Thursday, 31 March 2011

The elephant in the room

My hair has started falling.  Not in clumps, but individually.  My bathtub drain got clogged.  That's how I knew. The more I run my fingers through my hair, the more it comes out.  It's finally happening, people.  Hair loss.

Thursdays seem to be the day chemo effects manifest themselves the most.  I am utterly drained tonight.  My legs weigh a ton each. It feels like I am moving in slow motion, like in those bad 80s movies!

The above was from Planet Cancer.  Back on earth, my brain is preoccupied with something else. 

A preoccupation.  What's a preoccupation?

How do you snap out of it?  When do you know you've been mulling over it long enough and you need now to let it go?  What should you do to float back to your normal self? Is it even possible to do such a thing?

Some smart people have made a pile of dough answering the above.  But my point is not in finding an answer. 

I say...sometimes a preoccupation needs a status.  It needs to be acknowledged as the elephant in the room and saluted. 

Now, no one wants an elephant-size preoccupation.  Unfortunately, some preoccupations come in that size.  If they do, you really can't mess too much with it. 

I say...the best thing to do then is to leave the elephant-size preoccupation in the room and go find yourself a little corner where you can scream your guts out and howl like a wounded animal.  You will feel wasted, silly and you may be drenched in your own tears and snot.  But then, you'll wipe all that off and walk right back to the elephant and again salute it.

Because, you see, at the end of the've won.  You are the intelligent human....the elephant is just an animal with big ears and lots of fat.  Humans don't do elephants.  They leave them alone.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Laughing like a mad cow

Is there an expression "laughing like a mad cow"?  If there is, I qualified for it today.  And if there isn't, I hereby proclaim that I laughed like a mad cow today.

In fact the past few days have seen me laughing like a mad cow (Alhamdulillah).  I really don't know why.  And let me tell you, it feels good.

Earlier in the day, my boss remarked that I looked good and that he had more of a drawn face than I did.  It's not only him that noticed that.  I did to. 

Nowadays when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a person with reasonably good skin, eyes a bit dreamy, hair a mess and greying rapidly (but still there!), and wrinkles in the usual places.  I don't see the stress lines between my brows or the hollow cheeks that I once had.

I may feel tired, heavy, bloated, brainless, etc, but somehow I am not stressed.  Alhamdulillah.  The past few days I have bothered neither about my past not fretted over my future nor lamented over my present situation. 

The result is I breeze through the minutes and hours by simply...being.  As if I am on cruise control.

Mrs G Donat (may her soul rest in peace), my English teacher, once told us (then impressionable 16 yr olds) that there comes a time in a person's life when one can admit to the mistakes one made in the past and apologise for them.  This phase usually comes late in life, when one stops caring about what others would think or say. More importantly, one is able to talk about the mistakes openly and even laugh about them.

Needless to say, her wise words fell on deaf ears then..but now, they ring so true.

I can now laugh at myself, have others laugh at me (and laugh along with them, loudly and heartily) and laugh at others too...why? simply because I know in my bones now that this life is magical, mystical, mythical.  What's an ego next to that? Nothing.

So you'll excuse me if I suddenly crack up in an important meeting or start laughing in the middle of anything.  I need to laugh like a mad cow.  I have so many years to catch up on!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Yo! Yoga

I did yoga today.  What fun! Not because it was all relaxing, improved my breathing or helped balance my yin and yang, etc. Sure, it was all that and even more.

But really, I had fun because throughout all the stretches and chin-meet-knee attempts, I kept remembering a time when I was actually doing all this with much much much more ease than today....only thing it was called a PE class then (PE as in Physical Exercise).

That was when I was 14/15.  Now I am 35 and my body knows it.  It told me so.  It stubbornly refused to bend forward, backward or sideways.  But when came the time to relax on the back, it felt at home.

Ahhhhh...sometimes all you need in life is some yoga under the hum of an AC vent and a few stray memories of good ol' days :)

Yo! Yoga.  Me like you mucho mucho.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Patient v/s Bearer Hell

There is a new member in my Cancer Club.  She is the daughter of a friend: 20+ female, married, brain cancer 6 years ago, clean the past 5 years, back with cancer this year (hopefully not for long).

And it occured to me that, a disease (any disease in fact), creates 2 categories of persons: in one category, there is a single soul known as the patient and in the other, there is a little army of souls which I will call the bearers. 

Now, being a patient is not exactly fun. You suffer physically or emotionally or sometimes both in your body and in your mind/soul at the same time.  Depending on how sick you are, you can vaccillate between being the sweetest thing on earth to the worst living breathing monster that even Hollywood has not yet created!  As a patient, there is often not much you can do, except to be a patient patient.  That can be hell!

So, sometimes, to cope in those moments of hitting the pits of hell, you claw at yourself and at others. But since you are the patient, you are forgiven all the blood that was shed and loved and even encouraged to claw some more if that helps in making you feel better!.  You end up feeling quite kingly/queenly....though still in hell.

Now, the other folks (the bearers) are not in an enviable position either.  They are unfortunately the ones that bear the sickness that you are experiencing. 

