Arunima Rajan was fond of cars, races and travels. When she was diagnosed with cancer aged 25, another version of this young woman unfolded - a talented artist who had no prior training or taste in painting. She started painting as a means to forget the pain from chemotherapy. Last week, she hosted the first exhibition of her works.
Why should I be upset when cancer has brought only positivity in my life, asks Arunima. The medical condition has provided immense strength and made her realise who all stands by in tough times. Everything turned positive when painting began. ‘Art triggered by chemo drugs’, sister Anupama commented on Arunima’s newfound talent.
Sleep-deprived, she would draw at night. Those pictures were featured in the exhibition held on world cancer day held by Amrita Hospital.
Arunima was living her most beautiful days last June before being diagnosed with cancer. A good job, travels in her new car, a happy life with father, mother, sister and a beautiful relationship that had kept her waiting for years. And some modelling too.
She tried to quit the administrative job at Amrita Hospital to find more time for travel. Then came the big twist. A visit to hospital for a toothache lasted too long after fever and vomiting followed.
A scan at a private hospital in Pathanamthitta revealed an infection in the intestine. She felt pain when the doctor touched on her stomach. A detailed analysis at a hospital in Thiruvalla found nothing wrong. She approached Amrita Hospital for a confirmation even though fever had subsided.
There was infection in the intestine. A key-hole surgery determined the cause – Arunima had stage 4 cancer. The doctor spoke to husband Susheel and Anupama once biopsy results came. It was stage 4 and there was no guarantee of a successful treatment. Surgery could be performed after three chemo sessions, said the doctor.
They could not gather the courage to tell Arunima about her disease. Sensing something was wrong, she went through the treatment summary one day when no one was around. The medical jargons made no sense. But she realised the seriousness of the diagnosis once she googled some medical terms.
The chemo session began as gastro surgeon Dr Ramachandra Menon and oncology director Pavithran gave her strength. Doctors had a rehabilitation plan – five days on ventilators, four in ICU and then the wards. But Arunima’s body reacted well to the medication and she was transferred to the ward four days after surgery. She remained on that bed for the next 65 days.
No one knew the intestines had ruptured in first chemo session itself. Infection soon spread as she ate normally, resulting in swelling all over the body. Though it did not affect any organ, the whole body became pustulated.
The intestines were removed and puss drained out with tubes through pigtail surgery. One leg was affected by blood clots. The incision on the stomach was not fully stitched to help drain out puss.
Patients were shifted from the hospital in August when the floods hit. The doctors suggested she moved to a nearby house. But Arunima insisted to go home in Pathanamthitta. She wanted to spend the final two months doctors gave her in a place she knew best. Onam, birthday and first wedding anniversary coincided. She ate in plantain leaf with loved ones and filled the days with positive vibes.
One night she gathered all strength and tried to straighten the leg bent from a clot. Relatives were astonished to see her stand on her own. She had come home on a wheelchair. She could walk by August 31 as she left for the hospital for first chemo session. Doctors had prescribed 12 sessions, but Arunima could drive her favourite car after the eighth.
She has completed ten sessions now. Two more, and Arunima is ready to travel to her favourite destinations. (Arunima is the daughter of Rajan and Jaya, Mallasseri House, Kalayil, Pathanamthitta)