By Dr.K.V.Chaubal


"Gargi is just ten”-The mother,

Since when has she been complaining of this pain in the thigh?” I ask. "Well, she had this dance sequence in the forthcoming film and we are here straight from the studio. As such she has been having some pain for the last few weeks”—The parents.

In fact, we did get an X-ray done a few days ago” — The Father. I had a look at the child and the X-ray and kept looking at the viewing box, wondering how I could put forth my thoughts. Anyway, I had to. **Look” I said, "a few more investigations before we operate on her".

"But why?”—The parents

"I feel, it is urgent, we can clinch the diagnosis only if we operate”.

"Is it so bad?”—The Mother. "I am afraid, I am not sure”—I said. "Gargi, will you wait outside?”—The Father. "Mummy, may I stay?”—Gargi.

Gargi went out to a tearful mother's nod. I explained it could be cancer and I experienced what I had read—that a child dies three times for the parents to whom the diagnosis is pronounced. I could see their faces grim and very different from what they were when they entered my cabin-The First Death.

Gargi again. What a child! Well composed, "Look mother, when can I have the operation? I must let my teacher know". We fixed a day for the operation. I performed the biopsy-my fears were proved true. Ewing's tumour. Confirmation of the diagnosis— The Second Death-the books said. There was a flurry of activity. They could afford to take her to the United States. The best of medical centres were within their reach. News came over weeks and Gargi arrived, having had a metal prosthesis introduced in place of her thigh bone. She had pain, she was bald, having lost her dark hair because of the intensive chemotherapy. Parents had done their best. The doctors felt they had done theirs, too. Gargi was far from better. Her pain got worse, she had learned from doctors abroad all about her disease. She assured her parents that she was able to stand the pain and even consoled her mother. She assured me that she had full faith in me but disclosed that she was being beckoned by some force outside this world. Weeks passed by pain increased but Gargi received me with a smile, then complained of pain, not without reason, for the bone scan revealed the general spread of the disease. The malady had dissipated through her body. What I did not know then was that she was holding the family together. The limb was very painful and the only merciful act would be an amputation through the groin. I hesitated saying so. Gargi was clever she guessed it. There was a card she had painted to present me. I was the Almighty destroying the Demon-the cancer—the leg. She said: "Doctor, please do the operation".

The operation eased her pain. She went home-she wanted it that way. She played with her younger brother, spent time with her grand parents, eagerly awaited my visits and would act as a good hostess when I went to see her, quietly enquiring of me-how long would it continue? I was a witness to this remarkable behaviour of a child, who made anxious adults look out of place in her sick room. She died a quiet death. She was the only patient I visited at home after death. I wanted to pay my homage to a superb human being.

Somebody has written a book narrating her tale. I have not read it. I need not. I have lived through it.

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar