Once You Choose Hope,
Anything Is Possible
by Monica Ahuja
"Life is not always a matter
of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a
poor hand well."
Life has knocked me down
a few times. It showed me things I never wanted
to see. I experienced sadness and failures. But
one thing for sure, I always get up with my chin
It was a time when things were set in the right
place. We had placements in our college and there
were several 5 star hotels, who all had come to
pick a candidate they liked. I was targeted by
ITC Sheraton, I was so happy that I got selected
by a 5 star hotel but still some questions were
around my mind that will my dad allow me to go
out of town and let me stay there alone. I went
back to home, convinced my dad and finally started
walking in the directions of my dreams. It was
a great place for training with endless of things
to explore. I met a variety of people and also
build good relations with some of my colleagues.
I started experiencing an independent life, a
life away from my family, when you need to think
of everything on your own but I was loving it
even though there was some inconvenience. My sister
was also staying in Delhi for her studies, but
in such a big metropolitan city it was very difficult
to meet each other daily, that too when there
are lots of other responsibilities to be taken
During the six months training,
initially the time was moving at a slow pace but
after a month it was running. I started loving
it. During the tenure I learned a lot and also
earned lot of respect, love, friends and, most
amazing, an appreciation letter from my training
manager. That was an awesome experience I had
even forgot to mention that I used to be a
tom boy, but thanks to my training period
and a special thanks to Jasdeep maam who has
always been a great support to help me out
with a girly touch. I always cherish the memories
of these six months, and, hahaha, I will never
forget that night when I tried a drink (alcohol)
with my friends at late night sitting in the
park. I will always remember that time!!!
|A school photo
of Monica before cancer struck
Now time to go back home, 11th February 2011.
I was coming back home after finishing my internship
from Delhi. I was so excited to be home after
6 months and at the same time to celebrate my
birthday with my family and friends. As from the
past few days I was feeling very uncomfortable
with my left leg I thought of consulting a doctor.
After celebrating my birthday on 14 February,
I took an appointment from a doctor for 16th February.
I went to the doctor for
a checkup and he told me to get an MRI done of
my left thigh, so I did the same. On 17th February
my reports were out then I went to my doctor with
the reports. After going through the reports the
doctor told my parents to take me to some big
hospital for better medical treatment because
in our town we don't have advanced medical facilities.
My luck caused me to land up in Hyderabad. We
were there on 24th February and on the same day
we went to Apollo Hospital. Again I underwent
some tests and next day we went to the doctor
with reports. After going through all my reports
he said to my parents that your daughter has been
diagnosed with a tumor in her left thigh which
is big in size and seems to be malignant (cancerous)
but till then I was not aware of anything. I was
just told that there is a tumor in your leg which
will be removed by surgery.
The doctor's team started their work immediately,
they tried to do an FNAC test before surgery,
so that they could know whether the tumor was
cancerous or non cancerous which could make the
treatment easy and effective. FNAC- Fine Needle
Aspiration Cytology is a diagnostic procedure
used to investigate superficial (just under the
skin) lumps or masses. In this technique, a thin
hollow needle is inserted into the mass for sampling
of cells that, after being stained, will be examined
under a microscope. But unfortunately an FNAC
was not possible because my lump was deep, so
they decided for immediate surgery as the size
of my lump was 10cm. The 28th February 2011 was
decided as the date for surgery.
That night turned out to
be a nightmare for each member of my family. Next
morning, i.e., 28th February, I was feeling nervous
and scared too, I have never experienced this
(a surgery) in my life. Still I carried a smile
on my face while entering into a different kind
of world, where no one ever wants to reach. People
say men are strong but when it comes to a father,
it's really hard to see his daughter in this situation.
I am mentioning this because when I was about
to enter the operation theatre my Dad got in a
panic and became a bit unwell at that moment.
So I was in and ready for
the battle. I don't remember anything thereafter
as I was taking a sound sleep because of the anesthesia.
After some hours when I regained my senses, I
realized my leg was numb and couldn't work. I
tried to move my leg but I was unable to do so.
