Look at this photo. Commit to memory its colors, lights, empty spaces; my kaki’s body– 12 chemos, 5 operations, and 4 organs lighter– walking itself out of a hospital, 48 hours after a mastectomy, carrying a bag of blood attached to it. Walking the walk that began 7 years ago, when they first took her knee. Right. Then they came for a part of the left breast, a prelim to the loss of the right. The hair she prided, the hair he adored, the nails he jinxed by calling them beautiful for 20 years.

While walking she never asked frivolous ‘why’s, just ‘how’s. She never said No. She walks out of each hospital, sooner than expected, eager, daughter-wards. Towards a job, a kitchen, and a floor plan of a house-to-be; with whatever ingredients are left in her basket, always, somehow, ignoring the spilled milk.

Carry this association– to the bed too hard to get out of, to family events where you are made to feel ashamed of the scars on your wrist/thigh, through the pain that is too heavy and complicated to bear– as a reminder that you will get by. That there will be laughter– in hospitals, at funerals of all places– even if momentarily, even if it seems impossible right now.

But, consciously, voluntarily, Do not use this story to romanticize valor at avoidable wars. Or at wars fought for reasons. Do not associate it with the smallness of your misfortune. Do not use it to measure or patronize your woes. Or as a string to attach ‘strength’ to the ‘weight of troubles a shoulder carries’.


Take it to be a gentle reminder of getting by. The humble Getting By through big problems and bigger tumors. Getting by with whatever is left of your body, mind, and spirit. A tiny, even if false, sense of hope, of reassurance, of the passing of a time that feels heavy on your chest.

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