You may have heard that cancer is curable. But you need to know that inspite of good medical research and care, the cancer can return. My type of cancer was considered the milder one. In 2019 I went through 6 sessions of Chemotherapy, from January to April. There was a gap of 3 weeks between each session. There were some bad side effects and that is the time I found solace in prayer and importantly others praying for me. God gave me courage and grace to endure and by June 2019 I was cancer free.
This led me to think that I now needed to lead a full life and make the most of the extended time given to me by the Lord. My children arranged for us to be with them from August until November, partly in Dubai and the remainder in UK. Anjean and I were overwhelmed with joy to be with them. I did a lot of travel, and met so many of our friends, community members and family. I even got an opportunity to play tennis, which I had not done in the past 25 years.
However on my return to India, in December I was diagnosed with a mild relapse of cancer. So after a round of investigations I was given 6 sessions of radiation . The subsequent report was good,
Then in April suddenly I saw some nodules on my right arm and shoulder. My doctor sent me for a petscan and it showed that the cancer had spread to 4 different areas. I was shocked. Over and above the shock, I was given to understand that Non Hodgekins Lymphoma is generally curable; but if it returns , then I fall in the category of 40% where it will not be cured. So this left me quite stunned.
Then began the chemotherapy at end of April, which was given in two parts ….a full day session and a half day session to complete one cycle. I was scheduled to take 6 complete cycles. Again I saw the provision of God in my finances through family, friends and medical insurance. By June 2020, I was again given a scan which showed an all clear report. My doctor though recommended that I complete the 6 cycles so that the treatment dealt with the cancer thoroughly. This last part has been very painful and I have had bad side effects. Constant Diarhoea and inability to retain a normal meal. Anjean has been rock solid with me at this time to standby me, praying and looking after all my needs…truly an angel to me as her full name is really ‘ Maria dos Anjos’.
I am grateful to my children, who have been doing their best , even though so far. They give us the feeling as if they are with us, with their numerous phone calls and even zoom meetings to pray together.
I specially acknowledge a good neighbour Hansel Baptista. He has gone out of his way to help to take us to and fro to the Hospital for these sessions. Hansel has become like a family member to us, in the absence of our children. Likewise Ben and Sandra, have always been ever ready to help us at any time ( we specially appreciate the times of intercession) . Aroon and Elaine from our Community and neighbours Avina and Carmen have made special efforts to reach out in significant ways . The call to pray from current community leader Eugene Peres, via telephone network of members, before every chemotherapy session has been a blessing.
Yes , prayers from my own Community of Jesus and Communities in India and all over the world, specially London, Glasgow and Dublin and Manila, and the Brothers from the Servants of the Word, have sustained me with courage and grace, to live a life fully. The Lord’s presence is sufficient indeed. Romeo Fernando and his team of intercessors from the Community of the Good Shepherd have been consistently praying for me.
Finally I acknowledge Fr Nigel Barett our Parish Priest from Our Lady of the Rosary, who made a special effort to bring me Holy Communion on a few occasions when I needed the Lord so much.
This has set me thinking about a lot of things.
Did I seriously think that after the first round of treatment and being cleared of traces of cancer that I will not get it again.?
Did I ever realize that many caṇcer patients suffer much more than me.
Am I aware that I have courage and a positive approach , only because this comes from the grace of
God and that many people known to me and even not known are praying for me?
What am I going to do in the months ahead? How will I respond to a God who loves me so much?
Finally , should I not accept that the final call can come any time irrespective of all the medical treatment I receive ?
So this second round of cancer relapse has helped me to realize and relook at life.
Importantly it is a reminder to me that my life on earth is limited. It has given me the assurance that whatever happens, as long as I live now…………
‘If we live we live to the Lord ; and If we die, we die to the Lord , whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’ ( Romans 8:14)
These are some memories of my wedding with Aṇjean, on 26th May 1985. Naturally, our 4 children missed this wedding. They have now grown up and spread their wings to other countries. This blog is dedicated to them.
The miracle of answered prayer : much before our wedding date was finalised, we surveyed the Mumbai venues for our wedding. We may have gone for the Catholic Gymkhana venue which was the most convenient for wedding receptions. However Anjean surprised me by suggesting the Air India roof garden. The AI head office was my work place. It was certainly not a venue for weddings . Her response was you make the request and I will pray to Mary Help of Christians . On tenterhooks I approached the Director of Administration with the request , and I was stunned when he acceded to it.