Once a disease hits the patient, the bearers prepare for war.  They go out to fight the monster eating you in every possible way imaginable.  Family and friends rally behind you.  They root for you.  They put aside their own lives for your life.  They will miss meals, forgo sleep, take leave from work, call you every night to check on you and generally put up with all your whims and caprices, just so you can feel better.  They will be your chauffeur, your personal shopper, your cook, your maid, your nurse, your slave, anything you want them to be.  And they do it selflessly, lovingly, willingly.  Even obsessively.

All this is beautiful you may say.  But the tough part is, bearers have their own versions of hell.  When you watch your loved one whimper with pain, see their dreams being snatched from them, witness their lives being written in months instead of years, it can be the most helpless feeling a human being experiences.  And that is hell too.

My bearers are Alhamdulillah many and have done some amazing feats :).

From accompanying me to a series of doctors to clasping my hand and crying with me and for me when the bad news hit, from hugging me tightly to providing me with their children for comfort/laughter, from paying my bills to talking long hours with me at night so I don't freak out, from holding my drip bottle while I pee at the clinic to googling headcovers for me...I could go on and on.

The thing is any patient needs that little army.  One person is simply not enough.  Taking care of a sick loved one is not only hard, it is also a rather complicated business.  The trick is to know your role in the army and execute it.  For instance, in my case, my father is the designated driver, my mom is the priamry nurse, my sister (the funny bone in the family) provides the laughter, my other sister provides the reality check, my friends provide the right dose of socialising/entertaining, etc etc.

So all in all, we're all in some form of hell...we journey to it pretty much against our wills but if we're lucky enough to be given a return ticket, the journey back can be smooth and even pleasant with some well organised division of labour from the bearers and a bit of patience from the patient.

The rest will take care of itself.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Cancer Club

I brought down the epilator from the shelf today. I had to.  My legs were making me feel too much like a monkey for my wellbeing.

Epilating made me realise that I may have one week? or maybe two of looking myself before the mirror starts showing me someone else.  The hairs were attached but not by much.  They came out so fast, it was actually startling.

On a positive note, it seems like MBC knows I am in need of pumping music.  The new channel ZOOM provides almost day long Bollywood club music.  Well, since I am not jiggying anymore (no energy), I watch the songs and moves from my couch until I develop a headache.  I now realise that my surprisingly good energy level day after chemo was probably due to the steroids I was taking then.  Now, just taking a shower can see me feet up for the next hour.

Since getting on this journey, I've met or heard of a few people with cancer that often occupy my thoughts.  So to keep track, I decided to create a cancer club.  Membership to the club is open to all those who have had their own cells turn deadly on them.   

Let me introduce you to my cancer club.  Meet:

Shafeenaaz (Chairwoman) - 35 yrs old, female, single, no children, breast cancer. Writes to remember.
OJM - 40+ female, married, cervical cancer. Exuberant character with a good heart. 
EL - 40+ female, married, breast cancer. Tackled chemo prepared like a warrior.
Brigitte - 38ish female, breast cancer. Chatterbox. The right person to while away an hour's wait at the hospital.
Laura: 23 yrs old, female, leukemia did not kill her at 17.  Now married and awaiting a baby. Hope beyond compare. 
Amy: 40 yrs old, female, breast cancer.  Blogger and Vlogger.  Never met her but I read her entries religiously every day. 
Eric: 30+ yrs old male, cancer of the intestine.  Married. Father of two.  Never met him. His story squeezes my heart.
Mr. B's mom-in-law: 62 yrs old female.  Mastectomy due shortly.  I don't personally know her but I pain for Mr. B.
Khala Zaida: 50+ yrs old female, mother and grandmother.  Cervical cancer.  A dedicated worker who makes great parathas.

I know the membership will increase as I progress on this journey.  It's not a bad thing actually.  If anything, us club members, we are special.  We have something that others don't.  We may look similar to you, but really we are different.  We have our own language: cancerish.  We walk in the normal world while living on planet cancer (Amy's discovery).  We are double agents :)  

With that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby declare the Cancer Club open!

Back on


Is it for keeps this time?

Decision time

Decision time

by Shafeenaaz  on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 9:27pm
Once upon a time, I thought I'd write a novel.  I must have been around 16 then.  I remember writing a few pages of a script which I hid in my cupboard out of fear that anyone would read it.  I did not make much progress on it afterwards.  School and tuitions took up my time so well that I did not feel compelled to pursue that idea.
My second attempt at writing was semi public...on but anonymous....those I knew and wanted in were let in on the existence of the blog and granted exclusive access.  The writing was not fiction.  It was my life the United States.  Quite detailed.  Romance going on full swing. Dreams galore.
Between then and now, I've written to one person mostly.  Via email.  Again detailed. Concentrated. Exhausting.  Unfortunately futile.
Writing on FB now is for record keeping.  For release. For fun. For crying differently also.
I wonder if FB is the right place's a bit too exposed for my taste and not very word friendly and versatile.  Is writing on FB good? Bad? Neither? I don't know.
There are a few things I need to write about and somehow FB seems the wrong place for it.  Maybe it's time I take my thoughts somewhere else...someplace less visible, more secret.
It's decision time. Almost.

