Pic: View at Sunrise from top of Rockfort Temple at Trichy, India.
I could never have imagined that cancer, especially breast cancer would touch my own life so closely, that too a few days after I ran the Virtual Breast Cancer half-marathon in New York City.
My parents had cancelled their visit to US this January due to my mother’s poor health. I was concerned and decided to go to India in February to see my mother. And I am glad I went.
I had no idea how bad her condition was and how rapidly her health had deteriorated. When I saw her, she was barely able to walk and had lost a lot of weight. She had had a hip surgery 2 years ago and is diabetic. She had also been diagnosed with post-menopausal osteoporosis. I had assumed she was unable to walk due to post-hip surgery complications, but as it turned out, I was terribly wrong.
She looked gaunt, frail, disheveled and depressed. Her immobility had meant fewer trips to the bathroom and infrequent baths. A few days into my stay at our home in Trichy, things got to a stage where she couldn’t even get up to walk and thus could no longer hobble to the toilet on her own. That’s when I realized how grave the situation was.
I took her to a well known Bone and Joint Hospital in Trichy. That’s how most orthopedic hospitals are called here for simplicity’s sake. The X-ray immediately confirmed her right femur (thigh) bone had fractured into two . No wonder she could not walk!
More was to come. A routine examination by a woman doctor also revealed a large tumor in her left breast. A complete scan the next day confirmed the presence of cancer in the breast, left shoulder and left arm. No one had taught her breast self-examination and though she had intuitively known something was seriously wrong with her, she had no idea what it could be. She had to be operated upon twice the same day, once to remove the breast and surrounding tissues and again to fix her thigh bone with a metal plate.
I spent two stressful but fruitful weeks at the hospital. My mother was in much pain after the surgery, but the color had returned to her face and she no longer looked sickly. Her cancer treatment is yet to start but she now knows she can hope to recover.
She is only 69 years old, but with her rapidly worsening condition, she may not have survived for long and so I am glad I went to India. I could see her alive and do what I could to help her. I wish I could have stayed with her longer, but I have work in NY that I cannot abandon. I need to earn a living and when possible, financially support her care.
My mother’s case proves how vital early detection is in the fight against breast cancer.