Which is more important ….the bride or the car: the bridal car was supposed to leave from Mazagon to ṭhe bride’s location at 3pm . Till 3.15pm the car had not yet left . Under great stress, I went out to check on this, and then the famous words spilled out …”Which is more important the car or the bride?” On paper the question seems an innocent query, but it was expressed in a tone which made the decorators (my close family volunteers) quell at such anger, and the car was despatched immediately.
Arrangements at the reception venue: since this was going to be the first wedding reception of the kind (Catholic wedding : a celebration of dinner with dancing) , frequent phone calls kept coming home to me. How do we set the tables? The table cloths are flying with the wind. We want additional manpower. Why? Because the regular catering staff wanted to join in the celebration. I was so exasperated that I decided not to answer any phone calls. In those days mobile phones had not yet existed.
At the St Anne’s Church: Anjean’s favourite colour showed in the pews which were tastefully decorated with yellow flowers, specially done by Mother Teresa’s nuns. My cousin Blossom and her choir were ready in advance at the church.
We had three priests celebrating the Eucharist. Fr Juan ( St Anne’s) Fr Hillary Rodriques ( my spiritual advisor) and Fr Matthew ( Nagpur) . Fr Hillary’s homily on Luke 1: 42 , “Nothing is impossible to God” stayed with me for many years of our married life, and helped me to grow in surrendering any difficulties to the Lord.
Air India Nariman Point : Our entry at the roof garden was so dramatic. It gives me goosebumps as I remember the 7th Galaxy band striking up the grand entry of the bridal couple with the tradional tune …. Some flashes of memories come to my mind. The fast lifts at the AI office was a treat for the young children who were bold enough to take the lifts to the uppermost floors (22nd) and back. My little nephew Adrian was covered with powder as he enjoyed rolling on the dance floor.The 7th Galaxy belted out music, even more enthusiastically when they recognised some of our guests from Goa . There were Beatle songs and also the Portuguese medley to bring everyone into the mood. Talking about moods, well a lot of gifts came in through the security gate by our guests from Goa, which also helped a good deal in raising the spirits : these contained mature and good wines and spirits carefully gift wrapped. My Dining Facility Staff joined in the wedding celebrations with gusto. They were also given a share of the spirits that were sneaked in.
The reception ended with group photographs taken for memories.
Finally the time came for us to move to our new home in Matharpacady. I did fairly well in carrying my bride Anjean over the threshold . But then we both climbed the stairs together helping each other as we progressed with family life.
Karen , Annalize , Ralph and Larissa , may you treasure these little anecdotes of your parent’s wedding.
Photo credits: Subodh Amin
( pictures taken on regular film, and later copied by digital camera)
In the spring of 1989 , I was posted at the Centaur Lakeview Hotel , Srinagar. At the earlier posting in autumn of 1988, I had a bad time adjusting to the suddenness of that trip, and was terribly homesick.
Hence when I got news of this second posting, my family decided to help me by also taking a holiday at Srinagar during this time. We had Karen ( nearly 3yrs old) and Annalize ( 1 and 1/2 years old) with Anjean and my Mum along for this trip.
They took the flight to Srinagar via Delhi. I was thrilled to receive them at the airport.
As I looked throught the terminal glass, I first saw Karen, who looked so lost amid the other passengers. When she saw me, her face brightened up as she wondered what I was doing beyond the glass panel. Finally all came through the formalities of checking out of the terminal., and it was a grand reunion of family with me.
We then proceeded to tḥe Hotel Brown Palace for their short holiday. I was granted 4 days leave during this time , to be with them.
The hotel was quaint with the comforts of a medium hotel. The family room was spacious and well furnished . The General Manager gave us a warm welcome. He also cautioned us about the cold weather at night, and hence sent extra heaters.
We had dinner and retired to the room since they ( family) had travelled and needed to rest.
The room looked cosy with heavy curtain at the windows. We started all the heaters.
Soon it was lights out and all in bed. But the night was still young when little Annalize cried and cried with the cold….despite the heaters., .. we could do nothing., except cover her as best we could.
