A Month Later

11 April, 2009

I wrote last time about trying to summarize an entire year in a blog. Well March reminded me that a month can be just as difficult. Here’s how it went: Drishti’s spitting up and not pooping so the doctor sends us to an ultrasound. Cheerfully the ultrasound technician walks us through the routine she starts scanning Drishti’s tummy, but suddenly, abruptly stops talking halfway. She wraps up, puts the results on a disc and send us back to our doctor…who, after looking at the results sends us immediately to Sick Kid’s Emergency downtown. Early the next morning we get seen to and Drishti’s in a ward room. Another ultrasound, a urine test, and finally a CAT scan confirm neuroblastoma – a mass on her adrenal gland and spread to the liver. Cancer.

A team of surgeons confer and decide on a biopsy to remove the tumour, and a bone marrow test to see if the cancer has spread. A week later, we’re quietly watching the status board in a well-appointed waiting room as she goes under the knife. An incisional biopsy removes most of the tumour (taking it all would have required removing the adrenal gland…and you kinda need that) and a sample of bone marrow is taken. More tests. Days go by. We wait. Bone marrow tests come back negative and she’s discharged a little over two weeks after we went in. The neuroblastoma specialist is now managing us on an outpatient basis – we go in every Thursday so that they can scan the tumour to see if it has grown.

I think I’m still a bit stunned by the whole episode. I think we just went into autopilot and just got ‘on’ with it. You often fall apart and lose control when confronted with the small challenges of life…and then something really really big happens and you go into some kind of zone and…deal with it. We are lucky (at least so far); neuroblastoma is dangerous and even fatal if it goes on with its business unnoticed. We found it in Drishti about as early as you possibly could.

My wife stayed with Dristhi at the hospital. I looked after the other girls with help from my Mum. I’d drive to the hospital with a daily supply of food, clothes, etc.

A couple of days before it all happened, I had taken on the biggest project of my career, two days after the customer signed, I stepped down from leading the project so that I could focus on home. I had the alacrity to think that I could somehow juggle this huge project and deal with this ‘daughter’s got cancer’ business. My executives indicated their backing whichever way I was going with this. A couple of days later I came out of my delusion and realized I must have been off my rocker. I stepped down and was given as much time as I needed to ‘deal’ with what I need to.

We managed. We didn’t fall apart. We acknowledged deep down that this was the experience we needed to be having. We did not resist. We accepted. Now, I’d never wish this experience on anyone and this is going to sound stupid but feel privileged to have gone through this. There’s a new clarity. The bullshit fades into the background. The things you were once afraid of, fretted about, or regarded as important seem absurdly trivial. It’s like yoga…on steroids.

It’ll stick too. I’m not pissing about either. Yoga’s given me perception and perspective. No doubt about it. You know what I mean. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my practice is the biggest single success factor in my career and my life. But this whole business has just accelerated it all. I don’t really mind at all any more what happens to whatever. I’m back at work now now on something interesting…but I’ve applied for a oversees non-profit assignment with an NGO in Brazil or Vietnam. I’m going to India too this year and I’m talking the girls with me. I’m going to take my time practicing in the morning. If I want to spend two and a half hours doing both primary and intermediate before work then that’s what I’m going to do.

Remarkably I practiced 25 times in March. That’s a 100% attendance record. How did I manage that?