One beautiful moment in time

One beautiful moment in time

by Shafeenaaz on Friday, March 25, 2011 at 9:45pm
If you take a walk on La Rue Chaussee in Port Louis these days, your senses are in for a treat. 
A photographer has captured on lens some stills of Mauritius that are simply breathtaking and blown them up size-wise and pasted it on one of the busiest streets of the capital.
The result? You slow your pace to savour the pictures and occasionally you stop to stare.  I did that this morning on the way to work and again in the afternoon on my way back from work.
One of the pictures is of a solitary old man dressed in a white shalwar kameez to match his white long beard, sat on his knees in Jummah masjid, feet perfectly crossed at the back, shoulders hunched forward, head bowed and with a prayer bead in hand.  A picture of humility and grace.
If I was stunned by this picture in the morning, in the evening I was blessed to see the man himself staring at his portrait on the street.  I stopped to ask him if he was the man in the picture and he said yes.  I must have mumbled some kind of compliment and salutation and was moving on when he said to me "Prier ki mo emaan rester jusq'au dernier moment" (Translation: Pray that my faith in God stays with me till the last moment).  To which I replied Insha Allah (God Willing).
Walking on, I thought what a perfect prayer that is.  The old man surely knows the value of faith at that final moment more than I do.  And it occured to me that we live our lives mostly praying for this life, but what about that final moment?  When death closes in, when confusion sets in?
To have faith in that twiight zone is a cornerstone of Islam.  So I too pray.  My Lord, please let my faith stay with me at that last moment.  And let that old man keep his too at his time.
The photograph next to the one I mentioned above was the portrait of a man with his eyes closed and tongue pierced from one side to the other by a miniature metal spear for Cavadee (a Hindu ceremony).  That one had me staring too. There was not a single frown or a stray wrinkle that could have betrayed pain or suffering on his face.  The man was perfectly calm. At peace.  A kind of peace probably only he knows.  It was arresting.
Each of the photographs on the street told its own story.  Each beautiful. Each real and living.
My country is beautiful and my people showcase that beauty. Go see it if you haven't.  You'll be blown away.
PS:  Please someone help me with the photographer's name.  My mind is woefully blank tonight.

Dear Breast, please hang in there

Dear Breast, please hang in there

by Shafeenaaz on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 11:05pm

Dear Breast,

I have been meaning to write to you for some time but then thought I'd give us both some space for a while with the hope that this little tissue issue between us will magically disappear one fine day.

We both know that our relationship has been on rocky grounds snce January and it is even now quite precarious.  However, since communication, mutual support, understanding, yada yada yada in any relationship is so important (so am told by the experts), I decided to write you this letter to get a few things out in the open.

See, I am quite annoyed with you lately.  Here are the reasons:

  • You keep being messy in spite of all my attempts at cleaning after you;
  • Because of you, I am unable to stand straight under a shower.  I have been dodging to keep water off you for over 5 weeks now.  It's getting tiring!
  • I am unable to hold Rayyaan close to my heart because you cannot tolerate close contact!  You complain that the pressure hurts. Now tell me, where I am going to get my supply of love from?
  • I am unable to get that massage with "Heart" because lying on my stomach is presently impossible!  I made a promise to her and since you are not cooperating, I cannot honour that promise.  It's making me look bad!  I don't like that.
  • Because of you, I've undergone anasthesia twice, I have already spent a small fortune on doctors and clinics, I will go bald, my good cells are being killed, my brain is being messed with, my mouth waters unpleasantly, my patience is being severely tested, etc etc!  Need I go on some more here?

I know things have been tough for you lately.  I fully realise that you've gone from being invisible and sexy, to being labelled cancerous, poked, cut and manhandled as just some piece of fat (which you technically are BTW).  I know it's not easy to live all one's life being gently managed and kept under wraps to suddenly being thrust upon the eyes and hands of unknown strangers and have THEM decide that there is a problem with you.  You used to be dabbed in perfume and creams and now your daily lot is a round of betadine/fucidin/gentiane/arnica. To top it off you have lately been converted into a pouch for some piece of carbon and silver wrapped in gauze!   And now you live with the possibility of more sewing even though you've had stitches twice already!  It sucks. I totally understand. I'd be pissed too if I were you.

So it seems our complaints are equally valid, equally long and equally painful.

But really, I need you to make an effort here and just shut up.

See, there's plenty for us to look forward to once we get over this rough patch....I promise you, I'll take you walking by the sea (we'll even have a dip together), we can hug each other and others, and generally get on with life.  I'm even planning on taking you to Qatar to see the sunshine boys one of these days IA.

So please Booby, let's give this marriage another chance.  Just make an effort.

Yours with love,
The rest of me.

PS: I wanted to tell you that in spite of everything, I love you. I love you dearly.  I am glad you are still here. I am glad you stayed. And I will keep loving you, scars and all.  Just hang in there (no pun intended here!  Don't be offended please!).

Keeping records

Keeping records

by Shafeenaaz on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 10:09pm
 For the record:
Tuesday 22/03/2011:  Work + Mr. B + Meema's place + quality time with R + monis before sleep.  Life was an absolute peach.
Wednesday 23/03/11: Work + Meema's place + BAM! The worst weakness bout since chemo+ headache. Did not realise my body weighed so much....felt in need of a forklift!
Thursday 24/03/11: Work + Millefeuille & Coffee with Mr. Zen (ex-boss).  Fantastic hour.  Dear God, please make more of him for this world.