The temperature ,.was too low; the heaters made no difference, but we survived the cold night.
As the sun rose next morning,,and the weather changed a bit to become warmer, we met the .General Manager again. He enquired “ how was your night ?” … with a twinkle in his eye .
“ The heaters were not helpful , and our little ones could not bear the cold .” we responded.
“ Its not surprising , that you felt the cold. Your windows were open. I noticed this on my round last night,”
So with this embarrassing bit of information we made ,sure that the windows behind the heavy drapes were closed.
Thus the remaining nights were peaceful, and we enjoyed the stay , and sightseeing in Srinagar.
My love for tennis, goes back to more than 25 years ago. I remember playing the game with my eldest brother Allwyn at the Catholic Gymkhana. We enjoyed a good set and developed reasonable skills to play in the member’s tournaments and even represent the Gymkhana at a local tournament.
However as the years went by, and our tennis too ended. Among many reasons was the closure of the courts at the Gymkhana
I remember purchasing a book on learning the nuances of tennis and had passed on some of these tips in coaching my son Ralph when he was 8years old. Many things were discarded during my house repairs some time ago. This book however remained with me purely out of a dream of playing tennis again.
The year 2019 was very eventful when I was diagnosed with cancer. I recovered with treatment and in August departed on a 3 month holiday with Anjean. This holiday was a gift from our 4 children and covered Dubai, London, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
My dream of playing tennis again began in Dubai, with the Saldanha brothers . Ian my son in law was very considerate in arranging tennis sessions with his brother Colin and his father in law Alex.
Our first session was at Alex’s courts and the next at Colin’s courts. Ian and I played some good tennis , but with Colin on the other side and his fast serves ….we lost closely.
The second session was even better . I was quite adept at placements ; we still lost…with a tough fight. Ian and I shared a ‘never give up attitude’ .We ended with some cold beers and relaxed time with Colin’s piano accompaniment to our spontaneous songs
My next visit to a tennis court was at Glasgow. This just happened when I casually mentioned to a friend John Jackson over coffee, about my interest in tennis. He later spoke to John Coyle a lover of tennis himself, who arranged for us to play some good tennis ‘doubles’ with regular members. I played fairly well, losing the first set , and then winning the next two sets, rotating our partners.
The second session was the following week and happened to be a tournament. This proved a challenge for me. The tournament was played on a round robin basis of doubles . About 20 members many regular and established tennis players teamed randomly and points were awarded according to the games a person won. Thankfully I was given a handicap with whoever teamed with me. My game improved a bit and I was surprised that I could get some good volleys, cross court shots, and deft placements. To top it all, I got some good serves down the T . There was a winner and runnersup, but for me , the best souvenir was the group picture at the end of the mini tournament.
My final encounter with tennis courts was at tḥe Bombay Gymkhana. Courtesy Kirk D’Cruz a good friend , with whom I reconnected. He was gracious to host me for a couple of sessions at the Gym. We got into the rythm quite fast and were soon stroking the ball well. I was surprised that we could actually play singles and enjoy it, The second time we went for a session, I struck the ball so hard that the strings of my aging racket snapped . This was adequately compensated when Ian , my son-in-law gifted me an excellent Wilson racket on his visit to Mumbai.
Ralph joined us at the most recent session of tennis at the Bombay Gym on his visit from UK. He too had not played the game since the age of 8 years . When he got on court , I was stunned to see him hit the ball so well with tḥe correct style . He enjoyed the session a lot . From the sidelines I just admired his game, as he practised with Kirk and both had some power packed ground strokes.
We never got a repeat of these sessions , as Ralph soon returned to UK.
My fascination with tennis began in school, when I had not yet learnt to hold a racket. But I read every tennis article in the sports page from start to finish. One of my brothers even enquired , how and why I did that. Famous names of those days were Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Margaret Smith, and later,Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker.. and some more like Cliff Drysdale, Mats Wilander , Steffi Graff. We cannot forget Nadal and Djokovic !
As I end this note on tennis, I must also mention some books I’ve read on tennis players. Rod Laver’s ‘An Autobiography’…I always admired him the way he carried himself, with a quiet dignity and confidence, but a rocket on court, Andre Agassi’s , ’OPEN: An Autography ‘ he was very candid about his love and hate for tennis, Roger Federer’s ‘Biography’ by Chris Bowers, ( wonder when he will write his autobiography) , and finally Arthur Ashe’s ‘Days of Grace’ . the last was the most inspiring for the way he handled his unfortunate Aids infection through blood transfusion at the time of his heart surgery .
