Saving a Life: Standing Up to Cancer
On the other end of the telephone, my dad was saying that the doctor in the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer hospital in New Delhi declared that my uncle was in the fourth stage of abdominal cancer. I could not react for some time. Though we had an initial indication from a hospital in Kathmandu that it might have cancer but nobody had imagined he was in the last stage and few months have remained with him. In few hours, the news circulated among all of our family members and finally my dad shared that they are taking my uncle back to Nepal for further treatment if it is possible, for his remaining days. Having stayed a couple of days in Jhapa, my uncle came to Kathmandu with my dad and my cousins. I was in pain on the one hand and on the other hand, I did not have any courage to face him. Nobody had shared him that cancer was in the last stage.
After receiving him at the airport, we directly took him and admitted him at Cancer hospital in Harisiddhi for further treatment though having a slim hope of complete recovery. My uncle had a strong desire to live. He knew that he was battling cancer but still believed that it could be overcome. In fact, the family remains always in a dilemma whether to share such news with the sufferer. We could not share the truth with him.
We could see that day by day he was getting weak, pale. Once he said to me, Neetu- I will be recovered soon and even if these modern medicines don’t work, I will live ten of years even having the herbs and natural things. I have the same stamina to take a circle to ring road of Kathmandu. At that time, I could not even look into his eyes, suppressed my pain and tears and pretend to have urgent issues and cried going out of his cabin and sitting in the corner. I could not even look into the eyes of my dad.
I remember he used to say from the early years that he had a stomach problem. anything he ate, he felt burning sensation inside. He was very cautious of his health, drank only boiled water even living in Terai, never had any alcoholic habit. He lived a healthy life. Besides being a secondary level English teacher, he spent hours in the field being involved in farming.
Because of having a burning session in his stomach, He visited many times in the hospitals in Jhapa and Biratnagar and occasionally in Kathmandu. He was given the medicine of gastritis for years and years. Sometimes he was diagnosed as having an ulcer. At times, the doctors suggested him to go for operation and the simple tumor could be taken out with some thousand rupees in few hours’ operation. They ordered an ultrasound, x-rays, and other medical processes. But it was never diagnosed as cancer. Finally, not getting cure of gastritis, my uncle again came to Kathmandu. And one hospital in Kathmandu gave a hint that it could be cancer. We were already tired of visiting many hospitals in Nepal and not having an exact diagnosis, my dad made a decision to take him to New Delhi for the concrete diagnosis.
After we admitted him in a cancer hospital in Nepal, we came to know the provision of receiving the benefits of 100,000 Rs. Support from Government of Nepal as the cancer patient was entitled of but it never became possible. There seemed to have an innumerable administrative process to go through. Treatment of cancer is so expensive that money is not even sufficient for initial few days for chemotherapy. And the family of the patients having in extreme grief already, have no courage to go through such lengthy administrative process.
At the same time, the news of Nepali Congress Leader Sujata Koirala getting five million Rs for her cancer treatment came to light. I felt the life of a human is equally precious no matter you are powerful or not. Either you are a leader or a common citizen.
My uncle passed away a few months back. I feel if my uncle was diagnosed in the initial phase, we could save him. Such pain engulfs a hundred families everyday as not having the correct diagnosis and timely treatment. We struggle to wait for the day when the citizen’s fundamental rights to health as guaranteed in Nepal constitution comes into reality. And family don’t have to bear the unexpected loss of their dear ones.
Nutan Sharma, Bangkok, Thailand.