Dr Pradeep arrived at eight in the morning and asked if I really wanted to go. I nodded. The reports weren’t satisfactory, he said. I offered to return after the exam, to which he smiled and then left. My discharge was prepared – the nurse came and removed the central line, gave stitches, and I left the hospital around ten. The exam was scheduled at 2, which meant I barely had time to reach home, sleep for an hour, get ready and rush to the centre. In the unforgiving heat of May, I had to walk three flights of stairs to get to the examination hall. Each step was a battle, and a reminder that I was headed in the right direction.
The evening before, however, I reminded myself, I took the blood tests, and while the potassium levels may not have fared well, here I was, taking an exam to save a year.
What had brought me here? Just last year, I was a 22-year old engineering student partying to no end. As of today, I probably knew more medical terms – a fact I wouldn’t even brag about. With each step, it all kept coming back to me. After recurrent health issues and months of misdiagnosis, the six-letter monster ‘Cancer’ had eventually invaded my life on a sheet of paper – something I discovered accidentally while my family had tried to keep it from me. The denial, the feeling of betrayal and the “Why Me’s?” throbbed my head more than the headaches that the medicines gave as a side effect. Nausea and vomiting were regular visitors. I vividly remember the day I was attached to a machine for 24 hours to be administered drugs. Pain killers, biopsies, shrunk veins, IV drips, chemo and blood transfusions, I couldn’t believe were now a part of my vocabulary. Festival and Hospital – what an oddly rhyming pair – I had never thought I would use the two words together in a sentence.
Life is a constant reminder that the never thought before, never dreamt before, could stare you right into your eyes. But if you have the will, the support system, and access, of course, you could stare it right back, and it would have no option but to concede defeat.
Over the last few months, my body had been responding favourably to the prognosis.
I reached the hall panting and sweating. Each step was a battle, and a reminder that I was headed in the right direction.
The ulcers would often hinder my speech – I had to numb my tongue to eat, use a straw to drink, yet today, I was determined to write everything on the examination sheet that kind friends had taught me over long phone-calls. The loss of hair – facial hair, even eyebrows, couldn’t browbeat me today. Bone marrow tests pricking the bone and the countless injections piercing the skin couldn’t puncture my resolve. Sweat trickling down fresh stitches couldn’t stop my hand.
I had passed, already.
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