Cancer, to us was always something that happened to someone we knew some distance away but never did we think that this could hit home. So when it came unannounced it was a rude awakening for our family. At first there was silence – we didn’t know what to do – just too shocked to react.
All Work and No Play!
Anil: Let me tell you about my life priorities leading to this diagnoses. I come from a religious family – a family who went to church every Sunday and prayed every day. But I was always someone who placed my professional career as the top most priority… much above God and family. My daily work routine meant that I had to devote 12-15 hours almost on a daily basis to work (at office, home and travel). The time I could spend with my wife, children and parents was very little and that was a conscious call I had made because of the corporate ladder I wanted to climb. My time was not something they could lay claim on. I recollect once coming home after a month odd long trip and lifting up my son and realizing that he wasn’t fitting into my arms as easily as when I had left him – he had grown and I wasn’t there. I felt bad but I was doing it for them anyway so they should not be complaining, was the way I looked at it.
Sunitha: Two and a half years ago everything seemed normal and there were arguments like in any relationship, about coming late from office or not participating equally in the house chores or taking the kids out or playing games with the kids. I still remember when our son Neil used to ask us to pray together and Anil used to be so busy with his work or calls that we would end up not praying together as a family. Even when Neil wanted to play football with Anil like any other child who wants his father’s attention, he would be busy with his work and during that time I had to pitch in and play football and cricket with him. Neil even went to the extent of saying that dada always wants to work and only work. That was the impression Anil had given knowingly or unknowingly
The Menace of Cancer and the Solace of Prayer
Anil: Coming back to my treatment, the doctors advised us that we need to start treatment immediately but just because I would be going through treatment it was not a guarantee that I would completely recover and even if I did recover I would never be normal ever again (this was a certainty). We were in shattered. We could barely make it through our daily prayers because we were crying through most of it. This was a letting go of control for me and realizing that even with all my crazy working and schedules I cannot protect myself or my family. That is when I slowly settled down to the fact that God has a plan and He will give us the grace to overcome this situation. We started doing what we knew best – praying.
I was scheduled to go through Chemo and radiation. But 45 days later my body started giving up. I lost 25 kgs and my body was not regenerating any more fighter cells to fight the cancer cells nor was it responding to the life-saving drugs that were being pumped into me to help the body with the regeneration process. I continued to have high fever in the range of 100 – 103 degree for about a week. Around the 4th night I remember standing up with Suni holding her hand since I did not have the strength to stand on my own and dedicating my life to God.
Sunitha: In the days following with the treatment (chemo and radiation), we all went through emotional, physical and mental trauma. I was told that my husband would not live the next day and that I had to inform everyone I needed to. For a second our kid’s faces, our future, all of it flashed before my eyes. But still my lord gave me the strength and let me know time and time again that He is with us and when HE is with us nothing can go against us. As Anil started to recover miraculously and we got him back home for recovery following which he went through the surgery and remaining part of the treatment at Vellore. Our kids were neither allowed to touch him nor come near him as his body had become so weak that he could catch infections easily. Our kids went through a lot during this time. All of a sudden it felt like they had matured although they were just 7 and 5 yrs old. They understood the situation and let mama take care of dada. I was torn between being with the kids and being with Anil. Because of the chemo and radiation Anil also was almost like a child sometimes, wanting me around all the time while he was sleeping, eating or just sitting next to him. At the same time the kids also would expect me to be there with them. It was hard but God gave me the grace to go through all of it.
Anil: To cut the long story short, it has been a difficult journey through sickness and pain and fear of losing my life and there were many close calls. I had a divine encounter that changed my life. God saw me through and now I am healed and back. I completed my treatment on 1st Mar, 2013 and it has been 1.5 + years hence and after all my follow up checks the doctors have told me that the recovery is complete. But through it all I have learned what I value and cherish and what I want to spend my time doing.
I now have my priorities rearranged – My God first followed by my family, friends and finally somewhere down is my professional career. It has not been easy but by making a conscious call on my first priority and spelling it out clearly to the organization I work for has enabled me to lead a more content life.
Being there for our family is what counts!
To all those people running hard in the rat race I want to say this … throughout the course of the treatment it has not been the “achievements” at work that had kept me going but the memories of the little time I spent with my kids and loved ones. I did not miss office or work or my colleagues… I missed my children!! I missed holding them, talking to them, listening to how their day had passed. I longed to relive my life where I was available for them – playing with my son when he called, listening to my daughter’s stories about her dolls, spending prayer time with them, helping them to solve some of the issues they faced… the list is endless. I knew I was irreplaceable to them and I was convicted that I had not done enough for them when I could. I was driven by the desire that I would get another opportunity to spend quality time with my family and treasure that time far better.
Sunitha: Anil realized how important family was and how precious each moment meant only after he went through this experience. He was so engrossed in his work and wanting to impress his boss that he missed out on the beautiful things that God had blessed us with. All I can say is, do not wait for something to happen in order to realize what the lord has done for you and how thankful you need to be for all the big and small blessings that you have. Do not take everything and everyone around you for granted.
Anil: Prior to my encounter with cancer, I was an absentee father showing up now and then. But after this tryst with sickness I have made myself a promise that I hope each father will make…I will be available for my family in the small and big moments of their lives. I will put them before my work and ambition. This is because to the company I am replaceable but to my family no one can fill the void. I had the privilege of being given a second chance to re-prioritize my life. But many are gone before they even know it or sometimes years are gone before we realize it and then our nests are empty and our lives barren. Let us set things right before it’s too late. Please don’t wait for death to come knocking to take the call.