Initially it was a search for answers, trying to find the strength to comfort my wife, and coming to terms with what we thought usually happened to someone else.
The earliest signs appeared in October 2014 amidst the packing, booking tickets within the sub-continent, buying pieces of Chinese-made Canadian history for friends and family, scheduling our jaunts to align with marriages and other family events, and urging friends to recommend watering holes and restaurants catering to unique cuisines from all over India.
Late into an autumn night Jaya, my wife, found a lump in her right breast. When she told me, I dismissed it as knotted excitement awaiting to unravel. [An earlier suspicion had ended up as water sacs.] Wiser counsel prevailed and soon we were waiting in the consulting room of our family doctor. Between looking at the graphic posters of 90% of the world’s diseases and hastily tacked baby pictures, I was trying to conjure up positive thoughts.
Although the family doctor could not physically detect a lump, she prescribed mammogram and ultrasound. Mammogram, as Jaya puts it, “is a painful process”. They pull, stretch, and squish you to get the best possible scans. The radiologist did the ultrasound twice, which in itself raised the red flag on the pole of suspicion to its highest level.
On seeing the results, she was asked to wait. Jaya sensed something was terribly wrong; my heavy dose of positive mantras miserably failed its purpose in life.
We do find the images a little different from last time, so we need to do a biopsy. The Chief Radiologist was outwardly calm.
“But I am flying out in two weeks.”
Lady Luck intervened; with the Chief Radiologist’s influence Jaya was able to get an appointment for biopsy on Monday! After that, the long wait for results began. I think there is a major opportunity to improve the process here.Â The results are sent from the lab to the hospital. However, the hospital needs the family doctor’s approval, to contact the patient. In such a critical juncture, do we need this red tape?
“You can expect a [dreaded] call”
The family doctor called at the end of the week, “You can expect a call on Monday from the surgeon in North York General Hospital [NYGH].” She had no supporting information. The surgeon’s assistant called with detailed information about the time and place; they are not privy to any other information.
The weekend produced no sleep. A winter’s storm raged. I cranked up the thermostat, but it not remove the chill. We had, by then, stopped packing for our long-delayed trip to India.
We arrived at the NYGH well ahead of schedule. By N. American standards, NYGH looked small. We pass it every day, and have for the past decade and a half. But, it never looked as intimidating [unless you go in senseless] as it did now. The experience starts at the parking lot; the cheapest fare: $22. Jaya felt we’d be coming back; so I settled for the package: $60 for five days. I held Jaya’s hand and pussy-footed through the corridor with the faint hope that Fate does not know we have arrived at the building.
I looked at my reflection in the polished lettering, “Breast Cancer”. I could see my thoughts reflected from the outside; the worry lines shifted as I kept looking at it. My warm breath made funny shapes on the metallic letters. I thought my racing heart touched the letters a few times on its wildest beats.
After a short while, a tall slender kid entered the consulting room and introduced herself as the surgeon. I can still see the smile which lit up her face much later, when I became more mindful, I noticed that it lit up the entire room. Are we going to entrust my dear wife to this child?
“Jaya, can I call you Jaya?” And introduced herself as Dr. O.
Overwhelming sense of denial
Dr. O got straight to the point. She kept the yellow folder closed. The results have come back from the biopsy. I am sorry to say it is cancer. The surgeon reached forward to support Jaya. My overwhelming sense of denial had possessed me completely. I could not bring myself to hold her hand, comfort her, even say anything. The world had split open in so many ways. When I stole a glance Jaya was composing herself.
We have weathered many storms but, this was the mother of all hurricanes. I knew Jaya from the age of 15; and we’ve been married for 30 years. She was always the human side of our relationship.
“Do you know what stage?”
“We know that it is neither stage one or four. We will know after the surgery.”
… to be continued
As I went along with my wife on this long journey, I will try and post information that specifically relates to new discoveries and breaking trends in treating, curing, and preventing cancer.