July 15th is the day that I heard the words that pushed me from a life of carefree existence to a lifetime of spiritual liberation. “I am sorry, it’s cancer” are the words that were uttered from the other side of the line. A phone call that I had been dreading all weekend. My lymph node biopsy was done on a Friday leaving me about 60 plus hours to contemplate what life held in store for me.

I had read almost all  medical articles that I could find online on causes of lympadenopathy ( swollen lymph nodes) in the axilla (arm pit)  and the physician part of me had concluded with some audacity that the primary resided in breast.

Normally weekends feel short and are over in the blink of an eye but that weekend lasted a life time. I had already “seen” my funeral, my mastectomy, chemotherapy treatments, the sickness, all of it. No movie was entertaining enough that weekend, no company was distracting enough. I was walking towards the edge of the cliff and I knew it.

I wish I could have been as optimistic as my internist who was “rooting” for a phyllodes tumor. After diagnosis, I did go back to her office and told her ” I am here to get my phyllodes”, she hugged me and teared up.(Phyllodes tumors are usually benign)

My mind was constructing and deconstructing scenarios all weekend, my hope wasn’t that it not be cancer (a lttile too much confidence in my knowledge and diagnostic abilities) but perhaps the least sinister and early stage kind. It isn’t easy when you know that a swollen lymph node if caused by breast cancer is already stage 2. I hated having that knowledge. I wanted to be someone who could have been blindly hopeful thinking that swollen lymph node came from a nail infection and “the doctors” just wanted to be sure its nothing. I wanted to be someone who didn’t know what having cancer meant in terms of the gruesome treatments, I wanted to be someone who didn’t know that if her biopsy samples sank in the container, they are likely to be cancerous.( which they did).

Yes on July 15th, I was told, that your life will be interrupted for a whole year to make room for being a ” patient”. And that from that day on, you will just have to believe that you will be OK. That you will look for good ‘omens’ to reassure you, that you will lean on faith more, that you will feel helpless at the loss of control, that you will accept cancer and survivor ship as a part of your life, that you will go through an “experience” that will bring awareness to you.

That you will now have to live your entire life is tied to the word “cancer” with strings , strong transparent strings like the ones that hang the puppets, you cant see them but they are there, part of every movement, every gesture, every turn.

Yes July 15th, your life will start in a different way. A rebirth to a life of awareness that wasn’t there before. An awareness of the darkness that comes with truly realizing how alone a human being is, and what it means to be born alone and die alone. An awareness that you are willingly going to get cut , poisoned and burned because you do love life that much. An awareness of how each moment of life carries value. An awareness that good things come at a cost. And awareness of the strength that resides within you, the kind of strength that bubbles to the surface only when the pressure is intense and there is only one outlet outwards, flowing out like hot molten lava burning everything in its path, only to bring vitality after cooling down.

Yes July 15th is my other birthday, its start of my new life. A life, much like any life any where, to be celebrated, appreciated and be thankful for. A life where I have more faith, more belief, more love but less control, less expectation, less frustration and a whole lot of peace!

Happy Birthday to me and I sure hope to have many more and if I do , I certainly promise they will be celebrated !


  1. Remarkable observations and insights and perspectives. How did your faith community support you during this so far?

  2. its an interesting question Dan, as far as I am concerned every one is part of my faith community and the prayers were in Hebrew, English, Sanskrit, Urdu and Arabic.

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