Monika Pant is a fiction writer who originally hails from Lucknow. Echoes from the Vortex is her heart rending memoir as a cancer survivor. She talks to eFiction India about her journey and how she overcame some of life’s extreme challenges..
Ananya Dhawan: Through your memoir, Echoes from the Vortex, what do you aim to tell the world?
Monika Pant: I aim to tell people two things – One that no matter how tough the going gets, one can tap the inner reserves of strength and get on with life. Only, there should be a purpose to live for. Second, one should never believe that one can ever understand the agonies of others. Consoling someone who is suffering should be done wordlessly, not by showing pity or sympathy.
AD: Where did you get the strength and resilience from?
MP: From within myself, from the love of my husband and my children and from the longing to be well again. Also, from the fact that they did not become my crutch, they let me stand on my own and behaved as though everything was normal. Never did they make allowances just because I was ill, they helped me overcome my weaknesses without making me dependent on them and that is where I got my resilience from. They argued, quarrelled with me and also made me laugh and feel loved – I never felt that I was going to die. I never glimpsed fear in their eyes and that made me fearless.
AD: You are married and with children, and so, went through the diagnosis and treatment while being a wife and mom. What advice would you offer someone in the same position?
MP: I would say that one has to care enough about one’s spouse and children to tell oneself that one has to pull through. For their sake, one has to bear all pain and weakness so that they are happy and start believing that the disease will be beaten. It is a circle of belief: I believed I would be well so that I could be with them, they believed as they saw my belief and did not want to break it; and so it went on. It is a battle of wills; I believed so that they would not break down and they believed so as to give me strength.
AD: How did your family and friends react?
MP: Apart from my husband and children, everyone did according to his or her individual nature. My book is about their reactions more than anything else and how I started viewing people. I learnt a lot about human behaviour from the reactions of others. I learnt about fear, guilt, relief, commiseration, selfishness and selflessness as different aspects of human nature. The characters in my novels draw upon my observation of people that I began to practise during that time.
AD: How long have you been cancer free?
MP: Ten years now. If it knocks at my door a second time, it will be as a stranger; the previous one has gone away or so I like to believe. And strangers can knock at any door. So, I am at as much risk as anyone else.
AD: Any message for patients battling cancer? Any coping mechanisms that helped you?
MP: Apart from what I have mentioned already, one coping mechanism is the intense desire to distract the mind and never dwell on suffering. I knew I had to get up and survive; there was no option. That is one coping mechanism in battling cancer, and that is to let things happen when they happen, just living each moment as it comes and doing what one loves to do such as watching films, listening to music, reading, travelling, even learning something new – whatever one wants to do should be done – life always gives a second chance.
I aim to tell people two things – One that no matter how tough the going gets, one can tap the inner reserves of strength and get on with life. Only, there should be a purpose to live for. Second, one should never believe that one can ever understand the agonies of others.