Piyu’s 25th birthday was nearing and she was looking forward to celebrating it in a grand way. Her mom gifted her vouchers of one of the best parlours in their vicinity for facials, nail art, spa, pedicure, and manicure, except for a haircut. She strictly warned Piyu not to cut her hair short. Piyu had knee-length, soft and silky hair, and whenever she left it loose open, she looked like a Barbie doll.
Immediately after her birthday, she had planned to go trekking with Ashish and her friends for a week. Ashish, was her fiancée and both worked at RA automobiles. They met at work and fell in love. It was love at first sight. Their friends often called them “Golden Couple” as the compatibility and understanding between them was amazing. Their parents also agreed to this relationship, and marriage was soon going to be on the cards.
Piyu’s dad was a fitness freak and ensured his family not only took care of their health but also went for their full-body routine check-up once every year. It was already overdue this year. So he suggested to all, especially Piyu, to get this done before going on for her trip. Her mother also insisted as Piyu was complaining about bloating and lower abdominal pain for a while now.
Two days before her birthday Piyu and her family got their tests done.
June 5th, Piyu’s day. Her mom, dad and her elder brother entered her room with gifts and flowers to wish her. She was fast asleep, but the birthday song woke her up. She rubbed her eyes and with a smile thanked them. She then quickly freshened up and came to the hall. Seeing the spread on the dining table, she was awestruck. Her mom had made all her favourite things. Before having her breakfast, she first prayed to god and then touched her parent’s feet for their blessings.
Her mobile phone and landline continuously rang till the afternoon. All her friends and relatives were calling to wish her. Piyu had invited Ashish for lunch and was eagerly waiting for him. The cuckoo clock made a noise indicating 1.30 pm. The doorbell rang. Piyu brushed her hair from her face, tucked it behind her ears, and ran to open the door.
“Hi Ashish, Why so late,” inquired Piyu.
“Hey hi. Bad traffic dear,” Ashish replied.
He hugged her tightly and wished her happy birthday. Piyu’s mom served them lunch and left the room. After finishing, they sat on the cozy sofa and spent quality time with each other.
As it was her 25th birthday, the family had planned a big bash in the evening for close relatives and friends. Piyu was all charged up for the party. The hall was splashed with colourful balloons. A huge chocolate cake covered in thick white icing and decorated with tiny pink roses sat in the middle of the coffee table. The party began at 7.00 pm. Guests started entering with gifts wrapped in smooth shiny wrapping paper. At around 8.00 pm she cut the cake. Warm liquid chocolate flowed from the center. Everyone wished and hugged her. The elders poured their blessings. There were smiles all around. Each one of them was thoroughly enjoying the party.
At around 9.30 pm, an email, marked “URGENT” flashed on Piyu’s dad’s mobile. The mail was from the clinic. He quickly excused himself and went to the study to go through the reports. There was an attachment to it. He clicked on the attachment. His own, wife’s, and son Rohan’s reports were fine. The next one was his daughter’s report, which didn’t look good. Her scan indicated that her abdomen was bulky and looked abnormal. The report also mentioned that, A CA 125 test is recommended. This sent shock waves leaving his eyes wide open as he knew what this test meant. With a choked voice, he called his wife. When she entered the room, she saw him crying, a scene that she had never seen. Worried, she asked, “What’s the matter?” He informed her about the mail and its contents. She broke down into tears. Hearing her voice, Rohan and Piyu rushed to the room.
The mail was still open. Piyu read the contents and was aghast. With tears in her eyes, she said “Dad how is this possible?” “This is surely an error.”
The word “ERROR” consoled them a bit. But none of them could sleep peacefully that night.
Piyu did not inform Ashish about this news as she was not sure if this was true or a wrong report. The next day she went with her parents to the clinic and got her CA 125 tests done. They came back home, but none of them were at peace.
Two days later, they got a call from the clinic who informed them that the report was ready and that Dr Vineet would like to see them. They immediately reached the clinic, collected the report, and waited outside Dr Vineet’s cabin.
