New York, Wednesday April 21
Monday was the first day of my father's chemotherapy. He is going to be
treated from now on with a combination of radiation therapy and "anticancer"drugs
by injection. Using a needle and syringe. I shudder just thinking about
Contrary to all my worries, on the first day, he came out seemingly fine.But
by today he looked as green as grass which is how I feel on the inside.
The anti-nausea drugs have been effective so far but make him drowsy than
ever. It is so hard for me to see him this lethargic.
We are spending more time than ever at the hospital. I don't know if
I have told you already about our little community of habitués at
the cancer wing of Mount Vernon General. Well, these are the loved ones
of the patients on the 7th floor: They are grandparents, children, mothers,
uncles, lovers, and friends. They have become familiar faces over the past
few weeks as we have all gotten to know each other, at least on a superficial
level... chit-chat by the coffee-machine, a nod of the head in the elevator,
a furtive glance and smile in the waiting room or cafeteria. Haven't had
the courage to actually go up to someone though, to delve very deep into
their personal tragedies. Nothing more than a "So, you are here for..."
The answer varies: ".....my brother....chain smoker... he has lung
cancer" or "my mom... she was just diagnosed with breast cancer..."
But Elia is different. Elia touched me from the start. Maybe it's because
he reminds me of my dad, and he acts fatherly to me, especially these days.
His daughter Tina, a teenager, has been an inpatient at the hospital for
a while. She has leukemia. Elia, a deeply religious man, is very serene.
It is not that he is hopeful, it is that his faith hasn't let himself sink
into despair. There is a big difference. I haven't met Tina, I have been
afraid to ask, because she might resent the intrusion on her privacy. But
I have seen her pictures in Elia's wallet: She has her father's warm chestnut
eyes, and matching wavy hair. Her mother died giving birth and Elia has
raised her by himself.
Sometimes, Elia and I go sit in the hospital chapel and we sit and pray
together. This is so weird for me because I have never been a religious
person. In fact I have always rather been disdainful of organized religion.
But the chapel at the hospital has nothing to do with the name you give
to your God. It's just a place, a little dim room with benches, where you
can get away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital's daily routine,
and just compose yourself. Now, more than ever, I like to open the door
of that little room and have Elia's warm eyes greet me.
Sunday April 25
BAbA complains of his throat feeling very painful and his mouth is always
dry. He has started to reject all solid foods so mAmAn and I have to provide
him with food made into liquid. I just caught my mom crying over a pot of
soup she was stewing on the stove.
Tuesday April 27
BAbA's shoulders and the tops of his arms have started to really hurt and
become quite stiff. The radio therapist said that he must have pulled a
muscle. I said I didn't think he had.
He is also experiencing tingling in his hands and feet. It seemed to
happen every time he slightly lowers his head. This posture also makes him
feel sick and light-headed. When I told the therapist again, she said it
was the radio therapy which had damaged nerves in bAbA's neck.
Thursday April 29
My father's skin rashes, which were only slightly red patches on his arms
when he was undergoing radiation only, have started to develop into full-blown
irritation and blisters. I have just finished putting cold compresses on
his shoulders, neck and back. It seems the swelling in his neck has gone
down a little but the doctor has warned me these types of side-effects are
not always indicative of progress in his treatment.
Saturday April 31
Clumps of hair on the bed sheets... My father has lost the few strands of
hair he had left on his head. Every day, his weight seems to be dropping,
his eyes move further back into their sockets. I close my eyes and remember
saying goodbye to my grandfather in the hospital room.
Monday May 2
I am shaking as I am writing this. We are in the hospital's emergency wing.
A few minutes ago, we found bAbA unconscious on the tile floor of his bathroom.
He had fainted. Thank god he regained his senses in the ambulance and I
was able to look at him and smile at him.
My father is now too sick to risk traveling back and forth to the hospital.We
have to admit him.