‘Hi auntie, how are you?’ I jumped right in front of her while she lay on her bed watching T.V.
‘Superb!’ She said with an enthusiasm that looked like she was more insistent on cheering me up than herself. My mother who sat beside her seemed more anguished than her.
Suddenly she looked at me carefully and spoke softly, ‘Where did you get that cap from?’ She indicated to the woolen cap that I was wearing.
‘Do you like it?’ I asked. ‘You can keep it. I’ll get another one for myself’. I explained it to her that I would buy another one while she could keep this one, but she insisted that I buy her a new one instead. With a promise that I would, I took her leave after some time. My mother had told me how depressed she was to see her rapidly waning hair and wanted to cover them at all times.
It was the winters of 2003-04. She was one of my mother’s sisters, the most sensitive one. I always saw her as someone who was warm, giving and very polite. Most of her days were busy taking care of the family, helping her husband in socializing (her husband was into the local politics, etc.) and the remaining hours were spent in prayer. A person, who ensured that her husband and her son were attended at all hours of the day, she in turn demanded as much attention from them. And they happily obliged as well; after all, she was the apple of their eye- a person, who never spoke or thought ill of anyone (I am absolutely convinced of this!).
Come January, it was my birthday, my first after my wedding and I wanted it to be special. I wanted to spend the day with my husband while he suggested that we spend the day with family. Since my mother was already attending to my ailing auntie, he proposed that we meet them as well. I declined, suggesting that we’d go and meet them the next day. He agreed. We happily spent the day together and I also chanced upon buying a cap for my auntie.
Early morning next day, we got a call from the family that my auntie had passed on. I cried, because we had lost one of the most precious gems of our family; more so because, I had defaulted. I still have the cap with me as her keepsake and every time I look at it, I repent for having acted selfish at a time when I needed to be compassionate. I hope I am forgiven.
My auntie was suffering from cancer that went undetected for a good number of years and by the time it was, it had reached its last stage. Cancer is the cause of death for about 5 lakh people in India. This number is slated to increase manifold (up to 5 times) by 2025. There are millions of people who are unaware of the dreaded disease and hence the most we can do right now is spread awareness. This post is my humble submission towards the cause.
Today is World Cancer Day 2014 (4 February 2014) that focuses on Target 5 of the World Cancer Declaration: Reduce stigma and dispel myths about cancer, under the tagline “Debunk the myths”.
Some of the myths have been illustrated below. To read about each of the myths, click on the picture.