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.
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.
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.
Going out with a CanSupport Home Care Team in Delhi, India
Today, I began my work with the Home Care teams by accompanying the team with a counselor of CanSupport whom I have trained. I went with her team which that day was the counselor, a nurse, myself, and a driver. Sometimes an area has two teams with one doctor, so if that is the case, the doctor regularly goes between the two teams. Before we left the office, they insisted I have tea with the teams, and I met the new doctor in their area. There are over 20 teams in Delhi, each palliative care team has a doctor, nurse, trained counselor, and driver. The new doctor is very interested in my work, and seemed to have a quick understanding of what it brings to the patients.
Zuleikha with a patient
A nurse and a counselor
“So, what you’re actually doing is refocusing the attention on their energy, rather than the pain.”
I’m very glad to be back in Delhi doing this work. I remember there are about 20 million people in the city of Delhi. We work with a lot of lower income people. I have gone out with many teams so many times, and now I notice that we are all getting more comfortable with each other, and more comfortable bringing my work into each team for the patients. It turns out that the counselors do in fact use the exercises with the patients. This is very good news!
With one patient, we did what the counselors now call “the Shanti exercise.” This is an exercise which I originally developed for parents living with the stress of taking care of their children living with cancer. Shanti means ‘Peace.’ They call it this, because people feel a peaceful feeling after they do it. This is what I tell many patients, in my simple Hindi: “it is a way of saying ‘hello to my mind,’ ‘hello to my inside quiet,’ ‘I care for you, my self,’ and ‘my heart, I feel you.’ ”
Today we saw four patients. These are palliative cancer patients, meaning they are living with their cancer, in the best ways they can, and most, in poor conditions. “Four is not so many,” some might say. Well, one was not at home, though the appointment had been made. And then we had to get to the other places, driving down the crowded roads or lanes, as the case may be, then walk for a while to each house, then drive to another. It all takes time. These actual visits took up the better part of the day. Hours. This is part of what is so great, each patient getting seen by a whole team, such care, such care.
I am in India. It is a wonderful place to try these modalities—it is a place where often “things” don’t work and yet the connection between people and this way of teaching does.
Seeing these patients and their stress from going through such terrible illness and treatment, and then seeing the patient and their family have a moment or two of relaxation, calm, and some laughter—makes me think, ‘yes’ this is a good way to serve.