Queenly Pink for the Goddess of Learning

Out in Delhi with the CanSupport Home Care Teams today, we saw many patients. I was moved by each story. Each patient is living in a condition of ‘breast cancer,’ or ‘bladder cancer,’ or ‘bone cancer,’ or one of the many other ways this disease invades peoples’ bodies. Today, January 22nd, is a Holy Day called Saraswati Puja, and Basant Panchami—the celebration of the Goddess of Learning, Music, and All Sciences. It is a day that people honor their teachers, and lineage systems of learning, and it is the beginning of the season of spring. People everywhere wear yellow, and, as in our visits today, Rani pink (queenly pink), which we call “hot pink”—a flashy, warm color. Actually, everyone on the Home Care Team was wearing this color.

Zuleikha with CanSupport patient

Each Patient Becomes my Teacher

The first man we visited has brain cancer. The trained counselor who took me there felt that the husband and wife needed some relief, and that they would like these exercises, especially from an ‘out-of towner.’ That is how it seems to work: a ‘foreigner’ (me) comes in and is introduced. We try one of the ‘Relaxation Exercises’ (RTHEP©), and then the trained counselor can come back and do these again and again. All of the trained counselors who work in the Home Care Teams of our partnering organization CanSupport, the largest palliative cancer support NGO in Delhi, love these exercises. Yet often, it takes time to figure out how to introduce such a thing in these dire situations.

Each patient becomes my teacher. Their particular condition reveals to me what their body can and cannot do. And I am usually surprised and then re-route the way I do things. In the case of the gentleman with brain cancer, I found out after a minute or so of trying something, that he couldn’t lift his arms higher than the shoulder. So I adapted what I was going to do, to fit his need. He liked it, and smiled. What a face! What a smile—such joy coming out of those eyes. Then his wife sat down, wearing pink! And I invited her to join in. And a smile, small and then full, spread across her worried face. She is the main caregiver, and has most of the responsibility for her husband, as other family members are not living nearby.

I explained how the Shanti Exercise—calmness with several breaths and holding our hands over our hearts—helps to bring circulation to a good rhythm. She said, “Oh, like meditation.” “Yes,” I answered.

Can You Do This?

After visiting a few more patients, we came to a home where I had been two years ago. A young man, who has knee cancer. Knee cancer—how terrible. And I remembered he had gone through a very painful operation, and has do deal with how to stand, without being able to put weight onto that knee. If you see him, he looks so fit in his upper body, like a guy who works out a lot.

finding what works

He showed me a few exercises the hospital has given him, good ones for the knee joints, and then he said he hadn’t continued with the ones we had done, because of the pain he was in for a while.

I sat down on the bed next to him, and began to find out, “Can you do this?” and “What about this?” After a few minutes I could understand the way he was navigating through the day, and then he showed me what places in his legs were “filled with stress,” as he said.

His mother came in to watch. They live in a few rooms, extended family, the bed is the couch, with some plastic chairs. I don’t notice these things after a while—it becomes about the people. I showed him a kind of ‘routing’ he can practice, and the Counselor with me learned it too. It was not our normal battery of relaxation exercises; he needed something for the muscles, and the knee itself. After finishing, we did the Shanti Exercise. I invited his mother to join us. She just loved it. The room and everyone in it became quiet, calm, and for a moment, peace arrived through us all.

Shanti Exercise

When I was sitting next to this young man, I saw that inside of his strength, he is very sad. And so after the Shanti Exercise, I showed him the Thank You Exercise, as well. At first it seemed to bring out the sadness, and then after a time or two, he was filled with a kind of smile and calm, as well.

So simple, you might say, and then I would add, yes, and effective. How many times a day do we notice our own stress, and give ourselves a moment of calm? And in this moment, life and the world look a little better.


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