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Lending a helping hand

Image credit — Google Images/NPR

Patting Dad’s back, the doctor smiled and said, “I thought you’d be coming in a wheelchair, but if you’ve driven all the way on your own, then visit me again next month with your reports.” Dad folded both his hands, thanked him for his good wishes, and we left for home.

Every month, in the city of Rishikesh, which is approximately 45 kms from our home city, Dehradun; a free cancer check up camp, under the aegis of Ganga Prem Hospice, is set up. For the past many years, Dad has been consulting an oncologist from New Delhi, who visits the camp every month. Dad pays him a visit there and gets a monthly review of his condition. Over the past three months since his surgery, that routine got broken. However, he visited him last Sunday and the doctor was pleased to see him recovering.

As we waited for our turn to meet the doctor, Dad spoke to the volunteers who set up the Ganga Prem Hospice clinic, and once again stated his wish to volunteer with them. The camp attracts patients from the weakest sections of the society in the region, who are unable to access credible cancer care. One can see people thronging from far away villages in the hills, waiting their turns to meet the oncologists. Some come with their spouses, some with kids, and some alone. Some can barely walk and only mention their names and addresses (like the one in the picture below); while the volunteers and the doctors try to provide the best care possible to them.

Dad turned to me and said, “I really want to work here with the rest too. Once I get better, I will devote my time to the camp and the patients.” It is astonishing that his eagerness to help catalyses his efforts to get better. Every time he visits the camp, he promises himself to come back again as a volunteer. He takes down phone numbers, meets the administrative team and discusses the work that he can help with. His friendship with the clinic’s doctors only gets stronger as he wants to come back and join the team.

There is an inexplicable momentum that arises from being of help to others. And I’ve observed that it only pushes one

to go forward. In Dad’s case, that push comes more from his lack of being fully functional all the time. Often, when he completely breaks down under the pressure of his illness, his ability to be of help to someone acts as a reminder that his life has value. As cruel as it sounds, but cancer strikes down your ability to cherish yourself. To consider yourself as a contributing member of the society. It forces you to only take care of yourself. It takes all the attention, all the patience, all the time. You miss opportunities because your body is already fighting to stay fit each day.

Dad often complains of not being worthy anymore. He feels his life getting fragmented through the worries of his illness. His prayers, his wishes, his desires all seem enveloped into getting better. There seems to be no space for him left to look out and extend his care for others. It begins to fades out the minute his body weakens and disables him to be his own healthy self.

Dad is important. His life is valuable. His existence has a purpose. And he needs to be reminded that.

It is times like these that him being able to provide support of any kind to anybody, relinquishes those negative feelings away. Whether it is through words, or in kind, when Dad extends help to others, he immediately feels better.

Giving directions to a stranger. Sending a well thought of and lengthy birthday greeting to a friend. Helping Mum in the kitchen. Making train reservations for his siblings. Anything that makes him feel of support is a value addition to his morale.

These might be small things, and he often won’t realise their effects on him, but I’m sure they make him feel better about himself.

One small assistance at a time.

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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