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Keeping a balance between the good and the bad news

Image credit — Google images

Heart beating fast ready to pop out of my mouth, hands icy cold, voice weak, and stomach grumbling, I stepped into the radiological unit to enquire about Dad’s MRI report. As the assistant pulled out the large envelope of the films, she pointed to a register for me to sign in, indicating that the report was getting collected. As I signed and received the envelope, I immediately started walking towards the elevator with Dad. There was no point in reading the report since it would be filled with medical terms that I wouldn’t understand much. Furthermore, I was too scared to read anything bad and rather wait for the doctor to say it. As the door of the lift opened, almost as a reflex, I pulled out the report. “In comparison to the previously conducted MRI, the current MRI shows regression of the disease,’ the report stated.

Regression! Was I reading it right? Did I understand that one non-medical statement in the entire report correctly? I pulled out my phone and did a quick Google search on the meaning of regression – a return to a former or less developed state. In the anxious state of my mind, I wanted to be clear that I got the meaning of that line correctly. This meant that the past eight doses of chemotherapy had worked. That line was like a beacon of hope. Despite that, I chose not to tell Dad anything. I was still worried of what would be the oncologist’s opinion.

As our turn came to meet the doctor, I gently greeted him and handed him the report. He went through it, and started examining the films of the MRI. He pulled out one film and began studying it. Second. Third. Fourth. Fifth. Sixth. By this time, I had already started sensing something was wrong. Why was he taking so long in telling us what he was seeing? My eyes flickered between his face and the films. Was I missing something here?

Finally, he spoke. “There’s a regression, clearly. That means the treatment’s working. So, we’ll continue administering it, for another two more cycles. Your chemotherapy is due this week. You can come in whenever.” He was done in five minutes, including my relentless questions on further line of treatment, the weekly doses, any side effects.

As we stepped out of the room, Dad turned to me and said, “Let’s discuss the cost again and see if we can get some concession.” Dad had just heard great news. He had been indicated of a significant improvement in his health, that the tumour had actually shrunk, yet the first thought that caught him was the expenditure involved. I shrugged and said, “We will manage.”

As we walked back to the parking lot, all I could feel was the relief of the MRI report washing over me, while the nagging worry of the medical cost was clearly on the back burner. As I texted Mum and siblings about the report, I cautiously decided that today would be about rejoicing the positive news. We will figure out the other bits tomorrow. The finance bit would be tricky, but not unsolvable.

And on the drive, I reinforced this, by telling Dad that it was a very good sign. The drug had not harmed his immune system, rather had restored his capacity to fight the disease. His pathological reports had come out fine and now the MRI report was good too. We needed to enjoy this moment. If nothing else, at least buy carrots and make gajar ka halwa (sweet pudding).

Dad agreed. We drove straight to the vegetable market.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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