KOCHI: Triumph and Disaster, said Kipling, are two imposters who need to be treated just the same. Life’s highs and lows can turn around with just a turn of the clock. Twenty-four years ago, Omana, then 32, had lost all hopes when her husband, a mason by profession, fell off the third floor of a building under construction, and soon after, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
All Omana had as worldly wealth then were two earrings. Staring at penury and certain death in the face, she wrote a touching letter to her doctor, which changed the course of her family’s lives. The story of her fight against cancer is a tale of despair, tears, hope and perseverance. Overcoming odds stacked heavily against her, she survived the disease and emerged stronger, and is today living a full and meaningful life.Life as she knew it then came crashing down for Omana in September 1997, when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. In their house at Kannamaly in Ernakulam, her husband, just 34 then, was already bedridden. Pooling in together all the money they had, she had managed to get his treatment going, when tragedy struck the second time.
“It started with abdominal pain. I have had two miscarriages and things were getting serious. Since my husband was admitted for treatment after his fall, I had to wait for him to be back home. After he was discharged, I consulted a gynecologist in Mattancherry, who identified a growth in my abdomen and referred me to Lakshmi Hospital, Kochi,” said Omana. “All the money we had was already spent on my husband’s treatment. I could foot my hospital bills only by mortgaging some gold, and selling the rest,” she said.
“At Lakshmi Hospital, I was referred to Dr Mohanan Nair, oncologist. After diagnosing ovarian cancer, he advised me to undergo a surgery, which I managed to pay for by selling off my gold. At the time of being discharged, I was short of some money, but Dr Nair stepped in to settle my bills. I was advised chemotherapy sessions but didn’t have a clue in the world how to afford that,” said Omana.
With the chemotherapy schedule nearing and no solution in sight, Omana gave up all hope. Two days before the sessions were to start, on September 10, 1997 she wrote a letter to Dr Mohanan Nair, detailing her life’s crisis. “At this point in time, I am unable to afford any treatment. I will come to you when I have some money. At that time, please do not be angry with me for seeking treatment too late. I would like to live out the rest of my days with my husband,” read the letter.
“Rather than dying in some hospital bed, without anyone to look after me, I wanted to spend my days with my husband. I was ready to die, but it seems there was hope in store for me. I was left speechless when, two days later, I received a reply from the doctor. He instructed me to get admitted at the hospital as soon as possible, without worrying about my financial crisis, and that I could sort all that out later,” said Omana.
In October 1997, the first of five chemo sessions started. Though her body was ravaged by the effects of the treatment, she grew stronger and survived the cancer. Over the last 24 years since her recovery, she has not developed any complications till date. “Dr Mohanan appeared to me as someone sent from the heavens. It is rare to find healing hands that heal lives, too” says Omana.
“No one should delay treatment for want of money. Omana’s cancer was at an advanced stage, and further treatment was unavoidable if I had to save her life. The letter, which showcased her pride and dignity, shook my conscience. Initially, I was helping out for her treatment from my own pocket, but later on, a few kind hearts pitched in, on hearing her story,” said Dr Nair. After meeting Omana, Dr Nair started the Mahakavi G Foundation to assist cancer patients requiring financial assistance.
“We have been able to assist over 300 patients so far. Cancer awareness is the key in preventing its spread. A cancer diagnosis is not the end of life,” said Dr Mohanan. Since her treatment, Omana has also been engaged in cancer campaigns. She is not ashamed to tell her story. She is also a volunteer at ‘Ashakiranam’, a cancer care campaign launched by Carithas India, an NGO.