was Amma’s dream to see my younger brother married. The bride search, which had
begun 7 years ago, suddenly ended when they found the perfect girl for him. The
engagement was solemnised for Nov 26, 2017 and the marriage for April 15, 2018.
Amma looked radiant in the engagement with her new and chic “hairstyle” as she
preferred to call the hair that had grown back after her chemo. She hugged her
would-be daughter-in-law and said, “You will live like my daughter, not
daughter-in-law. You will be given the life of a princess in my house”. And she
stayed true to her word.
January 2018: The relapse
the New Year, Amma was busy with my brother’s marriage arrangements when one
day, she suddenly realised that she had begun to bleed. We rushed to her
oncologist who recommended an immediate scan. The reports showed that the
cancer had returned with a vengeance. We were devastated. Amma stayed calm and
happily agreed to second-line chemotherapy. She began having trouble walking.
Yet, she continued doing all her routine activities, albeit at a slower pace.
April 2018: The marriage and
the scans after
the Malayalee New Year, fell on April 15. But for us, the day entailed a dual
celebration. My brother was about to bring home the woman of his dreams. The
wedding was a fairytale affair. The reception was even grander. Amma almost
single-handedly managed the entire show. After the reception, when we returned
home, she said, “Now, I am very happy”. She had her mid-chemo scans three days
after the wedding. The reports came in when the newly wedded couple was on
honeymoon. The cancer was spreading. Second-line chemotherapy was not strong
enough to contain the aggressive malignancy. Amma would need third line
May 2018: Amma’s last month
first session of third line chemotherapy happened on May 7. But the week after
the session, Amma suddenly deteriorated. The left side of her body reduced in
function. Her speech began to slur. We assumed it was the chemotherapy acting
up. Little did we know that cancer was eating her up one cell at a time, one
organ at a time. But Amma fought on. She continued to manage my kids with help
from my father. Whenever I told her to rest a little, she always said that her
grandkids were her life and the reason she was alive.
Finally, third week of May, we got her admitted to the hospital. There, for the first time I saw her cry uncontrollably. She held my hands and told me, “I have left my grandkids at home. They are my world. Promise me you would take care of them till I am back.” I promised…a promise for a lifetime. For coming back was not meant to be.
June 2018: Letting go
had been hospitalised for close to 2 weeks by then. The radiation oncologist went
ahead with brain radiation because the cancer had reached her brain. But,
instead of recovering, Amma slowly began losing her sensory activity and became
semi-comatose. Nothing that the doctors did could get her to respond. Everybody
was flummoxed. Consultants were brought in. Soon she was moved from her room to
the ICU and beyond that to the ventilator.
Spending the better part of my day within hospital and ICU rooms, living with the constant fear of losing a loved one, dying every moment Amma coughed or as much as took a deep breath… well… it was tough.
were moments when I prayed to the Lord to take her away and ease her suffering,
if she did feel any. I made it a point to go to her bedside and speak to her
regularly. But then, the doctors said that in her condition she probably wasn’t
hearing anything. But as a daughter, I knew she was. I knew that a mother will
always listen to the sound of her daughter.