It was the summer of ’18 when I visited my grandparents in Baltimore. Listening to their stories, their old school romance, and their struggles were a major part of my day. One such story awed me.
“The photographs you used to send me during your cycling trip helped me recover fast after my transplant.” Grandma smiled.
“How can a few photographs help you recover from deadly cancer?” I asked ruminating on her statement.
In 2010, my grandma, Vaiju Sisodia was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (M0) which is considered as one of untreatable leukemia. During the treatment, she had gone through multiple chemotherapies. She had the FLT3 gene present in her cancer which was not to be treated. So, physicians recommended stem cell transplant which was successfully done at the University of Maryland, Baltimore on 5th May. Those were rough days for her and the family members.
Post her transplant, back in India, I was planning my first ever independent cycling journey across the state of Himachal Pradesh. I was super excited! As I got going with the ride, I was stunned by the surreal Himalayas. I couldn’t resist but photograph every twist and turn. Grandma was in the hospital at that time. I used to share the photographs and my experiences throughout the journey with her.
“Seeing those photographs from a hospital bed, I was so amazed and involved in them that I started feeling- I am there.” She continued, “I forgot a lot of my pain, my situation, and everything. I felt I was stopping myself from flying and not cancer. That time I decided I will go to the Himalayas. I WILL GO TO THE HIMALAYAS!”
“She had put one Himalaya photograph on the wall right in front of her bed,” Grandpa added.
“If not my body, at least my heart was dancing because of it. I won’t stop living for the fear of dying.” She said in a silent voice.
I had no clue what to say and just kept staring at her.
“Okay! Let’s get some ice cream now.” Grandpa broke the silence observing the emotionality.
After nine years from her transplant, at the age of 68 years, she decided to go to the Himalayas- to Kailash Parvat and Manas Sarovar with grandpa. She was determined to conquer this challenge. With the history of leukemia and chemotherapies, a lot of people in her shoes would not dare to go to the Himalayas and she was doing that. They completed their Himalayan hike in 2019. She is now a healthy person and happily living her life with grandpa and her family. I am so proud of her and my grandpa, Champak Sisodia, for always standing strong with her.
You both are my inspiration, nana nani.
I had shared those photographs and stories without any specific intention. But it acted as an accelerant in my grandma’s recovery. Contemplating this story, I started sharing my photographs on my website, Instagram and Facebook. Who knows, somewhere out there could be another person, waiting for a photograph.