Cancer- The word itself can bring one down to their knees. Today is World Cancer Day, and today I will finally share how cancer has affected me and my family.
The afternoon of June 18th, 2009, less than one year after I getting married, I received a call from my dad that would ultimately change my outlook on life altogether. He had previously been suffering from horrible headaches, and his doctor hadn’t taken his claims too seriously. He would advise my father to take Tylenol or Motrin, but nothing seemed to help. As luck would have it, while on a trip to visit his family in Pakistan, Papa had tripped and fallen on a set of stairs, resulting in a few stitches near his eyebrow. Upon returning home, his pain hadn’t subsided, so finally his doctor decided that it was time for more testing, just to make sure that he hadn’t broken or fractured anything, or that he didn’t have any internal bleeding. A mass that appeared on Papa’s x-ray alarmed his physician, and after more testing, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. My father, my loving Papa, called me on June 18th, 2009, to tell me that he had Stage III Multiple Myeloma, and to not tell Mom. He would tell her himself.
The following weeks have become a blur of flights back to California, doctors’ visits, intense chemotherapy regimens, health insurance issues, tears, and fear. Medical terminology that at one point in time meant nothing to us had become part of our everyday language. All of us were walking on eggshells, but we kept a brave face for Papa. Mom would hide in the garage and cry, while my brother would try to hold back his own tears to console her. To this day I haven’t watched my wedding video, because I fear that it would remind me of our days before Cancer.
On April 30th, 2010, my father underwent an autologous bone marrow transplant. We referred to that date as Papa’s new birthday. From that day, until October 2012, Papa was in remission. Since then, the cancer has begun to slowly creep back up, but the doctors have been able to keep in under control with the help of new and experimental medications.
No one thinks that they’re going to get cancer. I used to hear about friends whose loved ones were dealing with it, but I never thought that we would have to face it. Cancer seemed far away. Others dealt with it, Not us, I used to think. Then one day out of the blue, Cancer made its grand appearance.
I’m not going to lie, in the beginning we all were scared. We all cowered in fear of Cancer. But then something happened. We all decided that we weren’t going to be afraid. We were going to face Cancer together, and we were going to be strong. The strength and positivity my parents presented and continue to show have given new meaning to the word “Heroes” to our family. My Papa and Mummi are my biggest inspirations, and I hope and pray that I am able to carry on their positive outlook on life into my own.
The reason I’m sharing our personal story about our fight against Cancer is to show you that you’re not alone. Sure, it is really scary. And you know what, there are days when we fear the worst. But know that we’re in this fight together, and together we will kick Cancer’s ass, God willing. For those of you reading, please take just one moment to send some positive vibes and prayers to those who are in this fight.
To learn more about Multiple Myeloma and to see how you can help or receive help, please visit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. To learn more about Cancer and to see how you can help or receive help, please visit the American Cancer Society.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is Carrot Halwa, or Gajar ka Halwa, and it is one of my dad’s favorite desserts. My mom would make a large amount at once, and then freeze a portion of it for later. The consistency of hers is a bit different than the one I am sharing, as her’s was a more dry Halwa that she would cut into diamonds. I’ve adapted my recipe from Sinfully Spicy, and although it is time-consuming, it is completely worth it and very homely
Gajar Ka Halwa
Yield: 4 – 6 Servings
- 2 tablespoons + ¼ cup oil, divided
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1 ¾ cup whole milk, warmed
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¾ – 1 cup sugar, to taste
- Toasted unsalted nuts, for garnish
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large vessel over medium heat. Add shredded carrots and mix well. Allow the carrots to cook for 20 to 25 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Add warm milk to the carrots and mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the milk has evaporated. Stir occasionally, and reduce heat if you notice that the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the milk has dried, add remaining oil and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add cardamom powder and sugar and mix well. Cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar has melted and been completely incorporated into the Halwa. Garnish with nuts.
Halwa can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. Refrigerate leftovers.