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September 9, 2013

Part I

My right ankle was giving me trouble, turning a bit stiff. Well, both legs had been alternately complaining for some time, with this or that, and I had put it down to Father Time. Grow old gracefully, these aches and pains are part of it.

So I hobbled about cheerfully. And paid a visit to the Vaidyan. He confirmed yes, it is arthritis, and prescribed some kashayam. And prescribed a diet regimen, which basically meant that whatever was tasty was prohibited.

So I went on the diet and swallowed the medicines. And the stomach started protesting. The kashayam was changed after a week with worse results, terrible gastritis. Trying to force down food that was tasteless, violent spasms resulted in a pulled muscle in the left thigh, or so I thought.

Then I decided to come off the kashayam et al and get the gastritis off. And paid a visit to an Allopathic orthopaedician. He prescribed blood tests and an x-ray of the ankle.

The blood tests showed high ESR, C-Reactive protein, stuff that showed some infection or inflammation was raging, or had raged. The ortho told me whatever I had was over, the x-rays showed a fine joint, no Rheumatic Arthritis factor, etc, that is to say, I was more or less fine. Just have wax therapy for the ankle, three sessions, repeat the blood test after a couple of weeks and see him again.

Should I see a general physician for the infection, etc? I asked meekly. “No!’ was the answer. Whatever I had was actually over.

So I had a first session of wax therapy and came home to dinner whistling a tuneless tune. I had to eat well, to make up for the several kilograms I had lost to my tummy-problems.

Part II

The next day was Independence Day. I woke up with a puffed face and neck, and short of breath. No doctor was available except the junior ones on emergency duty in casualty wards in hospitals. A homeopath gave some medicines. By the next morning, the puffing subsided, and I continued with the regimen. But on Monday the 19th, I woke up again with a puffed face and neck and short of breath. It was time to do some detailed testing.

I met a doctor at a clinic and she ordered a battery of tests and x-rays. I was happy to see most parameters turning up fine. Must be some rogue infection.

The doctor took a look at the chest x-ray and said, looks like an un-coiled aorta. Normally I wouldn’t look at it much, but with you panting for breath, I can’t let it go. Some blood vessel seems to be getting blocked. Get a CT scan, pronto. She was seeing what she didn’t tell me, probably.

She arranged for the CT scan immediately and I had it in the afternoon, at a different facility of the clinic. The report would be available the next day.

We came home, and then my wife got a call from the doctor. She had checked the scan result with the lab. She said there was a thrombosis, yes, she had arranged for an appointment with an oncologist in the morning.

Oncologist? For a thrombosis?

The next morning, in quick succession, I was led through three appointments with a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist and a radiologist. It was confirmed to me that there was rogue tissue multiplying inside me. I had to report for a bronchoscopy the next day.

The doctor also saw me hobbling, what with my “pulled” muscle, and ordered me to get a pelvic x-ray done.

I reported for the bronchoscopy sharp at the appointed time. I was handed a form, in which I had to mark consent for the procedure, etc, and in reading that, I found I was supposed to report on an empty stomach. Well, I was still not out of the woods with my gastritis and was eating or drinking something all the time.

The doctor also arrived, all scrubbed and ready, and then I told him about my non-fasted tummy. No, he said, he could not do it like that. But he was all so nice, he said he would finish his ward rounds and out-patient duties and come back in four hours. Stay there.

Yes, I stayed, and we had the bronchoscopy in time.

The next day was a whole body PET-CT scan. On an empty stomach, but I was not told I could have water. In any case, they gave me water to drink, a whole litre of it.

The day after was again consultations based on the result of the investigations. The doctors decided to put me on chemotherapy immediately, starting the next day. And yes, I had better not put any weight on my left leg, but use a walking stick.

Things had gone in a whirl. I, who can’t really whistle, was whistling a tuneless tune barely a week ago. And here it was, a sea-change.

No, not really. The intimations of mortality had always been there. The only difference now was that I should no longer plan with an unfixed time-frame. Each day has always been a gift, all the time, but it was just a fuzzy thought. Till now.

But there were the plans to visit foreign lands and witness foreign customs and usages. There was our retirement home on the banks of the Periyar with its four balconies opening on to the river. Having led life mostly in a succession of pitiful rural and urban settings, some of them hovels, there was this place lovingly furnished with all new things.

Did it make it all so sad, so bad?

