Fighting With Faith
CORRECTION: This article was originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of The Holistic Parent with an incorrect headline. The publisher of the The Holistic Parent takes full responsibility and sincerely apologizes for the error and any confusion it caused.
I was no stranger to heartbreak. I have been broken, endured loss and grieved. After four years of trying to get pregnant and four miscarriages later, my husband, Sanjay, and I were told we could never have kids. But life had other ideas. When I found out I was pregnant for a fifth time, I was sure that my body would reject this pregnancy as well, but as the weeks and months went by, things got real and we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Rhea, in 2008, and 21 months later my son, Eshan, in 2010. My gynecologist asked me, “How did this happen? How is this possible?” I know exactly how, I said with a smile. My trust in faith just grew stronger.
So only seven short years later, to hear my children ask “You will never be able to read us bedtime stories or play with us?” and “You will never be able to hug us anymore?” I was shattered all over again. My heart broke into a million pieces. I had been diagnosed with a rare tumor on my spinal cord and was scheduled for surgery. My prognosis meant I would end up a quadriplegic and/or on a ventilator permanently. After living through years of tragic loss of one child after another, I was not willing to accept that my fate was to live unhappily ever after with my tumor prognosis. This was going to be my biggest fight yet, not just for me but for my family.
My surgery took place on September 27, 2017, and lasted 6.5 hrs. I was moved into the ICU after surgery, and woke up able to move my fingers and toes, which was the extent of the movement in my entire body. I couldn’t see clearly and was in excruciating pain. Pumped up with high doses of pain killers, I was hallucinating. I could see myself outside my own body. I saw people around me — my mom, Sanjay, doctors and nurses — but I couldn’t hear anything they said or feel my body.
The nurses came by every hour to check my vitals and poked my body with a needle, but I couldn’t feel a thing on my left arm. I had pins and needles in my back and scalp, and was told my sensory nerves were damaged from the surgery. But I slowly started to realize what was happening around me, and Sanjay said it was the first time I’d actually responded correctly to the nurse’s questions. I asked him how many hours had passed since my surgery — he said it had been three days.
On day four, my body went into shock, my lungs started to collapse because of the high doses of medications given directly into my blood stream and I was put on oxygen immediately. On day five, with the help of three hospital staff, they tried to get me up to sit — I barely lasted for a few minutes. I couldn’t use my legs and arms, and was told I had partial paralysis, also known as palsy, loss of motor function that affects one or more muscles in the body. On day eight, I was transported to West Park Neuro Rehab in Toronto as an inpatient.
The very first day Sanjay put up cards the kids had made and some pictures of our family in my room — a consent reminder of my goal. Today, 10 months since my surgery, having completed eight months of physiotherapy and occupational therapy at the neuro rehab centre and at home with my family, I’m so grateful to be able to walk, talk and breathe on my own — life’s most precious gifts we all take for granted.
Throughout my fight, I kept hearing about a “positive attitude,” but what is it really? I was upset and angry at the diagnosis. Why me? How was I supposed to stay positive with news like this? I soon realized that the only thing certain was the uncertainty of it all, and once I accepted that, everything just fell in place. I started to focus on what I could do better to help myself come out of this situation, like continuing my yoga and meditation practice, and focusing on my children to help motivate me. They taught me — and continue to teach me — to enrich every moment, to be more open and communicate, to be patient and find joy in simple things, to just laugh out loud and never take life for granted, to love deeply and to keep my priorities in perspective, and most importantly, to keep my faith.
Rashmi Sanjay is a Kitchener-based mom who’s inspiring story has been covered by major media outlets including CBC and CTV. She is also a yoga and Bollywood dance instructor. To read more about her story, visit www.rashmisanjay.ca.