Featured Piece: My Father – By Shekhar Mahabir

4 01 2016

One of my earliest memories of my father is when I was in my final year at Avocat Vedic School. I was required to choose which secondary school I wished to be considered for in order of preference. I chose Iere High School as my first option since all my friends is class were doing so. When I showed the form to my Dad, without hesitation, he promptly rearranged my options and entered Naparima College as my first choice. My next clear memory is on the morning of the common entrance results when he woke me up early around 6 am to go to the my grandfather’s parlour to check the newspaper for the publication of the successful students and their chosen schools. When we saw that I had passed for Naparima College, he did not say anything to me but I knew he was happy with the result and I was hugely relieved that I had made it.

The pungent whiff of tobacco smoke curling from a cigarette is one of the earliest memories I have of my father. I started secondary school in the same month that we moved into our newly built house down from the junction. Before that we used to rent an old wooden house in Siparia old road from my uncle Keese, my father’s cousin. Every morning as we got in the small Austin A40, the wafting smoke became an integral part of the start of the drive to secondary school in San Fernando, some twelve miles away. Then he would proceed to Penal Vedic School in Penal some fifteen miles away to his work as a primary school headteacher. He used to leave home promptly at 7 am and proceed at a steady, comfortable pace. He did not drive fast nor was he slow. On evenings on the way back home he would pass to pick me up from the bench on Broadway exactly at 3.30 every day after school. He was never late. On most evenings I would stretch out across the entire back seat of the car and fall gently asleep to the slow rhythm of his sure and steady hand at the wheel.

Half an hour later he would turn into the driveway of our home and I would wake on the sound of the hand brake being pulled out. Emerging from the car I would walk into the warm smell of curry as I approach my mother rocking on her hammock and address her with the same combined greeting, “Namaste, ah want meh food please”.

I don’t remember if I used to change from my school clothes first or after, but I really appreciated that hot cooked meal. My father was partial to curry so it would be some variation of one curry dish or another.

We didn’t talk much to each other, not because of any antagonism or argument. It’s just that we did not have anything to discuss. Most of the interaction between us was understood. When we returned home I went about my pursuits and he his. I never thought about or observed what he did. Most times in the early evening as the dusk was settling he would take a walk a few hundred yards up the road towards Avocat junction where the Fyzabad road forked into the Siparia old road. There on the pavement I would see him standing with Azam (Tembo) or another of his friends chatting and enjoying a relaxing evening watching the traffic go by. We barely ever encountered each other on the road and by the time it grew dark he would be home in front the television watching the 7 o’clock news. Perhaps he would catch another show until around 9 or 10 and go off to sleep.

While I was on the block liming I learnt a little about my father from some of the older fellas who were hanging out there. Once I was told of how he was a legend at draughts at an early age and that when he was eleven or twelve years old he was such a prodigy that there was no player, young or old, for miles around who could beat him at the board game. Tales were told of how he used to be proudly hoisted on the shoulder of the men from the village and taken to other communities east, west, north and south and used to demolish the opposition players with consummate ease. How much of this was true and how much exaggerated I will never know. But his reputation was widely acknowledged and confirmed by all who were in a position to be consulted in conversation.

Another story I was told about my father was about his struggles as a student at Naparima College during secondary school. I heard that he used climb coconut trees, pick and sell fresh coconuts early on mornings and late on evenings when he was a young man in order to make enough money to look after his needs. At that time he used ride a bicycle the twelve miles to and from San Fernando. At that time I suppose he lived at Avocat junction where my grandfather had his little parlour, where one of the unique specialities was freshly made nuts and channa in wrapped up packets which his sister Didia used to make. I can still smell the aroma emanating from those packets.

Yet another anecdote that I recall is how he came to wear spectacles. It was said that my father was a keen cricketer in his youth and his special fielding place was as a wicket keeper. One day while behind the wicket a ball passed the batsman and struck him in the face. As a consequence his vision was affected and he was forced to have his eyesight tested and was persuaded to wear spectacles.

