by Aarthi Hariharan, Pleasanton
There is an eight-year-old going to school, playing with her friends, and living a normal life. An eight-year-old immersed in her world — learning about the arm bones, animals in the world, and basic multiplication — is told that her grandfather had cancer. This kid has no idea what cancer is, besides the fact that there is usually no cure. An eight-year-old is someone who always has hope; an eight-year-old is someone who thinks life is very perfect until it isn’t. This eight-year-old was me, five years ago.
My grandfather, my father’s dad, was living in Bangalore, a city in India. My father was in the United States with me, my mother, and sister. Everything was normal. My parents would talk to my grandparents everyday, and life went on as usual with school and work. One day, while my mom was calling my grandfather, he started mumbling his words, but he and my grandmother thought nothing was wrong. My mom was anxious, so she called my uncle, and eventually, our neighbor took my grandfather to the hospital. At the hospital, after doing many blood tests, my grandfather was diagnosed with acute leukemia cancer. This was a big surprise, but the family hoped that he would be strong and fight.
I barely knew what cancer was until I knew that my grandfather had it. Prior to this event, in summer of 2015, my sister had done a Relay for Life program, which raised cancer awareness. At the event, there were many fliers that portrayed stories of cancer survivors. As a result of hearing these inspiring stories, I now believed that my grandfather would obviously survive as well. As a third grader, that’s all I could hope for.
Cancer is a horrible disease, and trying to get rid of the cancer cells is not easy. To flush these cells out of his system, my grandfather did chemotherapy. My dad had to take frequent trips to India to help take care of him. While my dad was there, he saw my grandfather going through the treatment and saw the pain that he had to endure. All my family could do was pray.
His chemo treatment went on for a long time, and my uncle would take him to the hospital almost everyday. One day, while my uncle was taking my grandfather, my grandfather started looking in a weird way, and he became unconscious. Immediately, my uncle got him to the doctors, and he went on a stretcher inside. This was a moment of panic for everyone. Then, the doctors came out and said that my grandfather had a stroke, and they said he was unconscious, and it was doubtful if he would wake up. While my uncle and the doctors were discussing the details, my grandfather died. It was so quick that everyone was in shock. Turns out, we lost the battle.
It was about 3:00 AM, and my parents got a call that he passed away. In the morning at around 9:00 AM, my sister and I were told the news. I cried a lot in my pillow because I just woke up, and it is shocking news the moment you get out of bed. We were all in a rush that day because we booked an emergency flight to India. When we got there, everyone stood around the body and cried. That day was a major event for everyone.
Here I am writing this about four years later. So much has changed, and my relationship with my grandma has grown even stronger. She came to the United States to stay with us for a while, and during her time here, I grew a stronger bond with her. We’ve laughed, had plenty of conversations, and even sung together. My grandfather’s death taught me the importance of connection with family members, especially elders. No one ever knows what’s going to happen. My grandfather will always be in my heart, and I am forever thankful for the lesson he has taught me.