Oh Well

Oh Well

by Shafeenaaz on Monday, March 21, 2011 at 7:01pm
Delights of the past 24 hrs:

  • Excellent dark humour from 7 Khoon Maaf;
  • Wearing my contact lenses;
  • Juicy mandarines;
  • Smiles (to and from all);
  • A loofa shower;
  • Walking.

Times when I need a husband the  most:
  • To drive me to and from work (No, I don't want a chauffeur or to carpool etc.  I dislike driving);
  • To do my taxes;
  • To listen to me when I am in this mood (re: whining mood);
  • To scratch my back (my left arm does not quite make it to certain spots anymore).

Oh well!

Pickled Love

Pickled Love

by Shafeenaaz on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 1:41pm

The title of this post has been lifted from my previous blog (now dead and buried) but goes along the same lines as what I was experiencing in 2005.

Yes, love, like mangoes and apples and other good stuff, can be pickled.  You make pickles in times of plenty for the days of scarcity.

I pickled some love yesterday....while my 2 sisters kept me company and a princess and 2 men in the making played nearby.  I pickled some for the times when I will sit alone in this lounge and stare at the circles on my carpet.

I had been feeling pretty run down Friday and Saturday.  My body felt laden, my mouth...hard to describe, but just not right.  So when last evening my TV proposed Tomorrow Never Dies, I gladly accepted it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  But seriously, Pierce Brosnan should be fined for being so's just not normal.

This morning I woke up feeling more myself.  I had more energy than the past 2 brain was less foggy and my body less locked.  I went for a shower and then the weakness hit me like a wave.  I plopped down on the couch again!

Lots of words roaming the deserts of my mind....I need to write about writing, load shedding and fruits :)

PS:  I have a new ritual.  I check my pillowcase first thing every morning now, looking for evidence of hair loss.  When will my body pull that one on me?

A Shakespearean Play

A Shakespearean Play

by Shafeenaaz on Friday, March 18, 2011 at 3:27pm

Amy at talks about doctor disillusionment.  Sure, it can be frustrating talking to a doctor who is not on the same bandwidth as oneself.

I have to say since I've embarked on this Ca journey, I've met quite a few medical professionals, each with his/her own quirks.

If initially I was caught up trying to get several medical opinions on how to go about dealing with my Ca, once a decision was made and I actually embarked on the fun trip, I could relax and look back and oddly enough laugh about my various encounters with these quirky people.  Let me mention a few here.

My diagnosis was done at AB Hospital, in a very sober mood.  The next few days that immediately followed, still in shock, saw "Heart" and I doing a series of doctors visits, each requiring that I bare my chest and lay there calmly while the kind doctors (all male by some twist of fate!) poked and measured and felt around the lump that by then was all that defined my chest!

One of them kind doctors modestly closed his eyes while doing the exam, which totally cracked me up!!! He was the plastic surgeon.  In that traumatic phase of my life, I found myself with the option of not only have him remove my lump but also touch up on the art side of the job too!!!  A very tempting proposal I must say!

Then came the visit with the oncologist.  Now, all my leads had converged onto that one man who is apparently the best qualified onco on this island.  I'll leave aside the medical aspect in this account.  Simply because I had and have no doubts that he is an excellent onco, who would determine the right treatment plan for me.  Suffice it to say that I have NEVER met any human being as blunt as him!  He is as blunt as a razor, very  economical with words and though pleasantly endowed in facial features, a completely unreadable character!

I felt (and still feel) like a tiny creature under a microscope in front of him!  My words get stuck in my throat and my stomach quiver at each meeting with him.  Imagine your first day at a new school....that's how I feel each time I have to see my onco...Believe me, it's me, not him.

Then of course, there is my surgeon.  Now if my onco can give me a case of stage fright, my surgeon can bring out the flirt in me!  He reminds me of the classic bad-boy-turned-good-doctor type!  You cannot help but like him.  You will moan at waiting long hours at his clinic but then forgive him instantly once he shakes your hand and leads you into his office!

This journey would not be fun without all these characters!  My plot is not thickening (as Amy's), but my play is quite Shakespearean so far :)

Walk with me

Walk with me

by Shafeenaaz on Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 5:05pm
I had my first chemptherapy session yesterday.  Alhamdulillah it went well.  The session itself was boring as I waited for the multiple drips to run through my veins, but hey! boring is GOOD :)  I came back home, changed, took my pills and one Fortimel and went to sleep.  Later in the evening, I had some home-cooked food and yummy dried prunes.

All in all, a good day with not many side-effects.  Them side-effects are not worth commenting about here...Let's just say I am counting my blessings.

This morning saw me wanting some I put on some bollywood music videos and danced to Munni Badnaam Hui and other such cheesy stuff (Didn't get to Sheila Ki jawaani...maybe tomorrow!) and then on to walking in the yard.

Which brings me to WALKING.

As I walked, I remembered a time in my life when I lived in Washington DC.  My love affair with walking started there, introduced by MW.  He wooed me through walking :).  We would walk from Van Ness to Cleveland Park for an ice cream and wih time (and with my muscles getting stronger) right past Woodley Park to Dupont Circle for a Starbucks Frappucino and back.  We walked in evenings just before sunset or if it was during the week, after dinner, in total darkness.

