Facing a dreaded disease, he is distraught. While he is financially sound, has a son who is self-sufficient, is able to support his treatment and take care of his needs, a daughter who is married, an old mother at home is the reason of all his worry. He cannot fathom the thought of losing his battle to the disease. How would his old mother deal with it? No doctor has told him that he wouldn’t be cured, yet the fears persist. From moments of positivity and a fighter spirit, there are troughs of fear and despondency. Fighting to hold back his tears, he mustered his courage, gathered his composure and said in a strong voice – he believed his time was not up yet. He would live a hundred years. The turmoil going on inside him was evident. He seemed to be a philosophical person and had seen a lot in life. Yet, a situation in life such as this had left him without an anchor. Sharing with us, strangers, comforted him. Those few minutes of heartfelt conversation gave him an emotional renewal and the courage to continue the fight. He waved goodbye at us, hoping to see us again.

Leaving his bedside, we were sombre yet hopeful and positive that he, like a lot of others would come out triumphant from this test in life. This is just one experience in our day of counselling. Each patient and caregiver alike has a story to tell, pains to share and courage to be sought. From financial worries, to fears of relapse, death, the illness spreading to their family members, panic that they haven’t been cured to even seemingly non-critical worries like losing hair or teeth, every worry big or small, seems like a huge mountain to overcome.

We travel a very short distance of their journey with them, listening to them, comforting them and providing the much-needed emotional support without any bias, fear or favour. When we leave the hospital, we sure have gained a lot of perspective in life ourselves.

Counsellors are those cogs in the wheel of life that provide those extra spurts of emotional energy to carry on with life’s challenges, to not give up and face the illness with much needed positivity and strength. They recharge the patients and caregivers’ emotional batteries and help them on their difficult journeys. Personally, for me, being part of the Indian Cancer Society Emotional Support group has been one of the fulfilling things I have done in life.

As the revered Thich Nhat Hanh says – “Compassion is a verb”

Please note: Care has been taken to protect the identity of the patient while narrating the story

Smitha Lahiri


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