Saturday, February 6, 2010

Only we think others need us

A little over six months back, when I was told that I would have to undergo a hystrectomy, all the doctors I met vyed with each other to inform me in the hushed tones that one would normally reserve for a funeral, that I was "too young for a hysterectomy." None of them really elaborated on what they meant, and since I beleived that doctors don't make emotional statements in a professional context, I kept believing that they were holding something back. And that frustrated me.

While waiting for the attendent to take a blood sample for my routine pre-operative tests, the doctor had asked me why I was there. When I told him that I was going to undergo a hystrectomy, he said exactly what everyone else had told me before, "but you are too young for a hystrectomy".
"That is what everyone says", I burst out in exasparation. "But nobody tells me why it is so. Are there likely to be any medical complications because I have to have the operation at this age?"
Frankly, I did not expect an answer. When my gynecologist, who I trusted because he had respect for my intellegence, didn't give me a straight answer, why should this person who was a relative stranger?
I was in for a surprise. Not only did he reassure me that my fears were unjustified, and that there were no special complications with having the surgery 'so early', he even explained why it was that doctors reacted the way they did. "You sould realise that no surgeon likes removing organs", he told me. "They resist it as long as they can, and when it is the uterus of a woman still in child bearing age, they feel rather guilty about it."
"Besides", he had added, "you don't look 38 - you look much younger."


I have been asked to get my thyroid levels checked every six months, and though the path lab is a little out of the way, I couldn't even think of going anywhere else. There was a different, much younger man sitting on the doctor's chair. He looked competant enough, but where was my doctor? I glanced up, and found a framed photograph of his on the wall.
"Is that your father?", I ventured tentatively- the resemblance was striking.
"Yes", he paused, then continued. "He passed away in November."
"I'm sorry", I said. Two words that could mean everything or nothing. Then realising how inadequate it was, added, "he was a wonderful person. I will never forget him. I am truely sorry."
His eyes glistened with tears. Mine did too. There was really nothing left to say.

The man had touched my life, but I may never have leant of his passing had I given into laziness and got the test done in a place closer home. I wonder how many other such people there are - people I assume are around, but who have actually passed on?

A little over six months back, when I met him last, he had told me not to worry too much about my surgery. "What is the point of worrying?", he'd asked me. "The worst thing that can happen to you is death. And that is inevitable. What is the point of worrying?"
"I'm not scared of dying", I assured him. "But I have two really young children who need me. I don't want to die just yet, because I am not sure if they can manage without me."
"People always manage", he assured me. "It is only we who think other people need us."

I am not sure if he was right. I may not need him the way his family would, but I will definitely miss him.

5 comments:

Al said...

On one level your young doctor is correct. Most people have the capacity to endure amazing difficulties.
However, to loose a loved one definitely leaves a big hole in one's life.

Ann Elle Altman said...

What an ordeal you're going through. I hope everything turns out right. I know that everyone will move on without me but I would hate knowing I wasn't there to see my son succeed. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Did one of your children do the little bee or bug drawing on your background? It's so cute.

ann

dipali said...

'It is only we who think other people need us'

It seems profoundly true, and yet there are times when it can make life extremely difficult for the suvivors. When my parents were with me in Gummidipoondi, each trip to Chennai involved an hour or so each way on NH5. I used to pray that I survive each trip just because they were so dependent on me!
Ghalib puts it across beautifully:
Ghalib ae khasta ke bagair kaun sey kam band hain
Roeeay zaar zaar kya, keejiye haay haat kyon.

Jan Morrison said...

a lovely post, Natasha. Thank you.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Al - I quite agree with you. Life does go on even after death, but while the people left behind do cope, I don't quite agree with what my doctor had said about us assuming others need us. People do need us, as much as we need them.

@ Ann - Precisely. While things will move on, they would not quite be the same. And yes, it was my then five year old who drew the 'butterfly' which is my background.

@ dipali - yes, Ghalib does put it beautifully. The people left behind will survive, human beings always do, but surviving is not the same as living.

@ Jan - Thank you. I was thinking of you when I wrote this.

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