Stories about cancer

Let’s have a cup of chai together, India

It is a truth acknowledged in the subcontinent that no meeting is complete without a cup of chai (tea). The freshly brewed combination of masalas, cardamom or a frothy cup of doodh pati touches the tip of the tongue, instantly refreshing one’s mind. Some have even argued that chai purifies their souls. We all certainly love our tea!  The addiction is tremendously mind-blowing, in its literal sense, and on a serious note, I often think Pakistani and Indians need a tea rehabilitation centre. When have you last visited a household where you weren’t offered chai? The alternative options are, of course, thanda (cold drink) or pani (water), but the fervour of making fresh chai for the guests is ...

Read Full Post

The dark side of fairness products

It starts with a dark-skinned girl (of course painted with black foundation or something). The girl is depressed and feels hopeless because she can’t achieve anything. Why? Because she has a dark complexion. Then, out of nowhere, this extremely beautiful fair-skinned girl shows up and offers her the magic formula that will transform her life. She applies the magic formula and voila! She turns into a beautiful girl with snow white skin and suddenly achieves everything in life; she becomes successful, gets a dream job and boys suddenly seem interested in her too! In a nutshell, the message that you get ...

Read Full Post

More than just cancer

I stared at him, not being able to comprehend what he had just said. Had I heard correctly? Was he really saying what I had just heard? Did those words really come out of his mouth? Tears started welling up in my eyes and my hands started trembling. I felt as if the whole world had just come to a halt. I looked at the person sitting next to me, equally astonished. What is this? My doctor had just told me that I had stage three cancer and that I would require surgery urgently to stop the cancer from spreading even further in my body. I just could not accept ...

Read Full Post

#WearThatYouCare: Put on those blue denims and support Rare Disease Day today!

My mother passed away exactly seven years ago. She had Huntington’s chorea which she fought for 15 years and it eventually took over her ability to talk, walk, speak and breathe. Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline. The disorder affects the brain and eventually damages mental and motor function and control. The word ‘chorea’ is a Greek word meaning dance since quick movements of the feet or hands are comparable to dancing. Disorders such as these are genetic which means that the patient’s offsprings have a 50% chance of inheriting them. For children of ...

Read Full Post

Plans never work out… especially when you get cancer

My life was going according to plan; everything was going well. I had passed my first year of pre-medical with marks good enough to get me into a medical college and now my second year was almost over. My father is a doctor as well and I have always looked up to him. He has always been my idol. The doctor genes run in the family; my sister is also on her way to becoming a doctor from King Edward Medical University (KEMU), one of the most prestigious medical colleges in Pakistan. Because of the gene pool, I aspired to be a doctor as ...

Read Full Post

Ladies, it is not ‘cool’ or ’empowering’ to smoke

I still remember how my brothers would deftly hide their cigarettes when ammi or abba entered the room. Those were the best and worst of times – times of unawareness and lightheartedness, when I’d sit for hours in a smoke-filled room with my brothers – chatting and laughing over senseless things like one only can with siblings. All that while, I was inhaling 250 toxins and carcinogens, quite unsuspectingly. I didn’t know any better and neither did my siblings. We were secure in our belief that we, the girls, were not smoking actively. Fast-forward life. As a teenager, I started interning at a magazine and this is ...

Read Full Post

My visit to Aga Khan Hospital’s cancer ward

“The cells found are malignant and you are likely to have cancer.” On a visit to Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), a 43-year-old woman suffering from lymphoma cancer, told me that her first thoughts upon hearing these words were about chemotherapy. This was not surprising. Most cancer patients fear chemotherapy more than the disease itself. In fact, cancer patients absolutely dread the days scheduled for their chemo sessions. Chemotherapy and the will to survive The simplest and crudest definition of chemotherapy is poisoning an individual’s body with drugs that wipe out the malignant cancer cells while simultaneously re-producing healthy cells in the procedure. The ...

Read Full Post

Living with terrorism and the five stages of grief

The most dreaded words ever to be uttered by a physician are perhaps, “You have cancer.” These three words often mean the death sentence for many; the beginning of the end. Although every physician tries to make this announcement in the most compassionate way, it is also important not to confuse the patient by giving them false hope. This is because the initial step towards the long and arduous road to recovery is first recognizing the severity and nature of the disease. Only after that can possible treatment options be discussed including their risks, benefits and approximate rates of cure. Although it ...

Read Full Post

My mother’s last words to me

I wrote this a few days after my mother passed away today on October 2, 1989. I have carried it with me since not knowing if what I wrote was meant only for me.  As the memories of that night flood me again, I feel that the heaviness of carrying it for so long has made me weak. I also don’t know when I might join her (and my dad), and this true story will go down with me. I suppose by sharing this with you I can tell you what a fine woman she was and how all she ...

Read Full Post

At government hospitals, life is cheap

It is almost impossible to change the fate of those little children who depend on government hospitals to save their lives. Recently, I visited several hospitals in Karachi and the condition of those hospitals and the quality of the care provided to the children was disgraceful. The poor health system prevailing in Jinnah Hospital, especially, made my heart sink. There was no electricity and to my horror, a large number of insects and cats were roaming about in the wards aimlessly. The terrible stench from the toilets could be smelled till the far ends of the corridor, and to think that this is a hospital where cleanliness ...

Read Full Post