I got scared at that moment and I told the nurse
on duty that I wanted to talk to my doctor regarding
my doubts. She asked me to calm down and told
me that the doctor will be coming soon to visit
you. After an hour he came to see me. I asked
him, "Why can't I move my leg? Why is it
senseless?" He answered, "You don't
have to worry, it's a matter of a few months and
you will be able to walk properly." I was
bit sad after hearing that. It's easy for doctors
to say that line but for me it was very tough
to accept that truth.
I was there in the hospital
for 8-9 days. Side by side, the main thing that
was going around in my mind was the biopsy report
of that lump which was taken out from my leg.
It took around a week after my surgery for reports
to come. As the doctor had told me bed rest my
parents took the biopsy report to the doctor and
after going through the reports he told my dad
that the lump was malignant (cancerous) but when
my dad came back home he did not tell me anything
and ended up by saying that everything is fine..
.but I could sense that there was something fishy
so I opened my medical file. I was going through
the report but I couldn't get it exactly as there
were scientific words. Then I thought of hunting
on Google for some of the words so that I could
make out what exactly the reports were. After
searching I got to know the exact meaning of words
like malignant which shattered me inside... After
that I realized the tumor was malignant (cancerous).
I was feeling like hell,
what is happening? Why to me? What to do? What
will be next? These kinds of questions were running
through my mind. Being diagnosed was a really
shock for me and my family. I had no idea even
young people could get cancer. As it is said "Life
begins at the end of your comfort zone."
I felt the same that moment.
Three or four days after surgery I went to the
doctor for my first dressing, then he told my
parents that as the tumor was cancerous, it was
necessary to do radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is
a part of cancer treatment in which high-energy
rays are used to damage cancer cells, stopping
them from growing and dividing. Like surgery,
radiation therapy is a local treatment that affects
cancer cells only in the treated area. So my dad
agreed to the doctor's advice and the only words
uttered by him was, "We will do everything
for our child." But I was not feeling comfortable
there and so wanted to go back home as soon as
The hospital environment
was giving me very negative vibrations and also
I was very far from my brother, my sister and
my friends. In that situation I wanted to be with
my own people, my dear ones, who loved me and
supported me always. At that moment, I told my
dad to take me home as I didn't want to take further
treatment there. He said that he would talk to
the doctor and we would do that accordingly. He
asked the doctor if it was possible to take the
treatment from our place, i.e., Dehradun. The
doctor told him that it was possible if there
were all the necessary facilities available, so
we inquired and got to know that there was one
good hospital which has all the facilities near
our home town. So we discussed it with our doctor
and he allowed us to go back to our home town.
I was feeling very happy
after hearing that, I was so desperate to be home.
I was very frustrated staying in hospital for
8-9 days so it was very relaxing news for me that
I can go back to my home. Home is Home. You can
only feel relaxed at your own place, not at someone
else's home. When I got discharge from hospital,
I was staying at my relatives' place. Sometimes
I use to feel that I'm a burden on others because
there are a few things which you can only ask
your own brother or sister to do for you. I really
wanted to run home. We booked our tickets for
the next day and we came back to my lovely home.
After so many nights it was a pleasant night for
me to take a sound sleep on my own bed.
As the doctor suggested the
radiation therapy to be for around 25 sittings,
which were supposed to be held during about 2
months, the doctors asked me to get admitted for
this therapy, but hats off to my dad, that he
took me to hospital on a daily basis as I didn't
wanted to get admitted. That became a daily routine
for me for few days.
Now things were becoming normal, though I used
to go for regular checkups after every three months.
Life was bouncing back to other routine activities,
college practicals, friends' gatherings etc. My
family was so happy about the reports as they
were coming normal and indicating my recovery.
As doctors had instructed me for follow ups, I
went to the hospital after 3 months, and the doctor
told me to go have some scans done. After a day
the reports came and the doctor told my parents,
"Now your child is cancer free as all reports
are normal." After hearing this, more than
me, my family was happy especially my dad as he
was also suffering so many things with me.
After 3 months I again went to the doctor. The
same process of tests and all were repeated, we
all were pretty sure that all will be good now
as I was physically fit and there were no symptoms.
