Each house has a crockery cabinet, where is placed the neatly kept, nicely maintained ‘Crockery set’ costlier than the rest of the utensils in the household, maybe a tea set, a dinner-set or crystal bowls used for special occasions. For Reema it was her fine bone china dinner-set. The golden rim work on the borders of the white plates and bowls were her favorite. White was her color, the one she adored.
It was a bright and sunny Monday morning. At 7 o’clock , Reema handed a cup of hot and refreshing ginger tea to her husband Akshat and rushed to wake up her three year old toddler Romi out of his sweet slumber. In an hour they had to get ready and leave from the house. Weekdays were such always, busy and in a rush. Reema was always a good student, a topper. She completed her MBA in Finance from one of the best business schools in India and was now working with a world renowned multinational company. Akshat was into business and usually kept busy travelling around the world. He was very supportive and encouraging when it came to Reema’s independence and career. He had kept true to his word through their marriage, to be by her side in her decisions pertaining to her career as that was one of her wishes she had expressed to him during their courtship period before marriage. She too was supportive towards his business and growth. Life was treating them well.
She quickly watered the plants in the balcony of her 11th floor apartment before going for a bath. The roses blooming in the pot were a pleasant sight indeed. It was a beautiful house, spacious, the interiors and decor was intricately done with personal attention and care. It reflected in each showpiece properly arranged , every piece of furniture tastefully picked, she and Akshat had chosen this house together and converted it into a home with love. ‘Reema & Akshat Kapoor’ the nameplate read on the entrance. This too was a fulfillment of another one of Reema’s wish list which Akshat had honored.
Packing their lunch boxes she kissed Akshat and Romi goodbye and picking up her car keys she hurriedly stepped out of her house.Today Akshat would be dropping Romi to his play school before heading for his work. While driving on her way to the office she again felt that uncomfortable painful sensation in her stomach that she had been ignoring for quite some time now. She had even noticed spotting on her inner wear a few times but on discussing with her friend had concluded it to be because of her hormonal changes as she was weaning Romi from breastfeeding. “We go through a lot of hormonal changes as woman after having a baby“, Shalini, her colleague and a close friend had said. Women usually discuss regular small issues and concerns with their close friends to find a more quick, handy and easy solution for them. Also as the spotting was occasional for her, Reema thought that it might just be the case of adjustment of her hormonal clock like Shalini had suggested. But every time the pain returned, the thought of visiting a doctor did cross her mind. As the traffic signal turned red she made a quick phone call to her gynecologist for an appointment on the coming Saturday. She had been postponing this from almost three months due to some or the other reason. Some weekend outing, a birthday party, shopping, parlor appointment, something or the other….. It always managed to get pushed down on her priority/to-do list. “Saturday, 2:00pm”, her doctor confirmed over the phone. Akshat was flying to Singapore on Thursday she thought, but then what’s the need to have him along for just a normal check up, with Meera to help around she could manage on her own.
On Saturday, finishing the chores around the house she left to see her gynecologist after putting Romi to sleep and keeping Meera in charge to look over him, she was trust worthy and had been Romi’s caretaker from the time he was born. Reema browsed through the pages of the magazine as she waited in the sitting area for her turn to see the doctor. After an internal physical examination her doctor shared, “there is a very small outgrowth that I can feel, lets get an ultrasound done to confirm it”. In her follow up on Monday with the ultrasound and urine report as advised, Reema was informed that it was a polyp in her cervix and that it will have to be operated and sent for a biopsy as a usual procedure to rule out cancer. “Meanwhile lets also put you on a course of antibiotics for dealing with the urine infection“, her doctor said. Possibility of “cervical cancer“!! It was almost as if the world started spinning around her. Getting a grip of herself she asked, “How is it possible? I don’t have a family history of cancer, I am not loosing hair or weight, I do not take alcohol nor smoke, then how in the world is this possible??” Calming her fears her doctor explained to her the reasons for which a woman could get cervical cancer and also ensured to her that by just merely having a polyp it wouldn’t conclude to be cancer. “Don’t worry, cervical polyps are usually benign, however biopsy is the only way to rule it out“, she assuringly told her.
Returning from the doctor’s clinic Reema thought of all the things that mattered to her. Her dear son Romi, her husband, their beautiful home, her upcoming promotion, her eyes welled up with tears as she tried her best to hold them back while driving her car. Akshat would have to be told but how??? She was anxious. He was in the flight already, on his way back from Singapore and would reach home by tonight. Reaching home she checked on Romi first who was happily playing with his toys in Meera’s lap. She was thankful to have Meera around, especially today. Making a cup of coffee she sat staring at the walls of her apartment thinking why this was happening to her? Mummy always advised to use the age old method of placing a lemon and chilli string at the entrance of the house to prevent evil eyes of the people which Reema usually dismissed, laughing at the thought, calling it to be a myth. But today she wondered if really someone’s evil eye and jealous vibes were behind this? Her fine bone china dinner – set kemptly kept in the crockery cabinet caught her attention. It was her favorite one. The golden work done on the rim of each of its piece was what had attracted her to buy this. She used it occasionally on special days, for family celebrations and get-togethers or when some special guests were expected to visit. Her crystal wine glasses clubbed with this dinner set made for a perfect table layout. Perfect, beautiful, bright that’s how every thing in her house was and she was always thankful for the kindness God had showered her with. Then why was God choosing to put her through this? This fear and possibility of cancer, she thought !
