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Emily Levine had stage IV lung cancer. But instead of fearing the inevitable, she decided to embrace her new reality, and face death with humor and gratitude.

In her own words: “I love being in sync with the cyclical rhythms of the universe. That’s what’s so extraordinary about life — it’s a cycle of generation, degeneration, regeneration. ’I’ am just a collection of particles that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.”

She died on February, 3 2019. Please watch this clip from her TED talk a few months before her death.


Rockfort Temple at Trichy at Sunrise

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.



I am happy to report that I successfully completed the Breast Cancer Virtual Half Marathon. Here is a record of the day:

I had the feeling it was going to be an exciting day ahead when I woke up at 5 am on the cold February morning, just a couple of days after the snow blizzard had hit New York and New Jersey. The Galloway NYC group was scheduled to assemble at around 7 am at Central Park, NY. The cold seeped into me when I stepped out of my home—the temperature was around 20 F (minus 6 Celsius) and I also had to make allowances for the erratic weekend train schedules.

I reached Central Park a little before 7 am and joined other fellow half and full marathoners. The race started immediately thereafter and the first thing that I noticed when I hit the route was that the snow melts from the previous day had now become slippery black ice and there were still several patches of uncleared snow on the route. It was not going to be an easy run but I was determined to finish the race safely without any slips or falls.

The route took us through West Side Manhattan where we had to stop for traffic and watch out for slippery spots on the pavement. I was wearing my waterbelt but the water was by now icy cold. I kept sipping nevertheless to avoid dehydration. Midway during the run, the water had frozen, something I realized a little too late when my mouth filled with chunks of ice when I tried to drink the water. My immediate impulse was to spit it out but I swallowed nevertheless, not wanting to do it in public.

I slipped on the ice a couple of times en route, but luckily regained my balance. We finished again at Central Park, and were cheered by the Asst. Director of Team Galloway who took our pictures and video and handed around pretty little pink medals: pink for breast cancer awareness. I am happy I finished the race safe and injury free, rather than take risks by focusing on the time. Am glad I ran for a good cause and did my mite for breast cancer cure and care.

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