After a while, Dr Vineet called them in. The copy of the report was in his hand. He slowly opened up the conversation. “Sir, the test report is positive. CA 125 is quite on the higher side, which indicates ovarian cancer. Piyu, were there any symptoms like lower abdominal pain or bloating that you ignored?” inquired doctor Vineet.
“Yes, doctor. It was just on and off. So I did not bother. Moreover, there is no family history, too. I have been doing all my activities including my exercises regularly.” Replied Piyu.”
Piyu’s mother’s lips quivered and she began to cry.
“What is the next course of actor doctor?” asked her father
“Surgery. A biopsy will involve the opening of the abdomen and the removal of the tumour. We will further remove the tissues to check if cancer has spread elsewhere. If it is not confined just to the ovaries and has spread to nearby organs like the uterus, we will have to remove that part.” Replied Dr Vineet.
Piyu and her family’s hopes wavered. Their eyes swelled up with tears. Dr Vineet saw worried expressions on their faces. He quickly offered water to them and said, “This is the first stage. There are ways to treat this, but after the surgery, I would be going for a combination of radiation and low doses of weekly chemotherapy for the next few months. Moreover, Piyu, you are a brave girl and I am sure you are going to defeat cancer.”
But no words could console them. Tears ran down their faces like an open dam. After a couple of minutes, they left the doctor’s cabin and returned home. On reaching, Piyu with a heavy heart called Ashish and spilt the beans. He couldn’t utter a word. His voice was completely choked with emotions.
“Are you there, Ashish?” asked Piyu.
“He quickly gulped the lump in his throat and said, yes Piyu, I am there. Don’t lose hope. Everything is going to be fine.” Though he gave her courage, this news broke his heart and his eyes brimmed with tears.
The surgery was planned for the following week. Piyu reached the hospital with her parents. Her father completed all the formalities. One of the nurses gave Piyu a long, loose blue colour gown and took her into the operation theatre. The anaesthetist gave her general anaesthesia before going ahead with the cuts. On opening her abdomen, the doctors found cancer had spread to the uterus as well. The team of doctors decided to remove the ovaries and the uterus.
The operation lasted for more than 2 hours. Ominous thoughts squirmed at the back of Piyu’s mom’s mind. She was staring at the red light that was lit outside the operation theatre. As soon as the lights turned to green, Dr Vineet came out and pulled down his face mask. Piyu’s mother, who was standing there, rushed towards him. “How is my daughter? Is everything ok?” she poured out questions.
“Yes, she is fine. Come to my cabin.” Said Dr Vineet and walked towards his cabin. Her parents swiftly followed him.
“Have a seat.” Said Dr Vineet.
They pulled out their chairs and quickly sat.
“The operation went well, but….
“But what?” asked Piyu’s mom anxiously, even before the doctor could complete his sentence.
“Yes, coming to that point. Cancer had spread to her uterus also. So we had to remove both her uterus and ovaries,” informed Dr Vineet
His words made her feel dizzy. The doctor tried to calm her down, but in vain. With a teary eye, she said “Doctor, my princess is so young. Who will marry her now? Will her future be bleak?”
Dr Vineet didn’t have an answer to these questions. He gave her a glass of water and said “No mam. Everything is going to be alright. We are starting her treatment from tomorrow and she will soon be free from cancer.”
“But a woman’s important parts are her uterus and ovaries,” Piyu’s mom stuttered.
Piyu’s father quickly interrupted. “Doctor, what is the treatment you are going to start?”
“Yes, as I already mentioned earlier, a combination of radiation and a low dose of chemotherapy will be given to her for the next few weeks,” answered Dr Vineet.
“But the affected parts have been removed. Why chemo then”? asked Piyu’s father.
“The aim of chemotherapy and radiotherapy after surgery is to lower the risk of cancer coming back in the future. This type of treatment is called adjuvant treatment.” Replied Dr Vineet.
On the day of her first chemo session, Ashish accompanied her and promised to be by her side during all the sessions. Piyu’s family not only appreciated him but also knew his presence was going to make a difference.
On the other hand, Ashish’s parents were convincing him to break this relationship, but he remained stubborn. He did not leave Piyu alone and this gave her the courage to face the situation.
