By Cassandra Chelliah
Through a project I found myself in different villages, in homes across Nagaland and at The Naga Authority Hospital. At the hospital is where I met a member of the Cancer’s Survivor’s Association. He was a small sized man with a humble personality. He asked me a number of questions and in return, I asked him a couple of questions. I’m glad I did. He had a story I needed to hear.
He spoke a little about his journey with cancer and what it did to him, how it changed him, as well as a few of the initiatives he was involved in. He then casually mentioned that cancer took one of his lungs from him and a huge chunk of his intestines leaving him with a quarter of it. That startled me. I immediately couldn’t help but question “What was he doing here?” “Is he alright doing all these things especially in the hospital?” It wasn’t that I thought he was incapable, however, it blew my mind that at the end of the day, he chose to be out here in the hospital serving and meeting with different cancer patients and their families and encouraging them. He didn’t have to. He had every right to play the “sick card” or the “tired card”; especially with one lung! But that wasn’t the case.
Prior to this experience, having been sick myself and have worked in a hospital, it would have been an option for me to take a day off if I ever found myself sick or even slightly unwell. Especially in the context of service. It requires much of your energy in all aspects; mentally, emotionally and definitely, physically. It’s understandable that one stops working especially after being diagnosed with such a sickness such as cancer! Barely understandable; it’s a no-brainer! But not for this guy. He was devoted to living his life with much purpose and love. He showed love and concern about others’ condition as if it were his own not looking or thinking twice whether it might bring an inconvenience to his routine, life or even health.
I’ll never forget this experience. It made me realised that when you’ve found meaning in your life, you won’t want to go back. You would only want to go forward. You would want to see more, do more. Not anything physical or mental could keep you from doing what you’re passionate about. This man who had one lung and a quarter of an intestine left could be on his feet serving the community and doing as much as he could to show love and encouragement. That changed me. That made me realise that I, as a 20-year-old with barely any sickly moments had no excuse for anything. Not missed deadlines, not calling in sick to work-days and not to any act of kindness or service outside my convenience; and I intend to walk in that light for as long as I can.
Editor’s note: Cassandra was inspired to start the Nagaland Project after traveling to volunteer in the area. Because of her initiative, 90 school children and adult oncology patients in Nagaland (northeast India), had warm blankets for the 2018-2019 winter season. Cassandra is currently living in Kajang, Malaysia and studies nursing at Vision College. She is also a talented singer and musician!