Book review
An epilogue on farewell

An epilogue on farewell | Book review

Yes, We are blessed with Cancer | Dr Lucy Mathew Parakulangara & Joy Thomas | A memoir of a patient's and a family's struggles, transforming a tale of suffering into a story of blessing.

Can one call a book delightful, when it is on disease, death & bereavement? Doubtful it seems. Yet, if penned by someone who accepted illness as a blessing and endorsed suffering with grace, the epithet may not be misplaced.

Though lovers be lost, love shall not
Dylan Thomas

"Though lovers be lost, love shall not," mused the English poet Dylan Thomas. Then this is not a book of death; rather, it is one of love untouched by death. If all the love poems hailed as classics in world literature are tales of separation, filled with grief and bereavement, then this too is a book on eternal love. After all, where is William Shakespeare if there are no Shakespearean tragedies?

Memoirs destined for immortal commemoration

Joy Thomas, Dr Lucy Mathew Parakulangara - Co Authors of the book and life of profound togetherness
Joy Thomas, Dr Lucy Mathew Parakulangara - Co Authors of the book and life of profound togetherness

The book began as the poignant tale of a cancer survivor, but was destined to evolve into a heartfelt memoir of her most beloved soul. Yet, it undertakes another sacred mission—through eloquent prose, it reunites two souls separated by death, after sharing 30 years and 105 days of profound togetherness.

This is not a book of sermons, but a series of introspective reflections seeking solace. It does not fit the mould of motivational speeches; instead, it presents the unvarnished realities of life. It marks a transition to Harold Kushner's vision of focusing on what can be done next, rather than dwelling on the unanswered question of why one fell ill.

The question of "what's next" echoes through each page, even as the authors endured profound suffering. "I can't say whether she faced death joyfully. But it is certain that she did not go through it sadly." This memoir recounts only half of their ordeal, yet it is not a mere chronicle of illness; it is a testament to the expectations of survival. Every page pulses with hopes of endurance. Alas, even one of the co-authors, who penned these heartfelt words, is no longer with us.

Cosmic sadist

Is God a cosmic sadist who entertains Himself by torturing humans?

As Dr Varun Rajan notes in the preface, even as medicine, philosophy and theology become refuges of comfort to many, the family was resolute in their reliance solely on modern medicine, unwilling to experiment with any uncertain alternatives.

In fact, the profound and sorrowful memories of his beloved caused the co-author to delay completing the manuscript. For this reason alone, the reader might also find it difficult to keep up with the usual reading pace. Rather than viewing illness as an insult, the captures the depth of emotions that ripple through an entire family, forever altering their lives.

"Is God a cosmic sadist who entertains Himself by torturing humans?" Such a question naturally arises in the minds of those suffering from a deadly disease. The author finds the answer, "God is not the grand old man in the sky who fulfills all desires."

Struggles of the others

Joy Thomas and Lucy Mathew on their wedding day.
Joy Thomas and Lucy Mathew on their wedding day.

When his beloved asked, "What was God doing before the act of creation?", the husband quipped, "He was fashioning hell to tuck away souls, who ask such stupid questions." Yet, it took the author considerable time to grasp the profundity behind her question. The essence of their bond is encapsulated in this poignant reflection: "It is harder to bid farewell to those who cherish us than to those we hold dear."

As Raymond Moody beautifully articulated in "Life After Life," the author muses that perhaps his beloved's soul lingers nearby, smiling gently at him. "Though unseen, my eyes desperately scanned the ICU, yearning to glimpse her presence."

Like the saddest lines of a poem, each alphabet swirls into waves of poignant pain that haunt the reader's heart with every word. Yet, beyond disturbing, the book offers solace and a soothing balm to the reader.

It might appear paradoxical that God, the creator of all things, could also create evil. Dr Lucy eloquently explains, drawing from the wisdom of St. Augustine, that evil is merely the absence or deficiency of good. It is emphasized that while evil exists as a reality, it is not a tangible entity in itself, but rather a void where goodness should reside.

When grappling with complex concepts, a skilled teacher like her can illuminate understanding with vivid analogies. Consider this: "Just as removing the thyroid, ravaged by cancer, leaves nothing behind except the absence of disease itself."

Universal solvent for every ego

Illness serves as the universal solvent, dissolving all human egos

Each line is penned with the firm belief that suffering transcends mere intellectual explanations and resonates deeply with the emotional turmoil of those in anguish. Lucy eloquently reveals that through introspection and clinging to tolerance, one can illuminate one's shortcomings with clarity.

She reflects on the chance to refine one's inner self and execute essential transformations in thoughts and actions. Yet, it's crucial to acknowledge that such introspection might never have been possible without the onset of this illness. Indeed, the very act of writing two books including this can be seen as an intellectual testament born from the depths of that affliction.

In contemplating that "illness serves as the universal solvent, dissolving all human egos," the co-author leaves behind a prayer that resonates deeply, inviting readers to join in: "Lord, O merciful God, unite me in heaven with those whom You have allowed me to cherish on earth."

Yes, We are Blessed with Cancer (Malayalam) | Dr Lucy Mathew Parakulangara & Joy Thomas | Pages: 316, Price: Rs 450 | Published by: Tel Media, Mevida, Kottayam - 686573 | Mobile: +91 8590041731 | Email: