In our daily life we ask a ‘mechanical question: How are you? And we give a ‘mechanical answer’: ‘Fine’, ‘I am keeping fine’, ‘I am doing well’ etc. Is our answer true? It may be true for 5 percent of people. But for a vast majority, this answer is "partially true" and "not true". In reality, we are not fine and yet we try to say that we are fine. We laugh outside but cry inside. We are sad inside but try to show to others that we are happy. This is one of the many contradictions with which we live today.
In the past, we had knowledge about very few types of illness and relevant medical treatment. These days, new types of illnesses are spreading fast all over the world. We are really unprepared and unable to face the illnesses. Take the example of Covid-19 and other variants. They came suddenly and killed millions of people. There have been many other negative consequences in every country. The medical world was not sufficiently prepared to face this sudden disaster, in spite of advanced medical technologies.
I am writing this article from the hospital bed, after my fifth abdomen surgery at St. John's Medical College Hospital, Bengaluru. From November 2021 I have been under treatment for "rectal cancer" and underwent two surgeries. I wish to share my learning on the health crisis purely based on my experience. I have faced six major health crises in my life.
Crisis-1: In 1987 I was affected by a rare sickness called "Systemic Lupus Erythematosus" (SLE). In short it is known as "blood cellular defect". I underwent Ayurvedic treatment for 3 months. Since there was no progress, I was given Allopathic treatment. I was in a "semi-conscious" condition for seven days during that period. Finally, the treatment at Christian Medical College Hospital, Vellore saved my life.
Crisis-2: In January 2003 I had a gunshot injury at my abdomen while I was working in Ranchi. The first abdomen surgery was conducted there. 50 percent of my intestine (ascending colon) was removed.
Crisis-3: In August 2004 I went through a surgery in Chennai for my large abdomen hernia.
Crisis-4: In December 2010 I underwent a surgery in Chennai for the removal of Gallbladder.
Crisis-5: On March 15, 2022 a surgery was done in Bengaluru to treat my rectal cancer.
Crisis-6: On September 27, 2022 I underwent a surgery in Bengaluru for the reversal of my small intestine and removal of the temporary stoma bag.
During these six stages, I came across so many patients with different types of problems. The only one slogan that came to my mind repeatedly has been "health is wealth". In the modern world, people deviate from the traditional life and live as they like by paying very little attention to their personal health. Rare illnesses affect people so fast and the medical sector is also growing with the same speed to tackle such illnesses.
Modern medical technologies have become unaffordable for the common people. Mobilising funds for a treatment becomes a herculean task. This creates psychological problems in the sick people and their families. A priest friend in Bengaluru had to shell out three lakh rupees for his dental implantation creating a lot of tension in him. The fund crunch caused psychological fear for my elder brother in Coimbatore and he postponed his medical treatment.
I started my medical treatment last October with my meagre savings. Providentially ‘voluntary contributions’ reached me from some of my family members and friends and I have been able to sail through. Every illness and medical treatment causes "mental tension" for the middle and lower middle class people. Hence, a vast majority of them get into a "debt trap" mainly to meet their medical expenses. The government health schemes do not reach even 50 percent of the people. This is the bitter truth in our country.
Of course, when an illness affects us, it tears our body and mind. We are forced to undergo physical and mental agony. No one is spared from this. The sick people become desperate to a great extent. One female patient, in front of my bed, told the doctor on the day of her discharge from the hospital: “Doctor, I do not want to die. I want to live”. We can imagine the extent of her depression, anxiety and desperation. Only when a person goes through a severe illness, the value of life is realised.
• When health is lost, wealth is lost.
• Health is a precious component of life. So, care for personal health is the need of the hour.
• Discipline in personal life including the intake of traditional and healthy food.
• Trust/Faith in the divine power.
• Getting a new lease of life means that our mission in this world is incomplete.
I have experienced this in my life. Every time I am saved from an illness, God has entrusted me with a new mission and the energy to carry on the mission.
In every illness we can find an interplay of sadness, distress, depression, self-compassion, optimism and resilience. My health crisis helped me to understand myself -- hopeless feelings, loneliness, inadequacies, ability to cope with sickness, financial crunch and relationships. As a sick person, I always looked for the future stage of recovery with a lot of anxiety.
In this context, I was reminding myself of what Cardinal Newman said, "I do not want to see the distant scene. One step is enough for me." So, I tried to take one step a day. Indeed, my health crises have rather strengthened my faith in divine power and the importance of prayer. Numerous people have been praying for me and their prayerful support has put my health on the road to recovery and progress.
The essence of Bhagavad Gita says:
“Whatever has happened, has happened well.
Whatever is happening, is happening well.
Whatever will happen, will happen well.”
In short, everything happens as per God's plan and for our good. We need to surrender ourselves and say a simple "yes" like Mother Mary – “Behold the handmaid of God, be it done to me according to your Will.”