Hers is not an easy journey. And yet, she faced it with grace at each step of the way.
While her friends were celebrating joyous newness of youth, Jasmine’s world took a different turn. A relentless gastric pain that began in early 2019 led to the discovery of a cancerous tumour in one of the ovaries. The doctors told her then that there was a good chance for recovery as it appeared that they could remove the mass cleanly. A successful surgery to remove the tumour, followed by 5 months of chemotherapy treatment, won her a clean bill of health at the end of 2019.
For a few months after the surgery, life returned to normality; and Jasmine savoured each day with even more vigour, catching up for lost times.
In March 2020, less than a year after the surgery, she received the much-feared news of another mass found during a routine scan. Jasmine and her mother clung to one another, for hope as well as courage. Both determined not to show the other the terror in their hearts.
Another cycle of chemotherapy was prescribed. This time, Jasmine was determined to continue with life as normally as she could. Thankfully with the pandemic, classes are held virtually, allowing her to participate alongside all her classmates. She studied and sat for exams, even while undergoing chemotherapy treatment and other routine investigations. In fact, for Jasmine, the ability to be considered as “normal” like all her classmates is what gives her strength to battle on.
A year after the last confrontation with the horrifying news of a relapse, a routine ultrasound found another mass in her abdomen. When the mass in her stomach grew frighteningly quickly within 7 days, the doctor had no choice but recommend another surgery to relief her of the rapidly growing mass.
At around that same time, Jasmine was introduced to Rachel House. Her doctor had suggested to Jasmine and her mother that they may need a team of palliative care-trained nurses to visit at home, to help Jasmine manage any pain and discomfort that may appear, whether post-surgery, or as the disease progresses.
During the first visits, Rachel House nurses were pleasantly surprised by Jasmine’s bright sunny outlook to life. She is determined to sit for her exams, even while recovering from the surgery. Fully informed about her illness and the various risks, it certainly did not appear Jasmine was in denial or avoiding the harsh reality of the roads ahead.
In fact, when Jasmine started encountering breathing difficulties and Rachel House brought oxygen tank to relief her of the distressing symptom, she calmly stated her intent in not being dependent on the oxygen tank.
This was the beginning of her journey to yoga – in search for peace and perhaps reclaiming some form of control when even the control of breath was slipping through her fingers.
Jasmine’s mother encouraged her daughter to search for yoga classes online. This led to a commitment of a daily practice. Every morning, she would appear on her yoga mat, starting the day with yoga movement and breath work. And when she felt the constriction on her chest, she would return to the space where she had learned to find peace every morning. Of course, there were times when breathing became so difficult and she had to hook up to the oxygen supply, but not for long. Only until the panic subsides.
Then there was the numbness that crept up from her toes, up her legs to her face. She quietly voiced her fears to Nurse Rina, “Is this the onset of paralysis?”
While Rina worked with her oncologist to provide medications to alleviate the symptoms, mother and daughter was determined to seek help and respite that could return them to a place of peace. This time, her mother called their religious leader (Ustad) to hold daily prayers at home. Jasmine found peace from these prayer sessions, just as she had found peace from yoga, and strength from the routine of school.
Slowly, her breathlessness eased and the numbness went away.
There are days when Jasmine’s life is confined to her bed, when movement becomes painful and difficult. But even here, even when she is not able to do the yoga movement, the breathwork remains the cocoon she returns to.
Along with prayers, and the love of her mother, she finds peace.