But I don't know why again things were turning
blue. In the course of my regular check up I was
diagnosed with Metastasis soft tissue sarcoma
of lungs, that means the cancer had spread from
my leg to my lungs.
It was dreadful and horrible
news for me and my family. "Is this truly
happening or is this a dream?" For some time
there was a sense of disbelief and I went blank
after realizing that now the cancer is in my lungs.
Anyone who had known me closely would not believe
that I could be a candidate for cancer. I was
a very healthy and active person throughout my
life. I don't know why I am into this disease
and how. God alone knows what exactly caused this
disease in my body. But then that's why the science
is not yet sure about the exact cause of cancer.
I asked myself, "Why
me?" And I immediately realized that though
there would be a thousand guesses, I would never
really know the exact reason as to why I got cancer.
Plunged into the chaos of trying to cope with
the diagnosis, I decided quite deliberately that
I needed to focus every bit of my energy on coping
with cancer and none of it on: "Why? Why
me?" It could be a very depressing question
if you make it so.
For some time my thoughts
were also wandering in that direction but soon
I began to realize that the question could be
seen in another light as well. "It's me,
maybe, because I think, and others would also
agree, I can face it. I am brave enough to handle
it and so is my family." It's funny how we
want to ask, "Why me?" only when the
situation is not the way we want. Did I ever ask
this question when I was appointed as a school
house captain and among 50 trainees only I got
an appreciation letter from my company. Did I
ever even once ask, "Why me?" Then why
cry now? "So what if it's me? It's ok if
there was no time to spare and hence not much
time to think. Now my family and I were more
worried that now what would be next??? This
time I really felt like traveling on a road
with an uncertain destination? The reoccurrence
of this problem really shattered me inside.
Still I know, I only have to face it. Then
after listening to many people's views, my
dad chose Mumbai for further treatment, as
he wanted the best for me.
Without any delay we went to Mumbai, there we
met Dr. SH Advani, an oncologist well known for
his services in these cases. He told us that we
will treat first with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy
is a treatment of cancer by means of drugs. Uffff!!!
Chemotherapy's name itself is enough to judge
the outcome, but again I was ready to go for it
because anyhow I wanted to go through all this
happily as I didn't want my family to feel disappointed
although I know they will be at some point. I
was also worried for the expenses, though my dad
didn't even say anything regarding that. But you
cannot ignore it. I was feeling a bit concerned.
I reached the hospital the
next morning for my first chemotherapy with a
curious and anxious mind. The doctors suggested
3 sessions of 3 days cycle in every 21 days. First
day of chemo was okay, but eventually it was affecting
me like hell, everything was totally different
in a bad way. My immune system was gradually getting
so weak, but I still kept telling myself that
this therapy was going to make me alright and
so my spirits were up and willing to take on everything
that came my way.
The first chemo went okay,
and the 2nd chemo was to be after 21 days so the
doctors told us to come after 21 days again. But
I was not feeling comfortable there in Mumbai
and also I hate travelling so I was willing to
take my next chemo at my place, i.e., Dehradun.
I told my dad to ask the doctors if we can go
back with all the prescribed drugs and take the
further treatment there. The doctors said it was
possible but after taking all 3 cycles of chemo
I would have to come to Mumbai for a checkup.
So we left for Dehradun.
Finally we were home, and
I was really happy to be home. Now everyone was
more concerned as my chemo was on and doctors
told me to have a good nutritious, healthy and
rich diet. But I realized that I was losing my
appetite, and there was a change in my taste buds,
I started eating the food I never used to like.
Things were going well, but
there was another shock to come. Although the
doctors had warned me that I will lose hair as
side effect of the chemo, in my faintest dreams
I could not have comprehended what kind of hair
loss I was in for. Put the hand in the hair and
you could get strand after strand in your hand.
Put the comb in and it would be fully covered
with hair. I had pretty good hair, very thick
and black hair.