We walked near Potomac River, on Columbia Pike in Arlington, and in my last year there in Shirlington Village by the river.  We walked when we were happy, sad, even angry.  We walked to spend time together, to talk, to argue (sometimes).  We walked.

Walking today reminded me of something I had thought long ago and forgotten. My purpose in walking has not been just to take my muscles out for some activity.  My mind usually tags right along and demands some action takes gulps of air with my breaths and flushes out the tension in my limbs.

Yes, I had forgotten that in the most tumultuous moments in my life walking has helped me gain serenity, if not perspective.  It has quelled the panic in me even when my world was being turned upside down in that faraway land.

Walking kept me walking.

Today, I felt the urge to walk....and felt the desire (yes!!!  I finally have a concrete desire) to walk by the sea...The sea is another love story to tell.  With another human in the picture.

I'd love to walk by the sea with you some day my love.  Insha Allah.



by Shafeenaaz on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 12:12am

I actually walked in through the door in a happy mood today.  I was on a mission.  I completeted the maid's work by cleaning the bathroom and hoovering the carpet, then washed my hair, ironed my clothes, packed my picnic bag and went an on errand, all in less then 3 hours!

After dinner I set out on another mission: to reply to as many pending emails, smss, requests etc. as I possibly could.  I was still on a high then and it was only 8 pm.

Then a friend called.  She is a new friend in the sense that she appeared on my scene some 6 months ago when my mom had her bypass surgery.  She was sharing some Ca news.  Not hers, but of her son-in-law.  And I felt something literally drop inside of me...

No. No. No. I was saying inside myself all the while trying to reassure her that all will be well.  We spoke for some 1.5 hours.

Would anyone understand if I said that her Ca news has saddened me more than my own impending chemo?  That this piece of news has left me like a deflated balloon? 

I could sense there will be crushed dreams somewhere. I could feel that the days and months to come would mean hardship for that family, worries of the nail-biting type, insomnia of the paranoic type, smiles of the wan type...I hope to God that I am wrong.

Having any form of cancer is tough but having cancer when you have dreams is even tougher.  It robs you of choices.  It does not kill hope but it puts out the flames of hope, leaving only faint flickers of hope.

Cancer is a scary thing to live with or live through.  Just look in the eyes of cancer "survivors".  I've looked closely in the eyes of one such person lately and while her words were encouragement piled upon encouragement, I saw a fear there, even an understanding that yes, I may have won this round, but we both know who the master is here.

That's why we are never irreverant to our cancers....we may get angry and swear, we dish out profanities,we kick and scream, we cry and we despair but at the end of the day, we submissively let the scalpel cut, shorten, even disfigure and mutilate, we passively lie down for hours welcoming the chemicals in through our veins, we allow the radiation to sizzle through layers of our precious skins.

We submit.  We relinquish. We surrender.

Relatively normal

Relatively normal

by Shafeenaaz on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 12:26am

Shelved and/or shelving:

  1. GHD hair straightener + assortment of hair clips;
  2. Epilator;
  3. Contact lenses;
  4. That part of my brain usually concerned with total independence;
  5. That part of my heart that you still inhabit;
  6. My tastebuds;
  7. Those crazy dreams I have nurtured secretly.

Normal will be a relative word soon.  In fact in many ways, it is already :)

When you start your day later than other people, you develop a penchant for pills and Noni concoctions, your underarm area feels like a big sponge, your conversations are interspersed with references to Kytril, nausea and constipation, your concerns are limited to headcovering and eating voluminous amounts of food, your google searches are less on HRC but more on FEC, your friend takes you out on a fantastic Bouillon Mee Foon lunch to be followed by an errand that feels more like smuggling when it is actually perfectly legal, your nephew is eagerly awaiting that you mutate into a monster, you simply raise your hands to the heavens as your lips are unable to formulate a prayer, your next excitement in life is being bald, you know that the axis of normal has just shifted :)

This is the beginning of the beginning....and the fun has not even started yet!

What's your policy?

What's your policy?

by Shafeenaaz on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 11:54pm

The moment I found out I had cancer, I started SAYING I had cancer.  To myself to start with.  I did say it out loud in the confines of my bedroom a few times...just to get used to the idea.  See, I am the first in the family to have cancer.  Genetically, we tend to favour diabetes, heart diseases, fibroids, back pains, eye problems and such stuff in the family.  It's become bread and butter stuff for us.  But cancer?  That was new to me and mine.

So yes, the Ca word took some adjusting to.  Now, it never occured to me to present my disease as anything else other than what it is.  Neither the type, stage or even the location of it is a mystery to most of my folks.  I am just generous that way....with naked truth.

But as soon as I started informing people, I sensed unease in some quarters....which to this day manifests itself randomly in conversations.

It's quite subtle.  I am sometimes gently advised not to mention it unless specific questions are asked, or to gloss over certain details if the questioning gets too gruelling or to plainly avoid certain people so that the opportunity of it coming up in conversations is evaded altogether!  Kind of a.... don't ask, don't tell policy.

I am fine by all this. I shrugged off the advice.  And decide to decide on the spot what answer to give to any specific question and the questioner.  The people in my circle know me well.  Hence, noone has come close to suggesting that I give a precrafted answer that would go against the truth. 

