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13 years of Cancer, my Mom and life lessons

About Samkit Shah

Samkit Shah is a first-generation serial entrepreneur and a literary enthusiast. He has successfully founded ventures with diverse business models such as contract manufacturing of engineering components, offering multilingual design and translation solutions, designing and development of ecofriendly and ethical promotional products. He is also one of the founders of the Gujarat Literature Festival which has spurred a wave of literary fests across the state along with a renewed interest in Gujarati literature amongst the younger generation. If he has spare time after all this, he loves to read, travel, and moonlight as a stand-up comic. Above all, he loves being a dad to his 2-year old daughter.

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It is a given that for most of us, our mothers play an important role in determining our personae. Well, I am no different. For me, there were some life lessons imbibed by my mother which I might not have had otherwise.

It’s been exactly 20 years since she died of cancer. But, I do not shed a tear when I think of her. That’s because when I look back at my time spent with her it always brings a smile on my face. My strongest memory is not her 13-year-long struggle with cancer or the 24 rounds of chemotherapy, or even her losing her hair, but one poster she hung by her bedside at some point during her cancer years that said, “I have got cancer but cancer can’t get me.”
These and many other examples of her verve, practicality, and strength are not the only reasons why I want to write about her. If my mother would have been familiar with the concept of Women’s Day, she would have scoffed at the idea. Because for her, gender roles didn’t determine a person’s character. Between my dad and her, she was the one to convey strength and clarity of purpose.

She never let gender determine who we become as individuals. This reminds me of that time when my elder sister was studying Building Science and Technology which involved working late nights during submissions in her college. My father suffered from an eye disorder, due to which he could not drive at night. My sister therefore would have to travel back in the middle of the night alone, or she depended on someone to accompany her. Well, my mother was not comfortable with this situation. So in the middle of her chemotherapy she would get either me or my dad to accompany her and she would herself drive to my sister’s college for many such nights.

She never complained or showed any discomfort in doing so and all I learned was that if you set your mind to it there is nothing you can’t achieve.

At the age of 34, she was detected with cancer. I vividly remember her conduct. I was all of 5 years when she sat me down with a Time-Life book on cancer and explained that she had been detected with it and what could be the consequences. At the time, I couldn’t stop bawling, but today when I have become a father, I can only imagine the kind of strength it would have required. All I can think of now is how she dealt with me as a child with extreme maturity and didn’t let my age determine the respect she should extend to me.

These are lessons that happened in spite of cancer. Now when I look back, all I can think of is I hope I can be half the parent to my child that she was to me. Thank you, Mom.

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