It had been a 13-hour bus journey from Delhi to McLeodgunj, but Pravesh was a man on a mission. He had an appointment at Tibetan Clinic at 9 am. To make sure that he didn’t miss his turn, he queued up outside the clinic from 8 am.
In a heartfelt interview with Chirantan, Pravesh opens up about how his wife being detected with cancer tore their world apart and how his family helped them piece their lives together and find their way through the tough times.
Below are excerpts from an interview in Hindi with Pravesh.
Pravesh K, 32 years, IT Professional, Delhi
Interviewed by Chirantan Shah
Why did you decide to give us an interview on family?
I believe that I now have a good understanding of what ‘family’ means and its importance in a person’s life.
Let us begin by talking about your family…
I am from Meerut in UP. We belong to a village close to Meerut — Umarpur Hisoda, Khatauli district. My brother works in Rohtak while I live in Ghaziabad. My mother always complains that we have such a big house in the village and the kids live in small flats in cities.
My father was into agriculture. With him aging, we have outsourced the work. My wife is from Meerut; ours is a love marriage. We did our MCA together in Meerut. For the past four-five years, I have been working here. My child will be one year old soon.
Take us through your journey over the past one year.
My wife was working earlier, but she left her job during her pregnancy. She was diagnosed with cancer last August.
When did you get to know about the cancer?
Fifteen days after the child was born. I can’t tell you how this impacted us back then. I wasn’t able to sleep in the nights. Initially I hadn’t informed my family. Only my wife and I knew. The day this was detected, the doctor asked us if he could be honest with us. He told us that it wasn’t incurable, and asked us to first stop wondering why this had happened to us. This happens to a lot of people. Of course, it is fatal, but the disease’s reputation scares the life out of people, even if there is a cure.
I knew my wife is much stronger than me. At the time of delivery, we had to eventually resort to Cesarean, but even witnessing the pain that she had to go through then, scared me.
Were there symptoms of the disease when she was pregnant?
No. That was the problem. Initially there was no pain, which could serve as an indicator. There was just a swelling. We thought it was just a cyst and we would get it removed. No one in our family has had cancer, which is why we never suspected it. In fact, I would go on to say that we as humans keep telling ourselves that no, it can’t be cancer, even if there are symptoms. It is because we don’t want to face such an eventuality.
The way I look at it now has changed. Now I tell people that even if there is the smallest of suspicion, just go to the doctor and get it checked. There is no point in making a hypothesis yourself. The more you put this off, the more you are worsening it.
When my wife got to know about it, she put on a very brave face. Of course, she would have been feeling terrible about it.
There were a total of eight rounds of chemotherapy, with three visits to the hospital for each round. After four rounds of the treatment however, the results were not as good as expected. At that time the doctors said that we needed to switch to a stronger medicine. The new medicine was very painful. Once it passed through the veins, they would get blocked and become black. She used to wince at the smallest of touches. It was that painful and unbearable.
As a solution, the doctors inserted this thing called dripline – it was a thin long tube, and the medicine got delivered through it instead of the veins. That was a relief.
When did you inform the family?
We told this to them slowly. We initially told them that it was some disease that didn’t have a treatment in Meerut, so we would have to go to Delhi. It is not that they didn’t know about it, they understood from the way we talked. But until chemotherapy finally began, we didn’t tell them that it was cancer.
I didn’t want my family to worry about it because my father is a heart patient (he has a stent inserted in his heart), and my mother also doesn’t keep all that well.
How did your family help you through this?
This was a very difficult time. Apart from the pain that my wife had to go through, we were not able to take care of our child. At that time my sister-in-law would come from Rohtak and stay with us to take care of the child.
She left her job as a teacher in a private school and stayed with us to take care of our child for 4-5 months.
My brother would take care of their son — get up early, prepare the breakfast, get him ready, do the drop and pickup from school – while still doing his job. They sacrificed their personal lives, compromised on their son’s education for 4-5 months for us. This is when I realized how important family is. Now we have completed a year since the detection. In June, the eighth (final) round of chemotherapy got completed. Throughout the past year, every person in the family has always been around helping us with every little thing.
Her family too is as supportive. Take for instance, my coming here today to purchase the second round of Tibetan herbal medicines (it’s a parallel herbal treatment that his wife is undergoing along with the Chemotherapy). My wife called up her father, who has come to stay with her for three days. Similarly, her mother who is a teacher, keeps coming and staying with us.
So has this incident brought you closer to your family?
It is not that I was not attached to my family before, but this incident really brought us very close.
I wonder – if family is not there, what will a person do? How would a nuclear family cope in case anything happens? You fall sick, nobody is going to help you other than your family. If you tell your family members, they will leave their work and come to help you. Distant relatives and friends will do it once in a while, but they have their own lives and families. They can’t keep doing it.
I feel that if a person doesn’t have a family, or is cut from his family, then that person’s life is purposeless, filled with complications. If you are ignoring your parents, then you shouldn’t have any qualms against your children doing the same to you, because that’s the treatment they have seen you meting out to your parents.
You can live a tension-free life if your family has your back.
I always make sure that I am always available, doing things for my family. I dream that one day my family would come and stay with me in the city and I would provide them all the facilities.
What else do you wish for in the future?
It’s been only three years since our wedding and we have to see the world. I have been to the US twice, the last time I went with my wife – we stayed there for three months. I keep telling her that in our bad times, let us remember the good times. It’s a cycle.
It is important we don’t get demotivated. We will get back to enjoying our life eventually! That’s what drives us.
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
I have had a love marriage – love is what motivates you to live. There is someone for whom you care, and someone who cares for you. And it is not give or take. It’s a feeling that makes you give 100% in a relationship. It is not just for your partner, but your family and friends too.