Life was mapped out for Savita Nandan, a single mother, until she fell ill. What started as bouts of fever turned out to be a full-blown HIV infection. The diagnosis struck her like lightning on a stormy night. “I cried for days. I did not want to reveal it to my parents; there’s the stigma attached to this disease. At the time, I did not have anybody to take care of me and my little daughter. I had already lost my husband three years into my marriage,” Savita shares, her voice choking.
Author of the bestselling book To Cancer, with Love: My Journey of Joy, Neelam Kumar was diagnosed with breast cancer, not once, but twice. In an exclusive conversation, the author shared with Soulveda, “The first time I was diagnosed with cancer was immediately after my husband’s death. It was a difficult time. I was a single mother with two little children. I was distraught, angry and nervous about what would happen to them.”
Savita Nandan and Neelam Kumar are not alone. Many among us suffer and bear the unimaginable hardships that come with severe illnesses. It is surprising that sometimes, seemingly simple symptoms manifest into something more serious. Seema Cariappa, a banker, was crippled with chronic backache. What seemed like a consequence of bad posture turned out to be the terminal stage of pancreatic cancer. She struggled to live for the next two months. A vivacious person with big dreams, Seema passed away young.
Life comes with its uncertainties, but death is certain. And for those dealing with terminal illnesses, the idea of dying becomes more certain than ever. What remains unclear to them is whether they would die today or three years from now. Shoma Chakrawarty, a counsellor specialising in Psychosocial Oncology sheds light on the matter. “When a person is diagnosed with cancer, his life is thrown off balance. Nobody can predict how long the patient will live, not even the doctors. This uncertainty–not just the illness–tests a person’s will to live,” she says.