Her fleeting thoughts were interrupted by Romi’s laughter who came running to her and hugged her tight. Pecking on her cheek he jumped into her lap. He was happy to have his ‘mumma’ at home today as it rarely happened that she would be around on a weekday. The carefree happiness on his face kind of changed Reema’s aura with strength and positivism. She decided to cook Akshat’s favourite butter chicken and paranthas (Indian bread) for dinner and to lay down the dinner table using her fine bone china dinner set for tonight. She also prepared strawberry jelly for serving with vanilla ice-cream just like Romi liked.
That night Akshat was pleasantly surprised to see Reema in a different mood. All three of them had dinner together happily listening to Romi’s tales and chatter. After putting Romi off to sleep Reema sat besides Akshat on the couch with her coffee mug in hand. Resting her head on his shoulder she finally shared with him her doctor’s opinion. When Akshat reassuringly hugged her she couldn’t hold back her emotions. Her cheeks were flushing hot as tears rolled down her eyes. She was scared !
By dawn Akshat had calmed her down and they both had decided that they wouldn’t let the demons of fear and negativity burden their mind or defeat their morale. They went ahead with the procedure the following day. The week that followed Reema’s procedure was a different one in the Kapoor family. It was a week which would bring around the result and outcome of their fear. At night after putting Romi to sleep Reema would read about cervical cancer online. She read and understood that Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most of cervical cancer. HPV vaccines protect against two to seven high-risk strains of this family of viruses and may prevent up to 90% of cervical cancers. As a risk of cancer still exists, guidelines recommend continuing regular Pap smear tests. Long-term use of oral contraceptives is associated with increased risk of cervical cancer. Women who have used oral contraceptives for 5 to 9 years have about three times the incidence of invasive cancer, and those who used them for 10 years or longer have about four times the risk. Reema was mentally applying all that she read online to her own situation. She had not got a Pap smear test done, didn’t get the HPV vaccine either, she was on oral contraceptives earlier when they wanted to delay having a baby and even now after having Romi she continued the pill. “Oh my God, I am doomed !”, she thought. Akshat saw her struggling with her thoughts and switched off her laptop. He put her off to sleep and made her promise not to keep researching like this and wait for her report instead. Meanwhile the pace of their routine days had slowed down ever since her procedure was done. Akshat was taking some time off from work too. They were spending their time together with Romi, reading books, playing together with cars and blocks. It dawned upon them that in their materialistically well blessed house they were actually not ‘living’ until now. They resided there, provided for it, worked for it, earned and saved for it but in the entire process of owning every bit of that house the most important part of ‘living the life together’ was lacking priority.
Tuesday morning there were butterflies in their stomach. In the afternoon Reema’s biopsy report would finally answer their fears. It was a huge relief for both of them when the report in the envelope read as ‘benign‘ for the sample received. How they had let the horses of their mind run haywire to scare them all this while ! The doctor advised Reema to get her HPV vaccination done which was to be taken in a set of three injections. “A 3-dose schedule is recommended for people who get the first dose on or after the age of 15”, her doctor said. She further added that there are two vaccines licensed globally which are available in India; a quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil™ marketed by Merck) and a bivalent vaccine (Cervarix™ marketed by Glaxo Smith Kline). Usually the ideal and appropriate age for getting vaccinated is between 9 to 26 years of age. After which a regular screening for cervical cancer and Pap smear test up to the age of 60 years should be a part of routine for all women. HPV vaccination and regular cervical screening is the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer. A Pap smear test should be done at an interval of every three years and if combined with HPV screening the test could be repeated at an interval of every five years up to the age of 60-65.
Leaving from her doctor’s clinic that day Reema and Akshat made another promise to each other as life partners, a promise to also live life together in the process of making life together and a promise to continue Reema’s Pap smear test at an interval of every three years to ensure that they never have to go through this tension and trauma again due to their own careless omission.
It took ‘fear’ of loosing life to realize that they had to ‘live’ life.
After all the house, its showpieces, the furniture, her fine bone china crockery in the crockery cabinet, their workplace, all of it would continue to exist even beyond their life if maintained with care but ‘life’ just like ‘time’ is neither constant nor in ‘control’. It would vary, it would run, it would eventually slip out of their hand but before all that would happen they both decided to live it together, in a balanced way and to the fullest !