I've hidden many things over time.  I still hide many things.  My cupboard is full of old (and stinky) skeletons :)  I like it this way with the skeletons that are there.  But this skeleton is not staying in the cupboard.  The entire world is welcome to feast their eyes on this one :)

Funnily enough, I understand that some people feel uncomfortable about others knowing that they or their loved ones have cancer.  This disease is not pleasant on the surface and its innings can be uglier.

So here's the deal.  I'll politely listen to your advice and your perspective on MY Ca.  I don't promise to abide by any of it but in return, I promise not to insist that you choose my policy on this subject.

To each one his own.  Democracy at its best here!

My secret "Heart"

My secret "Heart"

by Shafeenaaz on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 12:33am
I'll regret this tomorrow, I know...I deliberately mess up my sleep patterns with bloghopping and piriton and then complain that I can't sleep!

What to do? I stumbled on a fascinating cancer blog and simply could not stop reading!  Here's the link:

All day long, I have been quite lethargic and uninspired...there were no words knocking against each other in my head that were demanding release unto this space. Well, that was until I spoke to "Heart".

"Heart" is of course right :)  I need to stop reading!  She subtly reminded me of a time in my life when I used to take exams, and very intelligently drew a parallel with my current situation.  That fired up the words in my head!

Gee!!!!  The questions tumbled one after another.  Have I been a good student?  What else is left for me to do???  What's that last minute detail that I must get right in order to win this one??

It's been too long since I sat for any kind of exam...but I do recall how much of a freak I would be before an exam!!!!  I would study hard for months on end.  Right up to the eve of the exam.  The exam day itself would bring out the nerd in me.  I insisted on carrying my notes to school in a last-ditch attempt at revising anything I might have missed! (Uni saw me a little less nerdy and a***-retentive!).

Then I'd sit for a paper.  The combination of rote-learning, daredevilness (yes, I do possess that under my demure exterior!) and adrenaline rush would see me through the paper crunching figures and formulas that have now totally vanished from my memory.

But here's my secret.  Once into a paper, my mind had a unique ability to be on that page and nowhere else.  I repeat, nowhere else.  The hours would fly by, the minutes ticking without me noticing and then...then, a few minutes (maybe 5 to 8 minutes) before the pens-down gong, I put cap my pen and look up.  I had finished what I set out to do.  No revision, no corrections, no checking, no polishing.  Literally, no going-back.

I would sit there and watch the teachers or the other students.  Calmly. Totally composed. My breathing even, my mind crystal clear.  And once I had handed in a paper, I headed home.  Quickly. To food and my bed :)

That technique worked like a charm for me.  It eventually gave me a label.

I now realise that that's a technique etched in my DNA. The initial days after the diagnosis were somewhat like my pre-exam days.   Indeed "Heart", the running around, appointments, learning, googling, understanding, shuffling of ideas and concepts and procedures and implications etc are all a prelude to the test now looming large.

Please my Sweet Allah.  Please let my DNA kick in when it's showtime.

Tsunami alert!

Tsunami alert!

by Shafeenaaz on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 11:01pm

The clip of the mass of mud eating up the paddy fields and all else in Japan was mesmerising! Such destructive power...such helpless souls.

Our Lord, please have mercy on us, for You are the All-Powerful and all that exists in heaven and on earth and in between belongs to You.

My Tsunami alert is on too. I just need to wait for the wave to hit! What it'll be like after the wave recedes, only You know.

Our individual lives are a collection of sporadic tsunamis....I believe the hardest part is not when a giant wave swamps you, but in fact when the tide pulls back and you look at yourself and your surroundings and you can recognise neither.

The in-between trumps the start-finish line each time. Let's see if this belief on mine stands the test this week!

The Crazy Woman

The Crazy Woman

by Shafeenaaz on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 7:34pm
Here's a GREAT read (albeit long!).

The Crazy Woman is a known species.  I am NOT one of them trust me :)  I belong to another category (the Stupid Woman).

As for the other gender, there are many species of them too!  My experience has been mostly with the manipulative species.  Boy!  You'll never know what you're in for until it's too late!

The combination of Manipulative Man and Stupid Woman is a disaster of epic absolute calamity.

Too bad I can't write about that....

Intelligent Conversations

Intelligent Conversations

by Shafeenaaz on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 9:57pm

I said I miss intelligent conversations.  Well, if anyone asked me what I mean by that, I might not be in a position to give a clear answer.

Please DON'T engage me in talks about the crises in the Middle East, gas prices at the pump, corruption in our institutions or the plethora of other worldly topics (which incidentally I am supposed to be well acquainted with!!!) that you may think constitute intelligent conversations.  You'll expose my total ignorance and worse, my complete disregard for such topics!  I will embarrass both you and please refrain.

What I consider intelligent conversation is something quite different.  Let's just say that when an inane topic, discussed intelligently, has the ability to stretch your mind, tickle your brain cells and in the process make your pupils dilate in amazement and then you hold your breath in an Ah hah! moment , then it is worth being called intelligent.  And if you walk away, remembering the texture of the exchange, then it is not just an intelligent conversation but also a true one!

I miss such conversations. I truly do.  Please, my Sweet Lord, please send me some...

Hijab, Hat, Hair.....HEADCOVERS!!!!!

Hijab, Hat, Hair.....HEADCOVERS!!!!!

by Shafeenaaz on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:49pm

 OK, so I will soon be losing my hair.  It's not a probability.  It is a certainty.  How am I feeling about it?  That one deserves a post on its own.

