Life after Cancer

অতিথি লেখক's picture
Submitted by guest_writer on Fri, 11/01/2013 - 4:30pm
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"We are wishful kites wandering the open skies
Eagerly anticipating our dreams to realize
We are a multitude of beacons clad as fireflies
Illuminating hope, yearning despairs demise"........by Sohel Ahmed

(This is a speech delivered as a cancer survivor in a fund-raising programme in Ottawa, Canada for the Ahsania Cancer Hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh. October 2012.)

The author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens used the hospital food tray as a desk for his computer to record his last thoughts about cancer that claimed his life at 62 – “I am not fighting or battling cancer - it is fighting me.” I did not find anyone else putting my own thoughts of living through the disease so apt! It is in this spirit I intend to share my story today with you.

My own saga of cancer began when I was relatively young. I just completed my higher secondary exam and just like everyone else in my cohort, joined the bandwagon of preparing for university entrance exams in Bangladesh. What is there in a life if you cannot be an engineer or a doctor!!! It turned out that I did not become either and rather became a "dismal scientist" but fortunately still there are lot of things in life. But that would be a different story.

On one fine evening in January, 1994, I came back home from my “coaching classes” and started getting refreshed for the next round of “mock” entrance test. But my Mom had something else immediate........ and God perhaps had something else ultimate....... in plan. Suddenly a neighbour from our village came to the city to visit a doctor and my Mom told me to accompany him there. And during those “iron-ages”, we had to do whatever our parents asked us to do;.we could say no only at the risk of our own peril!! So I grudgingly complied and took him to the doctor. Interestingly, the doctor, who was a family friend, suddenly told me – instead of the patient - to lie down on the bed in his chamber. To my awe, the doctor began to examine something that seemed swollen on my neck.
And right at that moment, there was a call to my mother from the doctor’s chamber. And that call threatened to change everything in my life from that point onwards. I was diagnosed later on with Hodgkin’s Disease, a type of cancer in the lymph glands. Just weeks earlier, I was reading something in my Bengali medium text book regarding something called “Loshika gronthi”, the Bengali word for the lymph glands - where I had developed cancer. Till then “loshika gronthi” was quite insignificant in my understanding of life........at least, not important enough for the upcoming medical entrance test! And then suddenly it turned out to be so much more significant - a matter of life and death!

I had little realization of what it means to be diagnosed with cancer. Instead, it was me who had the cancer in theory, but my parents, my sister and everyone else in the family had it in actuality. No one thinks about boring things like death at the age of 18 or 19!! So I continued to live life as if nothing had happened - with my friends and with everything else. But something was different. My parents were shell-shocked. Life did not stop with me but it did stop in my family.

They did not know what to do. There was no treatment available in my home town Mymensingh at that time. I am talking about mid-1990s. The option was to either go to Dhaka or to the neighbouring country, India. They came to know that people sometime go to Bangkok or Singapore but we could not afford that. My father took me to Dhaka first, but limited space and facilities at the Post Graduate Hospital prompted him to to take me to India instead. We heard about Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in Mumbai, but my parents wanted an environment where we could all speak Bangla. They thought it was better to go to Kolkata where they could easily explain everything to the doctors.
We stayed there for almost three months. Biopsy, CT Scans, bone marrow tests, radio-therapy everything followed. There was no mock test for any entrance exam. Instead, the realities of life had different tests in store!
I began responding well to the treatment. Life slowly became normal, as before. Since my treatment was done in India, my parents decided to do the follow-ups there. So initially we were visiting India every three to six months. Then at some point, I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in India. That would make it easier for me to visit doctors for follow-ups.

I had moved back to Bangladesh and then again to Canada. My parents stayed back in their little home in Mymensingh. Perhaps, life was never the same for them. Every time I went for check-ups or every time I procrastinated on regular check-ups, my parents used to hold their breath for the good news that nothing had changed for the worse. Living with a constant fear of cancer coming back to their son has never been easy. But I could never properly appreciate that pain till I became a father myself. Whenever I take my son to the doctor, I get reminded of the many times my father’s trembling hands would hold me when taking me for radiotherapy at the Calcutta Medical College. Now finally I have a full realization....yes I had cancer and I was fortunate enough to be able to go through proper treatment; to be able to bring life back for my parents.

When I got involved with the fund-raising for the hospital project, I called my mother. And she reminded me of that evening in 1994. It all started with my mother insisting on me taking the poor villager to the doctor that evening. Otherwise, perhaps the cancer would have advanced further inside me and perhaps, as in many cases, would have remained undiagnosed till it would be too late. My mom, as a devotee of Swami Vivekananda, keeps quoting me from her faith, “They alone live who live for others, and the rest are more dead than alive.” Initiatives like, Ahsania Mission Cancer Hospitals are a manifestation of that faith. In a country where more than two hundred thousands people get cancer annually and where till the end of 2008, there were only 418 hospital beds, this hospital project is a perfect example of our collective urge to live for others. Let’s all of us in this room make a pledge.....let’s live a bit this evening....for others.....

Thank You........

