidence to win
E for enthusiasm for life
R to Rejoice in life

As my perspective changed, other things around me began to change too. I felt a strength surge in me from my state of mind making a difference. It was as though all the storms in my way were blown away.

My treatment had swallowed whatever money was available in the family. It hurt to see our home having to be sold. For thirty five years my father had worked as a clerk and this was his home made with the Provident Fund he had saved. Gone! All the extended family too could no longer provide support. I was on an increased dosage of the drug and another injection was also prescribed as I was not responding. In order to save costs I had even begin to reduce the dosage so that the supply would last longer. I did the rounds of voluntary agencies, but to no avail. Then I heard of the programme through which Novartis was donating Glivec and The Max Foundation. A friend put me in touch with them and I was on the phone with the person I now know as Amma.
Amma, what you and being part of the Friends of Max means to me I cannot express in words. All I know is, when I see my dear departed Mother’s face in my dreams, I see in her eyes, great love and gratitude to you and the programme.

I salute every
member associated with Novartis and The Max Foundation from the very depth of my heart for being so supportive.

And my friend the Cancer who is forever teaching me new lessons in life

Today if someone were to ask me what is my greatest joy in life I would say the Joy in suffering
For me suffering is the seed of the fruit of success
When we suffer, we Try to Overcome
When we Try to Overcome we Find Hope
When we Find Hope we feel Confident
When we feel Confident we Get Courage
When we get Courage we find Wisdom
When we find Wisdom we Find the Right Way
Finding the Right Way means we are not far from Success and when we reach there we feel true Joy and this Joy gives us a reason to smile throughout life.