You have throat cancer” declared the doctor. These four words of Safdarjung Hospital doctor were enough to devastate anybody. When I was told this at point blank range, you can imagine my reaction. Why me, of all the people. I almost lost sense and collapsed there itself and had to sit to keep myself composed. I immediately rang up my eldest son whose office was nearby. In staggered voice I informed him of this heart-breaking news.
For the last one month or so I was having hoarse voice. My voice, which was no less than a roar of a lion was getting thinner, softer and what we call in Hindi ‘ my throat had sat’.
I had shown to half a dozen doctors including my family doctor, every one gave me only cough syrup in addition to few tablets of different color. May be either they couldn’t diagnose it or they thought it better not to disclose it. Next week I was to travel from Delhi to Bangalore to my youngest son. I didn’t want my throat to give me any irritation during the journey so I arranged for a checkup in Safdarjung Hospital. Doctors there, without any preamble whatsoever are dropping the bomb by candidly telling me that I suffer from throat cancer. My son Ravi who rushed to hospital from his nearby office gave some encouraging words but in vain. This was no consolation to me that Safdarjung was a sarkari hospital and I shouldn’t believe in them or their judgement.
I was no eater of pan...tobacco but yes I have been a chain smoker. I would smoke 20 to 40 cigarettes daily. Next day I was with my family doctor who promptly referred me to Moolchand Hospital with a letter of introduction to his friend Dr. Narottam Puri who was the ENT specialist apart from yes...the famous cricket commentator, sports quizmaster. He examined my throat and asked me to wait outside …then he called my son and wife and told them,as I learnt later, that he suspects cancer but to be certain he would require a couple of tests including biopsy. Within a week’s time all tests were carried out, biopsy done and report received. All fears came true. I was declared a throat cancer patient. Dr. Narottam Puri and Dr. Jassuja discussed details at my back with my wife and son.
”You want operation ?”
“Do we have a choice?”
“Allow him to die...worst still see him die inch by inch each day...he will have unbearable pain …you would want him to die…he will cry…you.,.none of you would be able to see the sight much less attend to him or being able to do anything”
“So the choice was ours …operation means…” what ?
...the worst was to come now
“Operation means no voice ..the voice box will be removed..” some choice it was.
Either a voiceless father or no father...(my son told me later) My son made few frantic phone calls, consulted all he could .Made me talk to few doctors he knew and knew that I would listen to them. One of them Dr.P.P. Khandelwal of Railways in Jaipur I found to be most motivating and convincing. Ravi and his friend Mr. Hulas Singh gave blood.
On the appointed day I was carted to the O.T. Mind you my wife nor my son disclosed to me that I was to lose my voice forever or my voice box will be cut off. They kept telling me everything will be fine and O.K. Operation was successful. My neck was bandaged all over. Initially, I thought the doctor has advised not to talk. Little did I know I will never be able to speak again. I was communicating by way of gestures and/or by writing notes for anything and everything. My wife had nearly fainted when she was shown the severed voice box by the doc. I wonder why should they show it to the world .Later, I learnt it was the standard practice. Strange practice...as if losing the voice forever was not a severe enough blow.
After a week in hospital I came home. All near and dear ones assembled. You can imagine my depression...I could read their eyes ..their faces…I was giving them blank looks. To my astonishment everyone was talking about strength of my voice and lion like voice I had...making it all the more difficult for me to comprehend least of it come to terms with my disability.
Artificial Electronic Larynx...something I had never heard of, was discussed. We came to know of somebody in Palam village having one and using it ...leading ‘near normal’ life. We all went to see him. He was a humble milk-seller. We were anything but satisfied. He presented a pathetic sight to say the least. After inquiring where did he buy it from, we went to Hari Nagar in Delhi, one Mr. Goyal having the same problem as mine was selling the electronic larynx. We went to him, bought one and soon I learnt its functioning and became proficient in its use.
Today it is nearly ten years. I have not only reconciled but doctors send freshly operated patients to see me, to make them see and learn and get used to. Doctors had told my son “if a patient lives for more than five years, after operation we consider operation a success”. Friends of my granddaughter giggle endless and joke “Shikha when we ring up your home how come a robot responds on phone”.
I can only say ten years after operation that I have been a fighter, have fought and come out a winner. All due to sheer WILL POWER, POSITIVE THINKING and ZEST for life. THREE CHEERS TO SPIRIT OF LIFE.
LONG LIVE THE LIFE.