When my mom died of cancer, I thought I had seen it all. Years later, as I managed my family, I thought I had evolved as a person. I was someone who understood the pain of loosing someone you love, someone who had managed in-spite of the loss and someone who had grown as a result of this. I had learnt that worrying was not a solution, that all we have is the present, that the future is beyond our control, that time healed everything, that life had to go on, that life was far bigger than those everyday irritants we grumble about; like the traffic or someone being rude to us or our jobs or the grades our children get . Over the years, I had definitely become more calm, more grateful, more understanding, more wise and I saw most issues as too petty to be discussed or crib about.
Through the passage of time, I had also unconsciously begun to believe that cancer was a killer and that there really was no cure. The suffering was endless and pointless. I had seen too many people succumbing to the disease. While there were and there are many cancer survivors, I had only read of them and had not known anyone personally. So, like most people who are blessed not to have known anyone really close fighting the illness, I on the other hand knew it was dreadful and believed it meant the end; until this year when two of my colleagues were told they had cancer. Over the last one year, I have learnt what courage, grit and determination are. I have seen the “Never Say Die” attitude, up close and I have felt unimaginably humbled. I have seen that the human spirit is far stronger than any cancer and I now know that if death has to happen, it can happen to anybody, anywhere. So cancer is just about as much a killer as a road accident is or a natural disaster. It does not have to be the end.
Of these colleagues, one is a manager of another department, a wife and a mother. She battled it last year and thankfully was declared cancer-free this February. The other is in my team. Barely thirty-two, unmarried, she was identified with cancer in March, this year.
The Manager of the other team
While I believed I had attained enlightenment due to my own loss, I realized through their experience, that I still had a long way to go.
Like most people, I hate the first day of the week- being back to work and having to meet the boss first thing, as that’s when we have our weekly meeting. As I’d reluctantly make my way to the meeting room at 9.00 a.m., I’d see the one who is a manager with a bright smile on her face, wishing me “Good Morning”. Throughout the last year, not once did I see her sulking or tired. Dressed to perfection, her nails perfectly manicured, a perfect wig covering any signs of hair-loss that occurred during the chemotherapy, there were no tell-tale signs of the cancer. She achieved every single goal like us and went through a fair appraisal. She did not talk about her suffering and I was too uncertain to ask. With all my wisdom, I felt incompetent to discuss the cancer with her. I sometimes avoided looking at her face, lest my eyes would give away my fear. But every week just watching her during the meetings, gave me strength. I am sure, like me, there must have been many who looked up to her and would have learnt through her journey. I am sure there would be many who inwardly felt that they couldn’t have been as brave. Since she was in another department, I only got to see her during the weekly meetings, so I don’t think I can say I really knew what she was actually going through. This February, she distributed chocolates at the meeting as she was declared cancer-free. The battle ahead is still long as she would need to build her immunity but she has crossed one hurdle and I am sure with this attitude, she will cross all the others.
The Girl in my team
Two months ago, the girl who is in my team, was told that she had cancer. It came as a shock to all of us. We had just seen one person through the journey and now we had another one.
The chemo which is done every two weeks, weakens the body. Yet this girl does not let it dampen her spirit; she continues to do her work, to perfection and she continues to laugh and go about life like there’s no change. There are days when she finds it difficult to move her fingers to staple the papers or to punch the pages, yet she tries. As we watch her battle cancer, we are on this journey with her and I feel more capable now to support her through this because I believe she can make it through. My convictions had changed through my experience with the manager of the other team.
The sickness brought the team together like never before and made each person more compassionate and helpful. There were under-currents previously as is the case with all teams, which now did not seem to matter anymore.
On Wednesday, we went out as a team to celebrate all the hard work and the struggles of the year and the get-together turned out to be a success. As we dined and laughed, we knew that the sudden adversity had healed all ill-feelings and differences and had made each one there, realize the true essence of life.
The reason for this post
My team has always been the best team in terms of performance, achieving results and managing crisis but I was so overwhelmed when I watched the team that night, laugh together as family that I had this sudden urge to share what I had seen through this life changing experience. I just had to write this post because I wanted to share all that I had learnt through this period.
First I want to say that, I am in total awe of both these women. I am in awe of every person who battles sickness with a smile. It isn’t easy. It is painful and there are days that you feel you can’t go on, you don’t want to carry on. To these people and to all those people who are battling any kind of sickness, I want to say, “I respect each one of you, your courage and your resilience. Whatever your position in life, you’ll are the real leaders, who smile and put up a fight in adversity; not those who have it all and continue to be disgruntled. May God heal you and bless you. May God give you and all those who provide immediate support to you, immense strength to get through this period”.
Life, a teacher
Be grateful for each day because there is nothing as precious as health. In the face of death, there is no anger, no frustration, no irritation; one just has to give in to fate. Life teaches everybody. Nobody knows what awaits them at the next turn, so why not be happy now? Don’t waste your life worrying about unnecessary things, about things you have no control of or about people who don’t treat you right. Be Happy. Do whatever it takes to attract positivity into your life and repel negativity and everybody who pulls you down. Respect and be kind to those who care for you and want your best interest.
Observe, learn, empathize and grow. You don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself or have first-hand experiences, to learn. You can learn through the experience of others and make the world a better place. Practice compassion. It’s not enough being a human being, it’s important to be humane’. Don’t let your words or your eyes kill a person who is already suffering. Believe, Pray, Support, Have Faith. Faith can move mountains.
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