Another aspect of my father was the times he was at his desk studying. I know for sure he used to study hindi and Sanskrit and when my sisters used to go to hindi classes in San Fernando he was also studying preparing for a qualification in Sanskrit. In fact I learnt later on that he was the first student in Trinidad and Tobago who ever passed the Advanced Levels Sanskrit examinations.

But his aptitude for study did not end there. My father was an avid racing fan and he used to play the racing pools regularly. In fact every Saturday he would head for the Betting shops by the market in San Fernando and spend most of the day there. Whether he won or lost I never knew but this was an integral part of his weekly custom. And this is what he studied at his desk as well. There would be a pile of different racing books with detailed information about the horses and the conditions and the jockeys and he would spend long hours poring over these study materials in preparation for his Saturday morning pastime.





Reflections for 2015, Notes for 2016

3 01 2016

Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

Health:

It’s been a tough year and I have learnt more than ever not to take my body for granted. It might not look the way I want it to look but each day, each minute, each second it’s keeping me here. Doing what I need it to do. It’s a wonderful thing and I am intent on treating it better.

Friends:

Over the years I’ve felt sad about the quick entry and exit of “friends”. I went through various stages of sadness and anger at people who I deemed friends but who no longer held that position (by action or circumstance). I have finally learned that the title of friend is a sacred one and I am much more aware that such titles are to be given carefully and with thought and intent.

Having said that, know that it’s ok to lean away from certain social groups when you realise that a relationship with them has reached its peak or will not aid or may even stunt your emotional growth and depth as a person.

I truly believe people come into our lives for various reasons (and vice versa). Once you believe they have fulfilled their purpose, it’s ok to move on. Put them to one side and keep what you have gained (good and bad) for future endeavors.

Family:

They’re a complicated people but you only have one (not including those friends who get promoted to family, of course). They may not be what you want them to be or they may not always understand you, but they are yours. They won’t be around forever. Make time for them and log away good moments as memories to be cherished later. Some people are not so fortunate…

Love:

Last year was about loving myself. Physically. I didn’t have time to lament about my singledom and actually I think sometimes it would have been much tougher to love myself while trying to love another.

This year is about loving myself. Wholly. Mind, body, spirit. How can I expect someone else to love, what is still (in some aspects), unknown to me.

Love can wait… I come first.

Wealth:

Put simply, life is too damn short to do something that makes you unhappy (simply for money or stability).

However, it’s never too late to start saving. Going out to drink with your buddies 3 plus times a week may not seem a lot – but it is. Do you really need that extra bottle of rose, half an hour before the pub closes? (you’re already passed tipsy anyways). Think of how much you could save (money, hangover time, liver function, dignity).

Pursuit:

Whatever it may be…

To travel?

To learn a language?

To do something that scares you?

To re-train?

To start a new career path?

It’s never too early to follow your pursuits.

Be passionate and curious about the world around you.

Never stop learning.

Love yourself.

I hope you all had a great 2015 and my wish for you is that 2016 will be all that you allow it to be!

From my heart to yours <3

Tara xoxo





1 Year On…

12 11 2015

It’s been roughly one year since my cancer journey began.

This time, a year ago, I was laid up in bed, in excruciating pain recovering from my full hysterectomy – and the future looked pretty grim… Let’s look over my year in pictures:

Me & Jen just before diagnosis

My best friend and I a week or so before I found out I had cancer.

Me & Jen just before chemo

My bestie and I again – this was after my two surgeries just before I started chemo.

My 28th bithday - had most all my hair

With my fav girls on my 28th birthday – I had lost all my hair at this point.

Out at a party with my wigMe wearing my NHS wig and penciled in eyebrows at a friend’s bbq.

My hair re-growth since May last year to October 20156 months of hair growth…

So – what’s happened since I last blogged?

