I Met Carol This Valentine’s Day
Whoever said Life is dull, should take a slice off mine.
At the very moment I sink comfortably into bliss, down zips a bolt of lightning that rips my soul apart. No sooner than I shake my fists at the Heavens, out pours a ray of blazing sunlight, dazzling enough to warm my bleeding soul.
Having wizened up to the pattern of Life’s Cosmic Joke played on me time and again, I have developed a quirky sense of humour. Much to the confusion of those around me, l have learnt to laugh when I have to cry and weep when I’m happy. That’s going to be the next emotion anyway, I argue with myself. Although I must admit family and friends feel nervous around me because of my strange behaviour, I simply love myself for being smart enough to be forewarned and therefore forearmed.
Thus it was on January 23 this year when I decided to take off from work on a relaxing trip to Pune to meet my Mom and sister. The sheer thought of taking a vacation to bond over childhood memories made me sigh with anticipation. That night I packed excitedly and booked a cab to pick me up next morning.
Preparations done, I tucked in comfortably for the night, but not before sending a conspiratorial wink to the Heavens above. “Come on, don’t spoil it for me this time” I grinned.
Sure enough, the answer came in a dream that night. I was climbing up several storeys of an unspecified building and was trembling at the frightening images I saw. My fears peaked when, on the top floor, the lights went out and I discovered I was all alone. Suddenly, I felt a tall and dignified man standing near me. Relieved, I put my head on his chest, embarrassed at what he must think of an unknown woman clutching on to him desperately. But you know what? He put his arm around me so lovingly that I felt instantly comforted and reassured. The message that I got from him at the moment woke me up with a start. I must go to a certain hospital for a check up of a certain part of my body.
Did I ignore the instruction? How could I? Having told my loved ones about my change of plan that day, I rushed off to the hospital in question, to the tune of their pooh poohs about my superstitions.
The days ahead seem frozen in my mind like a stalactite–other-worldly, mysteriously patterned and frozen in time. I finally caught my breath on February 14th when I found myself waking up after an anaesthesia -induced sleep. A tsunami of emotions washed over me–rage, helplessness, frustration. How could I of all the people, who neither smoked, nor drank, nor did drugs have got this on a cherished body part? My lifestyle had been healthy–a bit too healthy. I had confused even the docs. Any family history? None. Did you marry late? 19. Did you not give birth to children? Two. Did you breast feed them? A year each. They scratched their heads and said–Oh. A freak case then.
Ha! I thought, buffeting on every negative emotion the Universe has ever produced! How could I have got Cancer?
That’s when I met her.
She suddenly reared her pretty head inside of me and said, “Hey Neelam! Come hold my hand!”
Instinctively, I sighed with relief as I recognised my spirited friend. Yes, she had always been with me right through Life’s tortuous journey. She had taken me by the hand and showed me how to walk the rough path ahead the day my young husband had died suddenly in 1993. She had taken me by the hand and told me–35 is not too young, Come on! You CAN look after yourself all alone And puhleeeze– Don’t put on those garbs of white to show you are a poor young widow and therefore need sympathy!
She had given me the courage to bring up my son and daughter single- handedly–right through their braces’ fittings to their teenage tantrums to their Parents’ Day events where I appeared all alone. But I was there for them, unlike many kids who had two parents, but one of them was too busy to attend.
Once again I grabbed her strong hand and said, “Ok. This is yet another challenge, but we shall handle it once again. Together. With a lot of dignity and spunk.”
She was eveeything I was not–golden haired, brimming with laughter, courage and compassion. To me she was soft as the night breeze and strong as the righing of bells when the situation demanded it. During my difficult road to recovery, she would always be there. All I needed to do was tap into her positivity and get the bells ringing. So Life was going to be fun, after all, I smiled. She was my alter ego; only I had not given her a name.
What better name than Joyous Carol? Who said Valentine’s Day is only for lovers? It’s also for someone you love.
Renewed and rejuvenated I said, “I’m never going to say,”Why Me?” Instead, I’ll say, “Try Me!” And she shook her lovely curls and laughed delightfully.
That’s how I met Carol on Valentines’ Day.
P.S.–Friends, it took me a lot of courage to admit to having Cancer and write about it in my Blog. But I know my courage will be rewarded through your love for me.