My life as a ‘terminally ill’ patient

Rita Mukherjee shares with us what her life has been like after being diagnosed with lung fibrosis and being slotted as "terminally ill".

After the “tch tch”, “poor thing” and other sympathetic wishes die down, the more obnoxious “be brave”, “be strong” and “be positive” chorus starts. However no one comes forward to tell you HOW to be brave and positive...

But let me tell you no one can. You have to figure it out yourself. How do you tackle your ‘terminally ill’ status when your illness refuses to terminate you?

This is one time when the doctors, the state and all your well-wishers cannot help, even if they wish to. Only you can change your attitude, so you have to help yourself to find ways and means to do it. You can wail and cry and finally die of misery. Or you can choose to raise your spirits, look at the brighter side of life and die laughing. I prefer to do the latter. After all, laughter is such a universally pleasant medicine.

Unleashing my creativity

The mind is a strong matter. Put it to good use. I tell my mind to ignore the oxygen tube perennially attached to my nose. I slip into the roll of a master chef and focus my imagination to whip up new recipes. I once got the cook to replicate one of my creations—paneer in mustard sauce. It was such a hit with my daughter’s friends that they even asked her for the recipe!

Another time, my neighbour’s little girl and I churned up quite a storm with our Picasso-like paintings. She and I dipped our hands in paint and then created some fascinating works on discarded computer printouts with our hand impressions. Three of these paintings have been framed and now adorn the walls of my neighbour’s living room. I have had several queries from young mothers requesting for painting lessons after they viewed my artistic endeavour.

Life is not all roses but it isn’t all thorns either

However, at times I give in to a good bout of wailing, the ‘I, ME and MYSELF’ phase gets the better of me. After crying for some time I feel good. I believe that crying helps to remove a good deal of the toxic debris of my life, and I feel better after a good cry. It helps me think up new ways to divert my pent up energy that my restrictive movements disallow.

We all have very fertile brains. The trick is to plough through the multitude of emotions correctly. Through my experience I’ve found that shifting from wail-mode to give-mode sets me right. Therefore, I devise ways and means to give—of my time, my knowledge, my education and whatever else I can.

My time-challenged neighbour gratefully leaves her two children in my care whenever she brings home her projects to complete. This is one way where I can give of myself and my ill health is put on the back burner. When I create new stories to keep the children engrossed or add a riddle to solve at the end of an old fairy tale, my illness is no longer at the forefront.

I am no superwoman and being human at times I do succumb to tantrums. Occasionally breathing does become difficult and there have been times when I was rushed to the nearest hospital to set things in order for me to breathe again.

Managing the ups and the downs

Caregivers are a vital support system that keeps us buoyed up. My family and friends play a very vital role in my life and my present state of well being. It will take quite a few pages to mention all of them so I will just pick three. My husband and my daughter are the reason for my wanting to ‘hang on’ to life. Another lifeline is a close friend of mine [an ex-editor of a women's magazine] without whose ego-boosting encouragement I would never have ‘made it’ this far.

Through all this what I am trying to put across is the fact that in this huge giant wheel of life what goes up does come down and what is down does rise eventually. Whatever else life is, it is never static. We change and so does life. One day might be good, one day might be bad. We all have to discover our own formulas for living and for doing the best we can under the circumstances that life positions us in.

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