  • I’ve had chemo (sucked ass)
  • I’ve had radiotherapy (also sucked ass)
  • I’m still coming to terms with having lost the ability to bare children
  • Menopause has taken full swing and I have become a raving lunatic
  • I got a dog (Buttonz)
  • Changed career paths
  • I’m still single and fear I may actually die alone

I don’t really need to explain how awful chemo and radiotherapy is, do I?

Ok, very quickly – chemo sucked. It’s literally poison that they give you in the hopes of it ‘hitting the right spot’ – needless to say, it kills and damages all cells it comes into contact with. They have no way of directing it, so essentially it causes horrible side effects – some of which are still with me (and I am told, may be with me for years).

Radiotherapy sucked. It was everyday for 6 weeks. It’s a very strange thing to have technicians who are wearing lead aprons and protective gear ask you to remove your clothing in order to be fried by a machine that is no-doubt dangerous. At first I felt like James Bond being ready to have a lazer beam cut him half… except I didn’t escape my fate as he does – and towards the end I started to feel like an alien being experimented on.

On that note – I truly commend those who offer themselves to medical studies post-cancer survival… You are real warriors!

I’m not doing well adjusting to my new status as barren… And it only irks me further when I try to express my emotional distress and am met with “but you can always adopt”… I am well aware I can adopt – have a surrogacy – become a crazy cat lady – but I just need to mourn this massive loss and I really wish people understood that, rather than trying to ‘fix it’.

Guide to Why I Have Become a Raving Lunatic:

  1. Menopause (resulting from the hysterectomy and therefore a loss of regulatory hormones)
  2. At 27 I lost the ability to bare children
  3. I still have symptoms from chemo and radiotherapy
  4. I have very little energy and am basically a young woman trapped in a body I don’t recognise and can’t control
  5. My emotions are all over the place – I can switch from happy and relaxed to spewing molten lava in 5 seconds flat (not as great of a party trick as you’d imagine – especially when pre-cancer one of my most noticeable traits was my patience)
  6. I had a seemingly undetectable cancer (that’s a pretty basic one, right?)
  7. My life long dream career made me miserable (teaching)

All the above is bound to make you a cranky-snappy-ass-bitch; or more commonly know as a Raving Lunatic.

I whole-heartily apologise to anyone who my anger lands on – it’s not you, it’s me… but can you blame me?

World, meet Buttonz (yes, I am one of those dog owners who dress their dog up… I have no shame).

Buttonz

He’s a year old now and he’s my bae!

I’m exploring a new career path in Wedding & Event Planning. I’m very excited to focus my attentions on something new!

And, finally – I joke about being single, but right now that works just fine for me. I need to focus on myself, come to terms with my losses and re-write my 5 year plan. Besides I don’t even want to think about how to approach that difficult conversation about what has happened, what could happen and what I can’t offer… Plus, the single and dying alone part is kind of countered by Buttonz…

Me & Buttonz

xoxo





Update: Round 1 of Chemo (Taxol & Carbo)

28 01 2015

On the 15th January I had my first round of chemo.

taxol-300x196

carboplatin

I have joined a group of women on Facebook who have/are working through cancer survival and they have provided tremendous support (the group was created, and is run by cancer survivor and author Maureen Miles Bucci – who’s book I will be reviewing soon!).

Snobby-Girl-Cancer-Club-with-Lucy

The link to the group is here: Snobbies

The group is for anyone who has gone through cancer treatment, is going through cancer treatment or knows someone who has/is. It’s a great place to read and write about worries, fears, stories (good, bad and hilarious!) The women in the group have provided me with much love and support and I feel strangely akin to them considering I have never actually met any of them and they live on different continents! (I suppose the battle against cancer is enough to bring us together).

I was very apprehensive although I had done a lot of research on what to expect.

A good friend of mine (Vicky) came with me and kept me as distracted and upbeat as she could. She is a star!