I've been wearing a form of headcover (hijab, hat, hat+bandana, hijab+hat+bandana, etc) for the past month or so.  And I still have not made peace with any form of headcover!

It may be a non-issue for a lot of folks, but for me, it is MAJOR these days!  I spend hours (averaging 1.5 per day!!!!) tying, twisting, folding, pinning, creasing, matching the various combinations of shawls, bandanas, scarves, undercap, hats, etc that I possess just to come up with ...well something like what is on my profile pic!

Why the headcover?  Well, I've always wanted to cover my head.  I knew it had to come at some point.  I just did not know when.  So when Ca struck, it seemed like the most natural thing to do.  Plus, I've never been into wigs or false nails or eyebrows, etc.  Anything engineered to look real when it's actually not puts me off.

Now, I was expecting to take to headcovering like a fish to water....but this is proving more of a challenge than what I had anticipated.  For one, I don't have the luxury of leaving some hair uncovered....I need complete coverage (can't be scaring innocent people with baldness!!!).  Secondly, it is so effing HOT under a hiajb that it takes sheer willpowerfor me not to rip the thing off my head in order to fan my face!

The serious part of this is I cannot claim to be covering my hair for religious least not yet.  IA, someday that feeling will come.  For now, it is a matter of dealing with expected hair loss.

The trouble is I've grown up considering hair as public (as opposed to private).  And like my face, hands, feet, etc, that did not warrant covering.  The past couple of years saw my legs graduate from public to private category.  Sadly, my hair remained firmly in the public category!

So yes, I'm still grappling with body image issues!

To add another H to the title of this post, let's just say I need HELP!

When the monster leaves...

When the monster leaves...

by Shafeenaaz on Monday, March 7, 2011 at 10:07pm
 It rained cats and dogs today.  At some point the incessant rain played a most beautiful melody.  Rain is such a blessing Alhamdulillah.

Not much going on today.  Eat, sleep, cry, think.  Can't tame my mind to read even a few pages of a book.  The monster left me around Asr time.  I talked to my parents.  I felt much better afterwards.

Parents are amazing creatures.  Mine are the best that roam the planet.  May Allah Most High grant them good in this life and in the Hereafter.

Ah yes, I did my eyebrows and had a mini facial.  My hair is growing but I pretend not to  see it.  It'll be gone soon enough.

My skin is quite itchy these days, especially the plaster sites.

Most likely will not go to work tomorrow....somehow this second anaesthesia seems harder to get over.  I hope to feel more human by tomorrow IA.

Fighting the wrong battles

Fighting the wrong battles

by Shafeenaaz on Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 8:36pm

 Today was not very good.  Actually yesterday was not that good either.  I went under anaesthesia a relatively charming person and emerged as a monster!

I have so far been rude to my parents, nasty (yet again!) to my sister and not very kind to my sulking self.

Funny thing is I am not in fact not at all.  So I cannot blame my response to people on cancer. I am just in one of my deepest sulks ever!

Physically I may not hurting, but emotionally I am hurting quite bad today.  I am even secretly wishing for some physical pain just so it may distract me from the other pain!  That's how ingrate a person I am!

Tonight it occured to me that I have fought all the wrong battles in my life.  The sad part is I fought them with determination, courage and passion.  The sadder part is they were all the wrong battles.

Now that there is a real battle, do I have the energy to fight?  Won't it be the saddest part if I can't fight the monster in me?  Isn't that afterall what fighting cancer is all about?

It is impossible to fight certain cells in your body that for reasons known to themselves have decided to multiply in a lethal manner.  It is impossible to find all of these cells and kill them.  If you do kick them out of your body, it is still quasi impossible to prevent other onces from taking sweet revenge in the future.

What is possible is to look at this disease in the eye and hold its hand and walk together, for as long as it wants to keep you company.  What is possible is to smile through it all and be sweet.

And here is where I failed today.  I could not smile. I was not sweet.

I WILL try harder tomorrow.  Somewhere down the road the reasons for smiling and being sweet will become evident.  For now, I just need to fight the monster in me.

Prize Jerk

Prize Jerk

by Shafeenaaz on Friday, March 4, 2011 at 11:10pm
I just qualified an ex- best friend of mind as a prize jerk with a common friend of ours.

Now, if you think there is no such thing as an ex-best friend, think again.  I've had it and know for sure it is a relationship status that exists.

As for the qualification, well it's been lurking in my mind for a while but Ca has a way of actually pushing words through your frontal lobe, out of your mouth and well...if not out in the air, at least out on a screen!

I have (Alhamdulillah) forgiven lies, infidelity, emotional abuse, weakness, even lack of intelligence.  But I have yet to forgive cowardice.  Our spine was created so we can stand tall, otherwise we're just quadrupeds disguised as clothed bipeds!

The best friendship was terminated.  Another abortion.

The prize jerk had it all as far as I am concerned.  He simply had no spine.

PS: The dark humour will have to be for some other time.  Tonight was for the real stuff :)

Ganglion Sentinel

Ganglion Sentinel

by Shafeenaaz on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 11:39pm
 I am drifting these days....lost in wayward thoughts, floating with the leftover conversations, wishing for things impossible.