Now after 21 days my second
cycle was to start. I went the day before chemo
for a blood test and all in a hospital, to see
if my body was ready or not to take the drugs,
as the drugs are very strong. Unfortunately, these
drugs also affect normal cells, resulting in many
side effects which are fairly serious. A test
reveals the blood count-number of red cells, white
cells and platelets in a blood sample. My reports
were normal, so next day my 2nd cycle of chemo
started. My chemo would last for about 7-8 hours
and had 6 different bottles comprising of combinations
of chemo drugs.
I tolerated the first day
of 2nd cycle pretty well. I had prepared my mind
to face the worse possible pain. The first two
days after chemotherapy were fine but from the
third day onwards, I began to have more side effects
like constipation and body ache. I could not eat
properly, I could not sleep properly, weakness,
lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores,
hair loss.. ufff! I was getting weaker day by
day, physically and mentally too. Actually chemo
was so extremely dreadful. I was losing more and
more hair, not only the hairs from my head but
also from my eyebrows, eyelashes, hands and legs
as well. My confidence level was getting lower
day by day. But still I manage to keep myself
smiling all the time especially for my family,
since I knew they all were already sad and worried
for me and I didn't want them to get more depressed
by seeing me crying. So I had to be strong for
them. There was a time when I was so frustrated
and depressed that I stopped talking to many of
my friends. I de-activated my Facebook account.
I stopped receiving my phone calls. I was feeling
very negative at that period of time, questions
in my mind were killing me inside. "What
is going on? Why me? Will I be ok? ", etc.,
Anyways I manage those days
but my third cycle was about to come and with
the date of my third and last chemo coming, I
was feeling so anxious that once I told my dad
that I didn't want to take the 3rd cycle of chemo.
He explained to me and motivated me by saying
that God gives his hardest battle to his strongest
soldier and motivated me in his own way as every
father would do, "Tu to mera sher bacchcha
hai, mera sabse strong bacha hai, tujhse to hum
sabko himmat milti hai." (You are my little
lion, my strongest child, we are all getting our
courage from you.) I was emotionally touched and
said "yes" for further treatment as
I could see in his eyes how badly he was fighting
and wanted to see his daughter perfectly fine.
I must say that with me, each family member was
fighting with the cancer.
I reached the hospital for
the third chemo. The first day went pretty well
but the day after, everything started repeating.
The same side effects came. By the time I completed
the 3rd chemo I was almost bald. A few strands
of hair hanging on my head made me look very funny
and feel miserable. The first time after total
hair loss when I saw myself in mirror, I was shattered,
in tears and started hating to see my face. I
remember I didn't use the mirror for a month at
all. That was the worst time of my life. Still
while writing this I have tears in my eyes remembering
all that again. Uffffffffffffffff ! All these
years when I used to go and cut my hair, not once
had I given a thought as to whether it will grow
back. Generally the importance of things is only
understood and appreciated when one loses them.
"Will my hair grow back? When will it grow
back?" These were all my main worries! "Losing
hair is much better than losing life," said
everyone around but where could I go out with
no hair left on my head? I began tying a bandana
on my head whenever I went out so as to avoid
the weird looks from people. Anyways my going
out had become minimal - to the hospital and sometimes
to close family friends.
Anyways, this time I was expecting a good result
of my suffering. I went to Mumbai for my check
up so as to know how the cancer has responded
to the chemotherapy. Reports always give you a
feeling of report cards that we used to get in
our parents-teachers meeting. But trust me, these
medical reports are not estimable, no matter how
much hardship you have gone through, it's all
about what God has chosen for you. It was a surgery
again, the second time, ahhhhh, that too after
facing such dreadful chemo. Doctors told me that
your nodules are stable, chemo didn't let it grow
nor decrease. I accepted and said, "Yes,"
for the second surgery of my both lungs, no other
option left actually. I set up my mind and was
ready to proceed.
As per the date for surgery,
we all reached to the hospital and got admitted.
Ten o'clock in the morning I was wheeled out of
my room. My parents walked with me till the OT
and then I was inside and my parents were out.
That time I was getting lower and lower but tried
to divert my mind by talking to the nurses and
doctors there. The anesthetist was ready and told
me to bend down so that she could give me a shot,
and told me that there will be small prick, I
started counting 1
3... That's all
I remember before slipping into deep sleep.
