n many occasions I have heard people say “Since God cannot stay in everybody’s home and take care of His children, his creations, He has created mothers”. Whenever I would hear these words I would take it casually and say it to myself “What a nice thought”. But I realised the deeper meaning of it when I was under treatment for Cancer.
My mother is around 73 years old retired employee as a clerk. Lost her husband at young at the age 38 years. She has brought all three of us to be good human beings. She underwent lot of trouble to do so. She is very traditional, religious and has a firm belief in God and the strength of prayers.
The time I was diagnosed with cancer, she had lost her son-in-law i.e. my husband to cancer just a few months back and she herself was down with gallbladder stones and Care Giver’s Syndrome. It’s beyond anybody’s imagination what she must have thought about the series of losses and misfortunes/ problems?
Here, she was in a situation where she has lost her son-in-law to the dreaded cancer and grandson suffering with depression and on top of it, daughter is also diagnosed to be suffering with the same disease.
But in this situation, she did not allow her mental distress to interfere with the decision making process connected with my cancer treatment. This was the toughest task. I think this is the important decision that she took and which made everything fall in its place.
I recall vividly the following statement. She, with outmost calm tone said “ok. You have cancer. We shall try to see how best to get the disease out of your system”. She chalked out the plan of action.
This was a great source of support to me at a time of feeling a sense of being out of control.
Why I narrate her words is to emphasise to care givers the importance of their support and positive response for the cancer patient, the frame of mind and attitude of caregivers makes a lot of impact. Morale of the patient keeps changing depending upon the severity of physical stress and strain. Patient, upon diagnosis of cancer is uncertain about the effectiveness of treatment and his/her lifespan. He/she tends to form opinion about the success of treatment depending upon the atmosphere around him/her, as generally if the prognosis is good care givers feel enthusiastic and the atmosphere is a kind of OK otherwise it’s gloomy.
My mother never once expressed doubts about the treatment and possibility of everything not going as expected. This filled the atmosphere with positiveness which was very very important. This attitude of hers used to reinforce my belief in the effectiveness of treatment which I never had from the beginning as I had lost my husband to cancer in spite of aggressive treatment and best care at home.
Whenever I would express doubts about my survival, she would always say “One day all of us have to die and Cancer is not the one and only reason that people die. It does not mean that all those who get cancer will die. Who knows you might survive cancer? Let’s do our part of work. God is always there. There is always a meaning behind every problem that we face in our life. Who knows why He has given this situation in our life”. Like generally done, she never blamed my karma or God. She accepted the situation on its face value. She never clinically dissected nor critically analysed the situation. This changed my out look towards the disease and its treatment.
So the positive mind set the ball rolling. She was the one who stayed at hospital and took care of me at home at all stages 24×7. Never did she complain about her physical and mental strain. She would sneak in some time to offer prayers and chant shlokas for my wellbeing. In addition, she held the family tight not allowing it to collapse under the tremendous stress and strain.
She had voluntarily shouldered the responsibility of preparing fresh food for my husband in his illness. When he was on liquid diet which had to be tube fed, she would unmindfully prepare juices frequently. By this what I want to convey is being sensitive we the patient also understand and feel guilty about thrusting so much of pressure on caregivers. But if they keep on telling the guests who come to visit about the hardship of preparing food so many times it creates undue stress on the patient. My mother never uttered single word about the hardship she underwent both in my husband and as well as my case. She never cribbed about anything to anybody. On top of that she would prepare something fresh and offer the relatives and friends who came to visit me. I was only a mute spectator to all this as in no way I could help her except acknowledging her in this write up.
When I was a caregiver to my husband I would cheat him on food as he was very finicky in eating. I would mix ganji or daal water in preparing juices instead of water. I would thoroughly grind dry fruits and mix it in his food.She tried the same trick on me. She was at her best in innovating dishes which would make me eat at least a morsel.
Since we both knew about the general diet to be followed during chemotherapy we would make sure that I eat the specified food everyday. But she would never insist that I should eat particular food at particular time. She always gave me choice in food to eat. She would prepare something out of the specified food items and serve on time and also whenever I could eat as some days I could not eat breakfast and sometimes lunch or dinner. During my period of treatment, I wouldn’t get sleep at night. I had to eat something at odd hours. I would feel hungry at wee hours also. But the thing she followed strictly is hygiene during food preparation and serve freshly cooked warm food which was palatable to me.
She let me be myself never forced any ideas or restrictions on me. She allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do during that time from eating to watching TV channels to pursuing certain hobbies. Eventhough, it was a strain on the family budget, subscribed to my favourite newspaper and magazine and TV channels etc. She never even forced me to chant prayers but she did it on my behalf.
During the course of my treatment, we had to perform my husband’s annual ceremony also. She mobilised support as I could not do anything because of illness. Apart from the disease, I had some sort of infection and was running temperature. She supported me in all possible ways.
She took care of my son in all possible ways which I have no words to describe as its beyond description. She infact mothered through his illness.
Never she faltered in her steps in dealing with the various issues that I faced during the period. She swallowed all the hardships like a sea which swallows all the water from all the rivers that join it. By looking at the beautiful white waves we can never imagine how much water, dirt and waste are entering into the sea. Just like that she stood by me, swallowing all the mental trauma of – losing son-in-law, daughter’s illness, grandson’s ill health and budget constraints and physical stress and strain.
To summarise, my mother
- was there all the time I needed her;
- was positive all the time;
- took care of my physical needs;
- gave me the space to be myself, without placing undue restrictions;
- mobilised all the resources of the family for my recovery;
- kept her feelings of helplessness to the minimum in our interactions and
- Placed the trust in the medical team and God to see us through. So, as a result, here I am, back to resume my work and look ahead.
I, with heart full of love, affection and gratitude say Mathrudevo Bhava! And realised why our ancient scriptures and aacharyas urge us to salute mother before saluting father and Guru.
Mathru Devo Bhava!
Pithru Devo Bhava!
Aacharya Devo Bhava II
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