I do not think so. There was also the possibility all the time, of an uncertain future. Who knows what else lurked round the corner of dark time? I had specifically told the doctors that I was least interested in extending life at the cost of pain and disability. They said yes, we assure you quality of life till the end. I believe them,

Yes, the provisions I did make for a certain possible path. Being, as my son says, a numerate, I understand numbers, I understand probabilities, distributions, correlation and causation, ranges of outcomes. A thwarted dream is just what it originally was, just a dream. Has not every one had them? Have I not had plenty of them myself? And known that unrealistic expectation is the only source of sorrow?

And there are ways to find out what is most enjoyable every day. I have no pain. My head is clear. There is possibly even less of uncertainty than there was earlier.


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  1. Hema Mohan permalink

    Dear Warrior,
    Yes That’s how I would like to call you and see you- I believe in miracles and my prayers are with you and your family.
    Yes each day is a gift- but we still have to read a lot of your un- comprehending blogs!
    God will bless you with enough strength to live in your dreamhouse and enjoy the beauty of life!
    Pl say hello to your lovely wife and son- our best wishes to them too

  2. Great to see that you are holding it together in circumstances that would make others crumble and dissolve in tears of self pity. There’s only only way to go through life and you are doing it – head held high, not fearing what might happen and with a smile on your face.

  3. It takes courage to write what you have done. Do not lose hope, ever. No, don’t call your dreams “thwarted” . Most of them will come true and you will enjoy those experiences all the more. Your house by the Periyar river is something you can enjoy to the fullest. The Valley of Flowers is not impossible to achieve. And Macchu Picchu is not all that great anyway. Sometimes the act of dreaming is more pleasant than its fulfilment.

    Keep smiling and be positive. Our prayers and thoughts are always with you.


  4. Induchoodan permalink

    It really takes great emotional maturity and intellectual honesty and courage to write about one’s own experience in such a lucid fashion. I think you have already achieved that rare ability to detach oneself from one’s bodily identity. Life is full of uncertainties. There has been so many instances when the disease goes into remission with no apparent rhyme or reason. Keep one’s faith, it can move mountains.

  5. Krishnakumar permalink

    Dear Somanathan, when I commented on your silence on 10th August, you replied promptly the same day.I quote:

    “Been a little bit pre-occupied. I am in Madras still.
    I will come back later with more detail.”
    But you came back with what I never expected.

    I agree with Hema – really a warrior. But I would like to add that you are also a real scientist,who rejoices at moving to the ‘definite’ from the ‘indefinite’.

    I am sure that you will fight the disease with courage.Of late, the staunch rationalist in me has been slowly getting transformed to muse about rationalism of a more universal nature, especially after reading the”Autobiography of a Yogi” and also the autobiography of our friend Mumtaz Ali Khan, now “Shri M.” I agree with Hema that “miracles” are possible.Many things we brand as miracles are later found to have strong scientific base – so, miracles and rationalism can co-exist.

    As one of my friends ( I don’t know whether you recollect him.He is N.Krishnakumar who joined our IInd year Pre-degree) batch ) recently commented, we are all in the queue at the ticket counter.Occasionally, someone jumps the queue.But the fact remains that nobody can skip the purchase of the ticket.

    We are all with you, and we are really proud of you.

  6. Setty permalink

    You haven’t changed a bit, it looks like,all these 35 years ! Same care free attitude.I know a number of people who lived a long life with similar diagnosis given by doctors.Best thing to do is to continue to have same care free attitude while following diet regime,if any given.I know it is easy to give this advice while not being in your shoes.I always liked George Bernard Shaw while in a similar situation : every day he used to wish he won’t get up next day morning.And he lived till his mid 90s and died while tending his garden causing no pain to any one.So please carry on as before. I fully cherish those golden years we spent together in the 70s.Have faith in yourself.Don’t believe what others tell you about the end.I always believed the future is always in our hands.Not any one else.Just carry on and enjoy life every day as your own normal day.

  7. R.Ravindran Menon permalink

    I write this in a state of shock after reading your blog.First my apologies for my delayed response – i was in mourning at my native place after the demise of my beloved father who bid goodbye at the ripe old age of ninty seven. Whatever be the diagnosis, please continue to keep your steely resolve intact with the belief that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.Once you condition your subconcious mind that you will get well, you surely will get well – that is the power of the subconcious; on this subject I ‘ll email to you a small book which you may read at leisure and which I’m sure will strengthen your resolve to see you through this crisis in your life. I am a strong beleiver in religion and beleive me I shall pray for your speedy recovery.

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