What is this?  This phase of disquiet.  My mind has a mind of its own.  As much as I realise this, I don't seem able to reign it in.  Oh well...

Some observations:

I loved Dhobi Ghat.
I want to learn dancing (Bollywood classes).
Rayyaan's voice has the same quality to it that I remember from always it seems.
I miss intelligent conversations.
I miss the intensity of a specific emotion.
I wish for you.
No, I am not in love.  Yes, I suffer from the disease.
I have difficulty sleeping these days.  I do not remember my dreams. I wake up disconnected.
I must NOT forget. What it means to take wrong turns in life.
So I'll try to forget :)

NB: The title is unrelated to the content of the post, but one of the sexiest medical terminology I've heard in a long time!



by Shafeenaaz on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10:08pm
I've been learning that one of the purposes of all "this" is discovery.

Like, I've discovered that:
  • I am quite capable of popping pills without questioning much;
  • I am quite capable of doubling my food intake, just by sheer willpower (Alhamdulillah);
  • It is amazing to hold the hands of girl friends and watch them cry for you;
  • Some people (previoulsy hovering peripherally) have crawled out of the woodwork just to express support: Begum, Devi, Jacqueline, Firdoss, Monjuri and countless others;
  • The rewards of some of the people on this earth are probably not in this world (Dil, Shaloune);
  • A card with impeccable penmenship and drawings from aspiring artists can warm the heart instantly;
  • Doctors don't save lives; they are mere mechanics of the body...fixing things and replacing spare parts;
  • The medical profession is the only place that can house the huge egos of certain individuals (read doctors);
  • Doctors are a funny breed. They scold and they charm. They lie and they preach.  They boast and they stumble and fall.  They work where angels trod.
  • Parents, family and loved ones are a funnier breed.  They scold and they love.  But, they love CONTINUALLY.  No amount of sulking, moodiness, downright nastiness deters their love.  They also  love righteously.  They forgive drama;
  • The loss of love is more painful than Ca;
  • An evening without phone access (landline and mobile) is traumatizing!

+ Plenty more

'When in doubt, ask the voices in your head'~ courtesy Grouchy Rabbit

'When in doubt, ask the voices in your head'~ courtesy Grouchy Rabbit

by Shafeenaaz on Monday, February 21, 2011 at 9:52pm
Now then, this is the kind of advice I like!!!
I just checked with the voices and surprise surprise, they agree...I need to shut up and sleep!

I Will

I Will

by Shafeenaaz  on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 12:06am
 I snapped today...for no reason, at someone who did not see it coming (in fact she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time) and I feel bad.

I MUST be patient.  I MUST remember that hearing is not compulsory, it is optional.  That rebuttal is not necessary but it can do much harm.  That my situation DEMANDS that I learn humility, compassion and forgiveness.

I tend to forget.  I forget that I am but a vessel. That I am merely the bearer of a message. That the message is crystal clear.  That I need to be careful not to let my imperfections cast a shadow on this blessing.

I WILL try harder IA.  I WILL.



by Shafeenaaz on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:13pm
So the heat is draining all my energy, Solumag is giving me diarrhea, I can't seem to do without an afternoon nap and my mind is mush half of the time I am awake.

Quick thought:
Location, location, location.  I like that it was the left side, right on top of my heart.

They dance and they swirl......

They dance and they swirl......

by Shafeenaaz on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 10:05pm
 So it's been a lazy day today Alhamdulillah!

But these have been popping in my mind lately....for posterity's sake, here we go:

Thoughts and Emotions:  Those I were mercifully spared:
 Why me? Why now? What will happen next? Can this be cured?

Thoughts and Emotions: Those I were mercifully blessed with:
Ahhhh!!! So this is why. Finally, it all makes sense. I need to go to Baghdad!  I need to go to the US!  I need to go to SA! I must apologise.  OMG, I will lose my hair! OMG, I want to have the Ca glow. Oh Sweet Lord, Thank You.  You  love me :)


World, with the above cocktail, I promise nothing!

This stuff is tiring I tell you...

This stuff is tiring I tell you...

by Shafeenaaz on Monday, February 14, 2011 at 9:08pm
So it's been another day of between a hectic lunch, a bit of socialising, drawing with a real princess and a boy who pronounces my name with the utmost clarity, being charmed (yet again!) by Dr V, I realised that I am my best both in motion and in stillness.

By best, I mean I have my moments of WOW.

There's just one thing annoying me today.  My dressing table is scattered with prescription notes, tubes of creams I am not fond of using and some pills.  This annoys me.  Let's hope they are short term tennants there. I prefer to have my perfumes, lipstick and all girly paraphernalia as the rightful owners of the dressing table!

On a serious note, I need need need to sort a few things out with myself...Enough show time.  Time to brace myself for the next round.

My Valentine

My Valentine

by Shafeenaaz on Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 10:36pm
So it's V day in a few minutes. How wonderful it is that this day is not special for me...Not that I have anything against love, or the colour red or God forbid chocolate!

Actually I quite love is THE one thing that makes absolute sense to me.  It is beauty and grace at its best.

Cancer is my Valentine this year.  We just met.  Like new acquaintances, we're edgy, awkward and way too chatty...we're holding hands right now....slowly learning to be intimate.

I've always been one to I'll learn my Valentine.  Watch me.