CORONICLES: How I am coping with my mother’s cancer treatment in a small town

The thought of taking my mother to a hospital in her condition gives me sleepless nights. Not doing so exposes her to risks that I would rather not imagine.

 |  5-minute read |   09-04-2020
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I quit my job in Delhi in 2018 to pursue dreams of a career in fine arts overseas. Once free from the job, I took up a project to work on my portfolio and then flew back home to Jharkhand, my home state, to complete the application process.

I was born and brought up in a small town, Ghatotand, a two-hour drive from Ranchi.

It was around October 2019 that my mother complained of a lump in her breast. We were alarmed. Fearing the worst, we reached the Tata Main Hospital in Jamshedpur. Several tests later, in November that year, the doctors confirmed that my mother was suffering from cancer.

My father and I stayed at a nearby guest house to avoid the six-hour journey back home. My mother was hospitalised. It was sometime in January that we began hearing of coronavirus. As a first reaction, we gave up on everything non-vegetarian and somehow felt safe, thinking that the only way the virus could reach us was via chicken, maybe eggs too.

2_690_040920024938.jpgWe heard of the coronavirus sometime in January. (Photo: Reuters)

Cancer requires a prolonged treatment. But the process of diagnosis and just ascertaining the extent to which your body has been harmed is also pretty long and emotionally painful. We had spent over three months shuttling between the guest house and the hospital when it hit us that we could be underestimating the coronavirus threat.

We now wanted to head back home, because with her cancer, my mother was a high-risk patient for coronavirus. She was operated upon in early March. Two days after the surgery, I got my mother into an ambulance and reached home. The doctors told her that she would be needing medicines for her chemotherapy and that we would have to get her back for check-ups.

Despite the sudden cancer that hit her, my mother was in good spirits. We saw no problem in getting her back for check-ups.

But on March 24, we realised we had completely failed to foresee what was coming our way. A nationwide lockdown was announced as reports of positive cases soared.

We are now locked up here in Ghato with no way to call up the doctor, who treated my mother, for advice or prescriptions. The only way left for us is to take the six-hour journey to Jamshedpur.

That would have been fine under normal circumstances, but normal is an elusive word now. The thought of taking my mother to a hospital in her condition gives me sleepless nights. Not going back exposes her to risks that I would rather not imagine.

coro-690_040920024724.jpgThe normal as we knew it no longer exists. (Photo: Reuters)

I am not the one to easily get bogged down by what life throws my way. But when your loved ones are at risk, even the most resolute of people begin to have second thoughts about their strength. I wonder, had my mother not been a cancer patient, how would I have treated this lockdown.

Ghato doesn’t have a night life. It doesn’t have much of a day life either, apart from doing what needs to be done to run a house. Cook, clean, talk and sleep.

Grocery and vegetable shops remain open from 7 am to 12 noon. There is no shortage of what one needs for a healthy meal. This is not a crowded town. Social distancing comes easy. But there are no visits to relatives or friends.

The good thing about staying in small places is everyone knows everyone. As a perk of this form of social existence, my father managed to get us chicken one day from a person he knew is into poultry. I don’t think I have ever relished chicken so much. We now have no fear of non-vegetarian food.

Most of my day is spent cooking and taking care of my mother. Since our help stays with us, some work is taken care of. But my dream of pursuing a career in fine arts is for now on hold as is everything else under the lockdown.

Having stayed away from family since childhood, staying with parents and my brother again, not as a touch-and-go guest, but family, I sometimes feel like running away. I have for the longest time stayed alone in Delhi. Being with family has denied me my personal space that I valued a lot.

Also, staying alone meant no checks on when I could call and what I could talk with friends over phone. There are no late-night calls because parents here still think late-night calls are only for emergency situations. I can’t spend hours talking to them even through the day because after each such conversation, I will have answer the usual question from my parents, “Itni der tak kya baat karte ho tum log?

I am locked down inside the house that I can’t even claim as completely mine. I wonder if it would have felt better to be in my own rented house back in Delhi through the period, without the constant vigil of my parents.

Yes, I feel good about being among people I care for, but I do miss my freedom.

As for my mother, I have decided to take her to the hospital next week.

Perhaps, someday, when we return to the normal as we knew it, I would be studying in the college I want to study in and spend hours talking to friends - even meeting them.

Also read: CORONICLES: How lockdown made my city in Canada a 'ghost town'


Premlata Rai Premlata Rai @premlata_rai

Writer is a travel enthusiast and member of Happy Birthday Bharat.

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