lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, March 03, 2008

Words of a feather

Some words come in pairs or groups.

Method in madness, rest and recuperation, the five Ws and H, the three Rs which aren't really all Rs, but still; and many more I can't think of just now, I am sure. In my life though, I think I have been chased by C words. Let's not go into commitment, the C word men are supposed to dread. But I had a lot of commitment to words that began with C, and they shaped my life to an extent.

Really. When I was an impressionable thirteen-year old, I read that chips, chocolates, cookies, cakes and carbonated drinks were bad for you and caused acne. So I didn't indulge in any of them. Of course, the real reason was to save pocket money to buy books, but boycotting them did take place. And I had a clear complexion throughout my teens, only to break out horrendously in my twenties. But by then the pattern was set. I added sugar and sweets to the list of things I didn't eat.

During the thirties one worries about calorie counting- carbohydrates, cholesterol, calcium deficiency and such. But since I had healthy eating habits and a routine of exercise, the thirties passed me by without troubling me with the C words.

(If you are going to write in and point out the other C word, cigarettes, or booze, save your breath. I will merely say piffle to you. I am not talking about vices here. I am talking about practicing virtues. And anyway, nicotine and alcohol do not count as C words.)

Then came the so-called arthritis last year. Through all the pain and discomfort, until a tentative diagnosis of 'undiff' connective tissue disorder was made, I looked back at my commitment to the C words. I didn't take sugar, I didn't eat deep-fried food, I exercised regularly, and yet here I was being treated for a disease I tried to avoid ever since I learnt about it. I thought it was unfair. Until the doctor pointed out that my very reasonable weight and good health was what kept me mobile instead of bedridden, considering the severity of the symptoms. Ah well, all in a good cause then.

Over the last four weeks, into my life came new C words. These are different from the avoidance and good health practices.

During my stay in the nursing home in January, my doctor ordered a bunch of tests. One of them was a GI endoscopy. It doesn't sound nice, and wasn't nice. The conclusions drawn from it weren't nice either.

Now it doesn't require a Mensa membership to figure out that hyperplasia isn’t a good thing. That was reinforced by the doctor asking for another, more extensive endoscopy. The findings there weren't nice either, and featured words like "hyperplasia of squamous epithelium…blah, blah, blah… focally bordering on Carcinoma 'in situ'."

The biopsy slides were sent for a second opinion from another pathologist. Like all of us who can Google, I am quickly well read on any given topic, so I took preemptive action. I went and got a tonsure, as carcinoma is generally followed by chemotherapy, after all.

As it happened, there was another C word in between, a CT scan. And that was when my aggravation with life began.

I hiccuped with laughter when I was first told, stop breathing, Missus Em. You know what he means, I told myself sternly and held my breath. After a zillion times of stopping breathing, I was injected with a dye. Or at least they tried to, once they found a vein. Then they found another, and another. Another zillion times of stopping breathing followed. The technician kept apologising for all the discomfort and pain they were causing me.

And he kept stroking my shaven head!

The pathologist who did the FNAC a couple of days later? He told me I was a model patient, very cooperative and wonderful. And he stroked my head too.

There won't be any surgery, said the surgeon, packing me off to a specialist for further treatment. And stroked my pate.

The oncologist I met was taken aback at my shaven head. There wasn't going to be chemotherapy, he said. We discussed treatment protocol and talked further. As he got up to see me out, he asked if I was satisfied with the plan. I grumbled that my beautiful tonsure was totally wasted.

Oh no, you look like a model, Missus Em, he assured me. Supermodel in size zero, sniggered the friend who accompanied me. Yeah, if wearing clothes three sizes too large is the rage this season, I retorted, looking daggers at her. But she is immune to my glowering. The oncologist, at least, didn't stroke my head.

Last week, I was admitted for observation. From the admitting doctor to the nurses who hooked me up to oxygen and other tubes, medical personnel seemed to find my shaven head irresistible.

Friends came visiting. One of them said I looked an absolute cherub. A C word. I grumbled that cherubs are fat babies, I am fifty years old and not fat. She ignored me. And stroked my head. Another friend entered the room, took one look at me and said, ooh, you look so cute, Lali. She stroked my head. Cute? Me?

As he discharged me and told me how to conduct my life at home, the oncologist patted my hand. Be a good girl, and follow my instructions, he said. I nodded, good girl I can live with. We arranged dates and times for reviews, and he took leave. And he stroked my head.

I'd rather liked being Missus Em, Supermodel.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers cherie!

Great that you continue to smile and blog through it all. Its not everyone who stays afloat after hearing the C word, so heres another C word for you- Champ!

While the championship is yours to fight and win, we're here in the sidelines to cheer you along.

(Keeping my hands locked behind me so I don't reach out to the virtual pate ;) )

7:03 am  
Blogger anantha said...

I have to agree with the anon above me! C for champ and C for Cute only. Missus Em, Cute Champ! Purrfect description!

Also, supermodels are not really the best sort, you know. Some of them are, ummm, anorexic. So, lets stick to C for Champ and C for cute! None of this supermodel bullshit for you, I say!


7:16 am  
Blogger dipali said...

Captivated by the Charm, Candour and sheer Cleverness with which you have informed your readers of the dreaded Big C.
May you Continue to embody for a long long time to come, my favourite C words- Courage and Confidence.

9:52 am  
Blogger Shirsha said...