Me & Vicky

They had a lot of trouble finding a vein and when they did it would collapse after a while. It took 3 nurses and 11 stabs before they found a vein that would stick…  I also tend to be very difficult to get blood from, so we have decided that I should be fitted with a PIC line. What should have taken 5/6 hours took 9 hours :/

A PIC line (for those of you who don’t know) is a port that leads directly to my vein and it sits under my skin. It should make it much easier to access my vein for blood test, blood infusions (should I need one) and for the chemo drugs. I am scheduled to go and have it put in on the 2nd February.

I’m just under two weeks from my first treatment and so far I have experienced the following side-effects:

-Weird metallic taste in mouth

-Ravenous hunger that is never satisfied (due to everything tasting like cardboard)

-Tiredness

-Dry skin

-Muscle pain

-Joint pain

-Scalp pain

So far, my hair hasn’t started to drop, but I’m told that will happen soon :(

My friends have been very supportive and all around awesome but I find myself not really wanting to hang out or see people. I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better so I’m trying to force myself to be social while I still can.

10919025_10203574261418007_4532243702370373734_n

That’s all for now…

Tara xoxo

EDIT: it’s 19:11 and my hair just started falling out… :(





What would you change?

6 11 2014

This video has been circulating on the internet for a while.

Adults and children were asked “if you could change one thing about your body, what would you change?

The answers from the adults mirrored my own and will probably mirror yours and those you know, but the answers from the children… were beautiful and inspiring.

It’s amazing how children see the world.

Enjoy xoxo





Update: Operation 2 – Done

6 11 2014

hysterectomy

On the 28th of October I had the second surgery, which was a hysterectomy.

The hospital sent me home to recoup on the 31st October.

I was a lot more emotional this time around, mainly because;

  1. I had two weeks to stew over it (compared to the 3 days I had for the first surgery).

And

  1. This surgery is was so final. I was losing my ability to carry a child – permanently. Forever.

Womb

I tried to prepare myself and told myself that the surgery couldn’t be that different from the first one since they were going back in through the same scar. I tried to think positively “at least I’ll know what to expect”.

Boy was I wrong.

Although my body was more compliant this time (I was a bit more prepared to push myself to walk etc. because I knew where my pain threshold was – unlike before), the pain itself was much worse. My tummy feels like it’s filled with water and its stretched so much in swollenness that it hurts. I have clips in this time (as apposed to stitches which I had last time) and they add a whole new dimension of discomfort.

I truly feel sympathy for women over 40/50 years old who go through this. I’m told that I’m healing much faster and doing much better than most because of my young age (silver lining?).

It doesn’t feel like I’m doing great.

My tummy was painful to the touch and up until yesterday even when I was sitting or lying absolutely still, my whole abdominal area seemed to throb like a stubbed toe or hammered thumbnail.

I also have this sharp pain on the inside of tummy, which feels like someone has stitched together all my organs and when I move I’m pulling them apart.

After the first operation they had me on a wicked cocktail of drugs for the pain that made me throw up, feel dizzy, foggy and drowsy. Felt like I was in Pans Labyrinth with David Bowie.

Thankfully, this time I was able to decline the drugs that wreaked such havoc last time and they gave me a much more simplified drug régime to manage my pain.

You really take things for granted until you can’t do them anymore. While waiting for the cab to pick us up from the hospital, I found myself admiring young women as they walked by.

What was I admiring?

Their clothes?

Their hair?

Their slim figures?

Nope.

I admired their postures.

Their ability to walk and stand straight, without the grimace I had developed when attempting such tasks.

Oh, I thought to myself – don’t take it for granted young ladies!

Anyway, I am healing (slow and steady wins the race – or so I’m told) and I’m very excited to be getting the clips out tomorrow. I’m hoping that after the initial discomfort of actually having them removed, my overall comfort will be much better.

Hysterectomy1

xoxo





Update: PET CT Scan

23 10 2014

I went to get the results of my PET CT Scan yesterday, which would let them know if cancer had spread anywhere else through my body before the operation on the 28th…

FANTASTIC NEWS!!!

It hasn’t!

The scan only confirmed what we already knew and all systems are go to get this shit out of my body!

Fight Like A Girl!

It’s a good day!

xoxo








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