Although the first chemo session went well, the pain Piyu was undergoing was unbearable. She came out and sat on one of the chairs. Ashish gave her a glass of water. She gulped it and then tossed the empty glass toward a trash can kept in the corner.
The doctor was on his rounds. “Hi Piyu, feeling ok? he inquired.
“Yes, doctor, am fine,” replied Piyu. “Doctor, may I ask you something?”
“Yes, please go ahead.” Said Dr Vineet.
“Doctor, will I have to navigate life with cancer?”
“No Piyu. This is the 1st stage and you will come out of this.
Piyu nodded her head. She knew that even if she was completely cured, she would never conceive, and this thought was killing her from inside.
She along with Ashish and her parents left the hospital and came back home. Ashish sat with her for a while and tried to divert her mind. He then gazed at his watch. It was 5 pm. He took leave with a promise to join her at the hospital during the next session. For about two to three days Piyu was suffering in pain and couldn’t move much. She stayed in her room all the time. The whole family stood by her side taking good care of her, including Ashish.
On the fourth day, when her pain subsided, she came out and sat on patio furniture and sucked in several deep breaths and tried to calm herself down. A cool breeze touched her skin, making her feel good. She picked up her favourite book and started reading from where she had left. A little later, when her mother came to call her, Piyu was fast asleep with the book on her chest. Her mom woke her up and asked her to sleep on the bed. She immediately hit the bed and dozed off.
Usually, one course of chemo consists of several on-and-off cycles and per cycle lasts for 2 to 6 weeks. In Piyu’s case, six chemotherapy was planned over a period of 18 weeks. So now her second chemo was after three weeks. The thought of going for chemo itself was making her feel tired and exhausted. But she had to. She reminded herself of these lines that Ashish often said whenever he felt low.
Behind the veil of every night,
I know there is a smiling dawn bright.
It is always better to drown in hope,
Then to stop and say there is no scope
Ashish came down to her place on time. On seeing him, she felt relaxed and they together left for the hospital for her second session. Months passed by. The first three chemo cycles were terrible. It made her feel fatigued, and she also had mouth sores. But the remaining sessions were manageable.
On hearing about Piyu’s health condition, Ashish’s parents were not happy and tried their best to stop Ashish from meeting Piyu. They compelled him to break-up with Piyu and get married to another girl. However, Ashish remained adamant. Ashish was a very positive and optimistic person. He stood by Piyu in difficult times and gave her hope whenever she needed it the most.
It was Piyu’s last chemo and radiation treatment. By now she was feeling better. But there were other side effects that she slowly started experiencing. Piyu not only lost weight, but her face was losing its glow. Her long, thick, beautiful hair had become very thin. She had no other option than to trim her hair short. It did hurt her, but she consoled herself.
“Ah mom, see, I look so beautiful in this short hair too. My friends always envied my looks and hair. They will now feel more jealous.” A smile crept on her face as she said these words.
Her mother’s eyes welled up with tears. She quickly took off her oval eyeglasses and placed them on her head and wiped her face with her saree pallu. She didn’t want to ruin her daughter’s smile and most importantly, her hope.
Months later, Piyu got back to her regular activities. Slowly things changed. Ashish’s parents gave up on their stubbornness and accepted Piyu.
Just a few days before her 26th birthday, on May 20th, she received the news that she was cancer-free. Hearing those words was like a gift, not just to her, but to everyone who stood by her and her family during that phase of their lives. It was her moment of triumph over illness.
Ashish and Piyu decided to tie the knot. Piyu wished for a simple and elegant wedding with just a few close friends and relatives around. Her parents agreed to fulfil all her wishes. She also invited Dr Vineet who treated her.
On the day of their wedding, she looked pretty and happy. They lead a beautiful life together. Two years later they adopted a girl child whom they named Asha which means hope.
A person who is hopeful, can battle any disease and overcome numerous obstacles, and, in the end, return to life. Piyu learned that hope is the only thing that will help humans get through bad times. She now embraces life as it comes and never bids adieu to HOPE.
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