It was the Monday after the news of Sreedevi’s passing. The nation waited with bated breath to learn the exact details of what might have taken the life of one of India’s brightest stars. I waited with bated breath as well, but for my father’s CT scan report. My little tragedy in the glare of a much bigger tragedy was slowly emerging from the scans of the Radiologist’s computer.
It was seven in the evening and I made it a point to get home earlier than usual, waiting for the scans. When the report finally came I plucked it out of the big heavy envelope and tried to make sense of the medical terms. Polyp said the report. I had no idea what that meant. In the colon said the report, I had a fair idea where that was. Adenoma or Adenocarcinoma with a question mark said the report in conclusion. My heart was beating so fast that I could hear it above the din of the children playing in the garden downstairs.
I called the Radiologist, Dr Shetty. He said, “Riddhi the news is not great. It is a tumor but it looks like it is early and I would suggest you see a gastroenterologist.” He was dear enough to make an appointment for me.
My father got back from the gym and he done his own sleuthing and knew what the report said. There was no keeping the truth from him. I began to make my calls. I called Boss. He gave me a few numbers and told me to hang in there. One day at a time is how things went on planet polyp.
Dr Parikh met us as quickly as he could and explained to us in detail what was wrong with my father. He said that the polyp could be cancerous or not, it really depended on the findings of the colonoscopy that we needed to do. We decided to get on with it and do the test.
Early in the morning at the hospital, the colonoscopy did not take long but the Doctor told us that we would have to wait for the results of the biopsy. That took really long. Not in terms of the time that it took but in terms of the wait. It seemed like the longest two days of my life.
Saturday evening, I called the Doctor and he said, “Riddhi, it is cancerous says the biopsy. We need to meet and discuss the way forward.” I hung up on the Doctor and for what seemed like a long while I stared at a sheet of white paper which had some numbers on it that I may have written down in a more emotionally coherent time. I had no idea what those numbers were. It was more like blue ink scribbles. My father had cancer; it came to me slowly and crowded my senses till it became an unbearable drumbeat in my mind. Boss told me that I was having the usual reaction to the dreaded C word. I should be patient and strong. Yes, I had to be patient and strong.
My father’s friend Dr Rai, his gym mate, was guiding us at every step of the way. He was also of the opinion that Dr Parikh was, that surgery was probably the way to get this growth out. He was also pretty certain that we would get all of it.
Dr. Sanjay Sharma put us at ease almost instantly. Affable with effervescent positivity; he promised us that he would get the adenocarcinoma out!
My father and I walked into the hospital early in the morning and I had him settle in his room. The surgery was scheduled for the next day. I stayed with him all day. We spoke about everything but not about the surgery that was about to happen. It was the elephant in the room that we chose not to look at lest it make us weak and break us.
It was going to be a four-hour surgery. The Doctor would remove a portion of the colon along with the polyp and stitch the rest up. Sounds simple when you think of it on paper but when you deliberate and understand that it is going to happen in the human body and your Father’s body at that, it can get very unnerving.
He was wheeled in and I waited in his hospital room. I did not want to think of the surgery and tried reading but the pages felt like they had nothing written on them. I stared at the paper and my mind was filled with memories of my father and me through the years. I fought the tears and they would retreat only to come back again.
I did not turn the light on as the evening slowly turned into night. My father’s cell phone beeped and I walked to it to check if it was important. It was not. I chanced on his whatsapp. On a whim I went to his profile and saw a picture of him laughing and the tears came back when I read his status. It said, “spreading smiles’. It was his whatsapp group where they sent each other jokes and laughed all day. I wiped my tears instantly.
Doctor Sharma called me half an hour before the operation was due to be completed. I sat in his office waiting for him. Hoping and praying that everything was all right. He came in with an assistant wheeling in the tumour. He smiled and said, “We got it. We got all of it!” I wanted to collapse on his desk and thank him, thank God, thank everyone, so much gratitude burst through my heart.
28 May, 2018; As I write this, my Father gets better everyday. The Doctors have asked him to walk around and though that helps him immensely, it does cause him a lot of pain and discomfort. Last evening he prayed for some good sleep and no walking in the morning. He was tired and wanted to rest. I asked the Doctor to excuse him for one session and the Doctor agreed with a smile.
This morning I found him walking when I got to the Hospital. He never stops surprising me! “You did not want to walk?” I exclaimed. He smiled, “Must walk. This is no way to live life,” he added. My eyes filled up with tears again but this time I knew why. They were telling me that my father had not stopped teaching me. Even this morning he was giving me a lesson in life. If there is an art to living, this is it.
As for me, I have taken on from where my father left off on the day of the surgery. I put funny videos on my Instagram everyday. We have to spread them smiles you see!