Dear Lalita!
This post, sigh, am going to keep it for ever. I dont know y, it fills me w spirit and sets out a role model. I wish this post was not an online thingie, but a page from a book, or maybe a letter. I want to treasure this for myself. Confident Em! Cheers...

10:34 am  
Blogger Kshama said...

Hope Missus Em, Super Model is doing fine.

Wishing you good health. Three cheers to your courage and spirit.

10:35 am  
Blogger Priya said...

Now I know! Champagne I shall bring you! You *chic* thingie, you. See you soon dahlin' ;-)

4:02 pm  
Anonymous WA said...

I wanna see Missus Em the superstar

4:24 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Yeah, I know. Missum Em, SooperStar. Or Missus Cem, SooperStar, with the first C silent, in the manner of Psmith.

And of course, Confidence, Candour, Cleverness et all put across with Cherubic Cuteness, which deserves Celebration with Champagne. Or, knowing your proclivities for the health quotient, the Chianti Classico.

Give me a hug, Lali, and I shall feel honoured. When it comes to grit and style and plain old goodhumouredness, you beat the competition with both hands tied behind your back.

(And of course, thank god for Terry Pratchett, like I always say)

6:48 pm  
Blogger Guruprasad said...


all the c words seem to have been taken. and the few others i know can't be used here in a family blog :P

but i must say here that there's so much that all of us have to learn here from. i only wish that i can even be half as positive in life as you are!

hats off to you ma'am!

p.s. can i touch your pate too? maybe some of that brilliance will get transfered to me?

7:17 pm  
Anonymous Hehhhh said...


I'm balding, and you've to steal my thunder here too.

And be sure to wear the scarf.

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a mental image of Missus Em retreating from an erupting volcano while quipping, "Gesundheit".

Written with your usual grace, understated humor and style. God be with you, Lady.

Secret admirer

10:33 am  
Blogger Sivaram said...

Ohmigod !

Is there a God ? Does he/she/it Care ?

1:08 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Anon- Thank you. I appreciate your restraint in keeping your hands to yourself. :-)

Anantha- Agreed, no supermodel business. I'd rather be Madras Maami and Grammar Nazi. :-)

Dipali- I refuse to resort to Roget's to top your C words. :-) Thank you.

Shirsha- You have only to say the word, dear girl, I will write only for you. Do you really want a role model who whinges her way through everything, though?

Kshama- Thank you.

Priya- Not champagne, darling. Let's go for chaat or puchkas though, while you are here.

WA- You left it too late, no? We aren't so much superstars these days than superwhiners.

Rimi- Come home and get your hug. And that cuppa I owe you too. And post, for pity's sake!

Guruprasad- Thank you. I have an idea: make money out of these molestations of my pate by charging for it. Sort of like Blarney Stone for typing, what do you think? :-)

hehhhh- If there has to be scarf-wearing, let there be designer stuff, in decent colours. Shocking purple, indeed!

Anon- I thought you were an atheist? Or was that a propah goodbye?

Sivaram- Omigosh is right. :-)

3:42 pm  
Blogger Phantasmagoria said...

One is reduced to speechlessness. Stay strong. Prayers for you and the family.

6:17 pm  
Anonymous WA said...

I don't think I've left it too late. Hope not Lali x

7:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Missus Em,
You did what I have not been able to do for the past three years - find the absolutely 'just right' words to articulate the big c experience and to respond to reactions. So, verily, supermodel, indeed - you make me feel stronger.
a secret admirer

11:51 pm  
Blogger Sivaram said...

As Dumbledore would have said to Potter, "To the truly enlightened mind, this is nothing but the next big adventure !".
But, Mam, Whew !!

10:15 am  
Blogger anantha said...

I'd rather be Madras Maami and Grammar Nazi. :-)

Sure! You can be Madras Maami. No Wait! NOOOOO. I think you should be "Madrasi Chick". I am sure the toyboys will agree.

Yakkow or Neha, Missus Em-kku oru invite parcel pannunga!

6:14 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Phantasmagoria- Thank you, ph.

WA- I hope not, too. Let's plan a meeting soon. :-)

Anon- I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. Three years, eh? It would seem I have a long way to go. :-)

Sivaram- And why would Dumbledore make such a remark to Harry? No, wait, this must be from the later books, which I haven't bothered to read.

But, Sivaram, it is just another experience as one travels the path of life, you know?

Anantha- I'd have thought there is only one vacancy for Madrasi Chick, and that is taken already. :-) Madrasi Mother Hen, maybe. Tee hee.

6:39 am  
Anonymous WA said...

Invite on its way, even though it took me a while to figure out what you were going on about :)

3:26 pm  
Blogger M S said...

It's only words, and with words you have, you took our hearts away!

I don't pray but I know.

You'll be fine.


1:10 am  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

You rock, Supermodel. The C, poor misguided crab, doesn't have a chance.


7:23 pm  
Blogger zigzackly said...

As old J.A.P. sez, you rock, Missus Em.

6:34 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

WA- Thanks for the invite, though I don't really qualify. :-)

M.S.- Hey look who is back! Thanks for the hopeful sentiment, since I don't pray either. But hope is a different thing. :-)

J.A.P.- I am glad you think so, JAP. Thank you.

Zigzackly- Omigosh! I didn't know you read my blog, Zigzackly Saar. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You made my day.

11:42 am  

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