Subrata Sarker, Ottawa, Canada

FOOTNOTE

In 2012, a volunteer team of Bangladeshi expatriates living in Ottawa-Gatineau (Canada) ran a campaign for a cancer hospital in Bangladesh. The goal was to raise awareness and funds for the Ahsania Mission Cancer and General Hospital (http://www.ahsaniacancer.org.bd/) in Dhaka. The hospital project started in 2005, which is primarily funded by the Government and the citizens of Bangladesh (living in and outside the country). The Ottawa campaign was a response to the hospital’s appeal towards the Bangladeshi expatriates to support this noble cause. The Campaign team was:
- Afrina Momen & Rupam Faruquee
- Farhana Islam & Sadaquat Junayed
- Happy Rahman & Mizan Rahman
- Humaira Armin & Mamun Mahmud
- Humayra Kabir-Faisal & Aad-Yean Faisal
- Marufa Rahman & Mazib Rahman
- Radha Dey & Subrata Sarker
- Rebecca Khan (Dipa)
- Rizwana Alamgir-Arif & Faisal Arif
- Sanjeda Ahmed & Sohel Ahmed
- Yasmin Akter & Lokman Hossain
- Zohra Ferdousy

The campaign team participated in various community events (e.g., picnics, festivals, Terry Fox Run, etc.) throughout the summer 2012. The five-month long campaign was culminated into a Charity Event (Cancer Benefit Evening) at the Ron-Kolbus Community Centre (Ottawa) held on October 13, 2012. With remarkable support from the Bangladeshi community, the Campaign raised CAD $22,252.80 and BDT 91,000.00. The Human Concern International (http://www.humanconcern.org/cancer-hopital-bangladesh-appeal.php), a federally registered charity organization in Canada, helped to transfer the amounts to the hospital administration. The total contribution went as a combined gift of love and care from the Bangladeshi Expatriates in Ottawa-Gatineau to the cancer patients in Bangladesh.

The above story by Subrata Sarker was one of the two cancer survivor’s stories shared during the Charity Event on October 13, 2012.


Comments

জোহরা ফেরদৌসী's picture

The above story was one of the two cancer survivor’s stories shared during the Charity Event to support the Ahsania Mission Cancer & General Hospital (Dhaka, Bangladesh) in Ottawa (Canada) held on October 13, 2012.

In 2012, a volunteer team of Bangladeshi expatriates living in Ottawa-Gatineau (Canada) ran a campaign for a cancer hospital in Bangladesh. The goal was to raise awareness and funds for the Ahsania Mission Cancer and General Hospital in Dhaka. The hospital project started in 2005, which is primarily funded by the Government and the citizens of Bangladesh (living in and outside the country). The Ottawa campaign was a response to the hospital’s appeal towards the Bangladeshi expatriates to support this noble cause.

With remarkable support from the Bangladeshi community, the Campaign raised CAD $22,252.80 and BDT 91,000.00. The Human Concern International, a federally registered charity organization in Canada, helped to transfer the amounts to the hospital administration. The total contribution went as a combined gift of love and care from the Bangladeshi Expatriates in Ottawa-Gatineau to the cancer patients in Bangladesh.

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জয় হোক মানবতার ।। জয় হোক জাগ্রত জনতার

জোহরা ফেরদৌসী's picture

There is not a single personal cancer story that allows you to hold your tears. Yet, each one of them tells us the ultimate truth about these people who are touched by the disease; cancer can take control over human body but not the spirit. It is the human spirits that always triumphs....

Subrata, you made me cry once again. Thank you, my friend!

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জয় হোক মানবতার ।। জয় হোক জাগ্রত জনতার

সাফিনাজ আরজু's picture

Quote:
Cancer can take control over human body but not the spirit. It is the human spirits that always triumphs....

চলুক চলুক

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----আমার মুক্তি আলোয় আলোয় এই আকাশে---

শাব্দিক's picture

Quote:
Instead, it was me who had the cancer in theory, but my parents, my sister and everyone else in the family had it in actuality

So true, this devastating disease comes as fate of whole family. Only those who have gone through it may know that irony fact of living with it, make it a part of daily life.

Hope you live a healthy life. Best wishes for you.

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ভাঙে কতক হারায় কতক যা আছে মোর দামী
এমনি করে একে একে সর্বস্বান্ত আমি।

সুমাদ্রী's picture

Subrata was lucky to have been diagnosed early and won the battle. But many are not. Salute to all you who stand together for this cause of founding this hospital. Cancer is but a disease though fatal. Men are going beyond our universe but are not yet capable enough to fight cancer, seems a joke to me. We would rather spend for waging wars than for the research of inventing serum or antidote or medicine to fight cancer and make it look trivial. Cancer here now stands for death, not within a blink of the eye, but a long painful death. yet, as you said,

Quote:
It is the human spirits that always triumphs....

and so we will go on dreaming to win.

অন্ধকার এসে বিশ্বচরাচর ঢেকে দেওয়ার পরেই
আমি দেখতে পাই একটি দুটি তিনটি তারা জ্বলছে আকাশে।।

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