I liked his famous quote …..If I were to say,” God, why me? About the bad things,” then I should have said ,”God, why me?” about the good things that happened in my life. …
This helps me to reflect on the numerous blessings God has blessed me with, since all these years, despite my recent challenges.
Thank you Lord , for all these , even, for the dreams of tennis, being fulfilled.
The trip to Wales by train introduced us to the peace, quiet and natural beauty. It entailed a train to Euston and thence to Birmingham, and Barmouth . The transit at Birmingham was just 10 minutes, but we made it. Then onwards to Barmouth via Shrewsbury, Machynlleth (where one coach of the train was detached) to proceed to LLwyngwril and onwards to Barmouth. The other coach went to Aberystwyth. The names were tongue twisters , besides keeping us alert to our rail route to our destination.
The journey by the seaside is breathtaking. On one side you see hills with sheep, quaint houses, and the sea view as the train chugged along.
Our little train was suddenly engulfed with school children . They brought liveliness into the compartment until they disembarked at their little quaint town, LLwyngwril.
We were received by Fr Alex at Barmouth. The station was very quiet. He arranged a taxi to transport us to St Tudwal’s , our home for the next 3 days.
When Fr Alex mentioned that he welcomed us to a sparse 1 star lodge , I was surprised to be given a comfortable room, with a view …St Matthew’s …normally the room for a visiting bishop. The remaining rooms were Mark, Luke and John. We had a view of the seaside, play grounds, township and the sunset.
We sat to tea and Scottish shortbread .
But ,dinner proved special as Fr Alex actually took the trouble to keep a menu card ready … for a special meal he prepared himself.
It was meticulously planned with the table laid out . We enjoyed the dinner , specially with apple cider …which I grew to like a lot . the meal ended with tiramisu…
We thence decided to reciprocate with a meal prepared by Anjean and I . Fish Baffat , veg fingers, onion rings.
Breakfast was DIY , with a trolley kept ready very thoughtfully; all ingredients for a good breakfast were at hand to prepare.
Time at St Tudwal’s was memorable for the conversations with Fr Alex . He is a prolific writer and a contemplative at heart.
His favourite quotes…Spirituality …spending time with Jesus. … hospitality ….welcoming Jesus in our midst.
‘Pray your petition, listen to what God is saying and act on it’
. ‘In joy God whispers into our lives ’ ; ‘In times of difficulty , God shouts into our lives.’
On Saturday morning we were welcomed by Fr Alex to the main church. He was preparing for the Sunday service . He combines many roles in one. Pastor, Sacristan, and Mentor….along with help from the few parishioners who make up a congregation of about 12 people.
He has looked after all aspects of the church and explained the relevance of the paintings and carvings on the altar which begins with the Nativity of Jesus and ends with the Ascension spanning his entry into and exit from this world. The Last Supper takes pride of place at the Altar front.
On Sunday we attended the Eucharist. His homily left me reflecting on the few loaves and fish , and how God takes what little we have and multiplies it .
A parishioner from the neighbouring parish , also visited Fr Alex with the gift of a salmon that was caught and smoked specially for him.
I noticed several remarkable things at Wales. They have a language of their own , quite distinct from English. Most young people had moved to cities , so were noticeably absent .
People are very honest. Anjean had absentmindedly left her shopping bag one evening on a public bench . It remained there , until we returned, without anything missing.
On the third day we walked to the beach and enjoyed the windy walk. We saw a few people walking their pet dogs . Later we spent time at the pier . I met another visitor who recounted his time in India as a child when his father served as an officer in the British Army.
The sea gulls and the distant rail bridge made good pictures for my collection.
I left with one souvenir of Fr Alex…. his portrait picture , he requested me to photograph himself, for the new book to be published in January 2020. ‘Face to Face’ . I know and am confident that this book will be among the best of his, since its all about encountering the Lord Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament.
Our time came to an end when we left by train for the trip onwards to Glasgow, via Wolverhampton.
Thank you Fr Alex for gīving us a taste of Wales! We hope to see you in India soon.