When I woke up, I tried to
speak but couldn't because there was a pipe going
inside me through my mouth, I realized that I
was on ventilators. I was in so much pain, even
breathing was hurting me. I was getting irritated
with those pipes and wires, all over my body.
My hands were tied and at that time I was really
feeling very helpless and was feeling like a live
corpse. Suddenly my dad came in , he saw me and
couldn't speak a single word, he was bit shocked
after seeing my condition ,but he didn't cry in
front of me, though I could make out from his
face that he was very sad. He just embraced me
and left the room. I was getting so frustrated
with those pipes, as I could not breathe on my
own and also couldn't speak. I was asking the
nurse again and again through signs and sometimes
in writing that when will these pipes be removed,
she told me next day morning. Only I know how
I passed that night, each moment was killing me
like hell .. . I was in pain and totally out of
my comfort zone. Next morning I was just waiting
for the doctor to come and remove the ventilators
Around 11 in the morning
he arrived and started the procedure but as he
was checking that my lungs are working properly
after surgery, suddenly the pipe which was going
through my throat, got struck there and I got
a panic. I was trying to tell the doctor that
it got stuck but as I could not speak because
of that pipe, I was unable to explain him and
he thought I couldn't breathe on my own so he
said we will keep me for one more day on ventilators.
At that moment I felt so helpless, but then I
explained to myself and left everything on the
doctors. I tried to sleep but the pain didn't
let me sleep. Anyways next morning, I asked for
paper and pen from one of the ICU staff, and told
her by writing that the doctor told me that he
will remove the ventilators today. She told me
that she would call the doctor's assistant and
let me know. After an hour she told me that the
doctor will be coming and definitely put me out
from the ventilators. I was so relaxed hearing
that. Around 1 o'clock he came and started the
procedure of removing all the pipes and wires.
I was feeling sooo happy inside as I was very
irritated with those pipes and wires. That feeling
was something I had never experienced in so much
that I had seen in the past few months in my treatment.
Finally I was shifted to a private room with less
pipes and wires, which was bearable.
Now I was recovering bit
by bit. Doctors told my parents that in 3-4 days
she will be discharged. I was happy hearing that.
After staying two days in ICU, the doctors allowed
me to have water and kept me on a liquid diet
for a few days. But the pain continued and was
unbearable. I was crying in pain like hell, even
after having 7-8 pain killers a day, I could not
eat, I could not sleep, I could not laugh, I could
not talk, I could not walk, I could not sit. Then
I realized the significance and function of lungs.
The whole period of treatment was terrible. After
four days the doctor discharged me and told me
to come after 3 days for dressing. So I did what
he said. The dressing procedure was repeated around
3-4 times in15 days. Just after my last dressing
the doctors allowed us to go back to our home,
i.e., Dehradun and told me to come for regular
checkups after every 3 months.
Now I was home and was very happy to be home as
I always state, haha, meeting my brother, sister,
my friends and my teachers. Gradually, I was recovering
and the pain was also decreasing day by day. I
continued my follow-ups every 3 months. It was
bit difficult to travel to Mumbai every 3 months
but no other option was left with us. Around 7
months of my second surgery of lungs I got my
CT scan done, and guess what could be the results?????
Everybody was again expecting good results but
there were cancer nodules in my lungs. I was scared
hearing that and was thinking that what will be
next now, again surgery or chemo??? We all went
to meet doctor first he told us that there are
possibilities of surgery again, and I was getting
more depressed hearing all this and my dad also
broke down. But all of a sudden the doctor told
my father about a new medicine launched but said,
"It is very expensive, it will cost you 56,000
for a month, and we are not even sure that it
will work or not." My dad said, "Whatever
you think is good for my daughter, do that."
So the doctor told me to
have that medicine for four months and told me
to get the scan done after taking the 4 months
medicine so that they could see if this medicine
is working for me or not. So we bought the medicine
and came back home. I started the medicine, but
after 4-5 days I realized, I was losing my appetite,
I was getting mouth sores, and terrible back ache.
