must read from my friend and colleague Suresh who’s facing immense challenge with courage & humour

Anyone who’s heard Suresh on radio or at live advocacy events here in Perth would never guess the challenges he faces as he works with inspiring spirit and determintion for the welfare of others – mostly pro bono. Please Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Daddy what did you do during the war?
Imagine if Australia had been involved in a war that commenced on 18th January 2012. Roll round to 18th January 2013 and my sons Shakil (10) and Rahul (8) ask me the question “Daddy, what did you do during the war?”

My answer would be a very circumspect one and would involve the following statements:

· Today (18/01/2013) is one year exactly since the doctors removed ½ my stomach in a partial gasteroectomy.
· I spent 4 months having chemotherapy
· I had 36 sessions of radiotherapy
· I had around 6 endoscopies
· I had a PET scan and a variety of blood tests
· I have two shoulders that require surgery to relieve pain and am undergoing acupuncture to counter this

Hmm, hardly doing my patriotic duty to defend my country is it? Fortunately, I can point to advocacy matters and assistance provided to a variety of ethnic community members to feel like I have made a difference to other people’s lives.

It is interesting that my reference points have changed over those last twelve months. 10 years ago my reference points were milestones in the life of my elder son, Shakil. Then 8 years ago that changed to include milestones in Rahul’s life.

Achievements by the boys in school became more important than any other matters. However, the last twelve months added another layer to those reference points. Now, I measure things in terms of “three months since my quadruple bypass” and “six months since my chemo” and now, really importantly, “twelve months since my gasteroectomy”.

Life has also become a matter of weighing up relative importance of certain issues. It does not matter one iota to me whether Lance Armstrong was doped up to his eyeballs when he won the Tour. After all it is only a cycle race. No one’s life depended on this issue. However, it does matter to me that Kuldeep’s (the Sikh taxi driver killed in the crash in October) daughter Satpreet, will be looked after in Australia as a measure of our community. My sense of community has become paramount. Our place in society becomes integral to define us as human beings. I don’t want to be the most caring person in a society of people who don’t care. I want to be one person who cares as much as everyone else does.

For those who have asked about my health, I am in a state of some limbo (and that is not a dance undertaken in the Caribbean!). Chemo and radio are over for now.

There may be a need to revive either of those or more surgery in the event of a recurrence of the cancer. Time will tell. I am due to have another PET scan which will determine any spread of the cancer. What about the heart, I hear you ask? Yes, contrary to popular belief, I do have one! And what is happening with it? Who knows is the answer. Everyone, specialists included have been so consumed with the state of my cancer that the heart has been forgotten. Is that what they call a “broken heart”?

I am reminded of the quip that goes as follows:
A man suffered a serious heart attack and consequently had a quadruple heart bypass surgery. He woke up to find that he was in the care of nuns at a catholic hospital. When he had recovered sufficiently a nun began to ask him questions as to how he was going to pay for the treatment he has had.
The nun asked…"Do you have health insurance?"
The patient replied in a rapsy voice…."No health insurance.."
The nun asked …."Do you have money in the bank?"
The patient replied…"No money in the bank."
Somewhat impatient the nun asked…"Do you have a relative who will be willing to help you settle the account for your treatment?"
The patient replied…"I only have a spinster sister who is a nun."
The nun became agitated and announced loudly.."Nuns are not spinsters! They are married to God."
The patient retorted.." Then send the bill to my brother in law.”

That sounds like the sort of thing I would do, but for the fact that I am an atheist! There are many among you that will claim that it was their prayers that helped me survive. I have no issue with that and preserve your right to feel that was the case. Me, on the other hand, am happy to think that the doctors and copious drugs may have played a significant part in defying my doctor’s expectations!

Anyway, I am still here. As I said earlier this is in defiance of my GP’s expectations. Why am I putting this message out on 18th January? Again as I said earlier it is exactly 12 months since I had the operation to remove the cancer and half my stomach and my reference points have changed. I think somehow, today is my new year!
Thanks go to all of you who have and continue to wish me well. My family have been amazing in helping me through this tough time. I hope I am through it and time will tell as far as that is concerned.

In the meantime, enjoy life to the fullest and make every day count. It is your community as well.

Suresh Rajan

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