But I explained to myself, that it is for my betterment
and it's better to bear all this than to lose
a life.. .so I continued eating the medicine.
After a month, I realized that my hair was turning
white. I immediately called my doctor and told
him about the same. He told me there was nothing
to worry about and that these side effects could
be considered as a good sign as it means the medicine
is affecting you in a good way. I was like, "Ok
if it's beneficial for me
After having it for six months
I got my scans done and went to Mumbai to meet
my doctors. We all were praying to God before
meeting him. As we met and showed the reports
he said, "It's fine this time, the medicine
has played a very significant role. Your cancer
nodules have decreased a bit and it's a very good
sign that they are under control."
It's been 1 year that I am taking this medicine
and it's been 4 years that I am fighting a battle
against cancer and I am hoping that I will be
cancer free in 2015. I have never expected that
this would happen with me, but obviously no one
thinks this way, and if they do only it's in their
nightmares. Sometimes I feel why has God chosen
me????????????????? Maybe he thinks that only
I can deal with this in a better way. As I always
say God gives his hardest battle to his strongest
soldiers and I am sure, he considers me as his
strongest soldier. And I'm sure he only will make
me come out from this.
strongly feel that sometimes when you are
surrounded by the persons who love you and
care for you, it really becomes a little better
to go with such things in life. There are
certain facts about life that I have recently
accepted, its just I am having a tough time
adjusting and coping with them. I'm so thankful
that I not only have a loving family, but
also amazing friends, great mentors who stood
by me, supported me and have given every piece
of their heart.
I consider this an experience
of a life time! Considering the positive things,
it has given me a lot, it has given me glimpse
of and a new meaning to life and death! It has
made me strong, it has strengthened my old friendship,
ties and bonds! It has brought to the fore how
much people around love me, though they may not
have been saying it in so many words. It has once
again emphasized the importance of being healthy
and reinforced my belief in God, his protection
And considering what I have
lost?? Well, I was forced to take a break from
my professional life and new opportunities. I
faced lack of good health, financial and practical
issues, anxieties and worries and lot of inconvenience
for my near and dear ones. Yes I am still struggling
to get healthy body, and am still gulping down
vitamins supplements and applying painkiller gel
to the joints. Now I can say that I have made
friends with aches and pains. I have come to learn
and understand that I will be able to get back
to a healthy life only if I am able to respect
what my body and mind have been through and allow
it its own pace and space.
Now I have left everything
on God, whatever he will give I will take it with
a smiling face and with open arms. I will be happy
If I could inspire even one person with my story.
Ganga Prem Hospice played and is still playing
an important role. Its a non-profit organization
for cancer patients. So when I was going all through
this, one of my dads friends told us about
GPH and about Dr. AK Dewan. When my uncle told
my dad about GPH, I was like, I dont
want to go to any other hospital now, Im
fed up of listening to many people views.
At that time I was very depressed and frustrated
too, but my dad convinced me and told me to go
to GPH once and said, If you dont
feel comfortable dont go again. I
said, Ok. As we were aware that Dr.
Dewan used to visit GPH every last Sunday of a
month, we planned for the upcoming last Sunday
to meet him.
As I reached there, I saw
many more patients sitting. There were some volunteers
doing their work, but as I was sitting there waiting
for my number I noticed how each team member is
dedicated. They were not only helping the patients
medically but emotionally and financially too,
I was touched by seeing all this. I met Dr Dewan,
he was so polite and answered all my queries.
After meeting him and visiting GPH, I realized
I did right by coming here because when you take
the treatment from other hospitals, they provide
you all the medical facilities and without any
concern they will charge for the work, but they
never treat you politely, they never understand
the condition of the patient or family member.
But GPH gave me everything, medically and emotionally,
and not only me, they also helped my family to
be strong, because they understand the pain of
a patient and of family members too.
I would like to thank each
member of Ganga Prem Hospice especially Nani ma,
Dr. Dewan, Dr. Aditi, nurse Sicily, Steven, Dunia,
Menakshi maam and Jamuna ji. Some of the names
I dont remember but I am really lucky to
be a part of GPH. God bless you all. You all are
doing a great job.