Don’t Break A Leg!

04 Sep


People are constantly falling ill and dying. This is a fact of life. Nothing you can do about it. But as the youngest (and rapidly aging) member of a large family, I’ve noticed that every year or every couple of years, there is a trending calamity that pulls in the maximum number of victims.

About 20 years ago, for example, diabetes was the common killer. Maybe it was because people hadn’t yet figured out that this was a treatable disease or how to take care of it or something, but some uncle or auntie would come pay us a visit and a chance question would reveal that their brother-in-law or father or some other relative had sliced their toe open and that was that.

A few years ago, it was breast cancer. Every second auntie you met was either sick with cancer or had a sister or mother or sister-in-law who had it and was either in remission or was under treatment. I began to dread the next auntie who’d walk in the door and inform us that so-and-so was dead.

“Oh no!” my mother would say, as though she had never heard of such a thing happening. “But she was so young. What happened?”

“Breast cancer,” would come the hushed reply.

Even worse was when they’d confess that they were the ones who were ill. Although those aunties tend not to leave their homes because they can’t bear being questioned endlessly about their intimate medical problems by random people at a party and being told in return about other cancer victims who’d either survived after a long and expensive battle or, worse still, lost the battle.

This year’s version is broken bones. At least four aunties have passed on after breaking their hips, one had hip replacement surgery, another had knee replacement surgery (although I don’t think she broke it) and one is in the hospital after falling down. The curse is so powerful, it even struck down poor lil Scooter.

But seriously, did you know a calcium tablet and a mild walk around the block every day could save your life? That and mopping the floor dry.

This is not the year when you want to break a leg.


Posted by on September 4, 2009 in Life


14 responses to “Don’t Break A Leg!

  1. memsaab

    September 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    although I am giggling at the Possibly Related Post: “World’s tallest dog loses leg to cancer”—hopefully the other three can keep him propped up high enough to keep his title…

  2. nsfw

    September 4, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    It is ridiculous just how common the broken bones and cancer deaths are. Especially amongst ladies. And I noticed only once I lost my mom to cancer so this is personal to me.

  3. pitu

    September 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Ya it’s sad how common osteoporosis is. My mom is diligent about taking Shelcal or some such calcium tab, and her daily one hr yoga session keeps her safe, touch wood. nsfw, so sorry about your mom.

  4. Of Carver and Cancer

    September 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Another of our “Ripley’s” moments I guess, this “auntie with broken bones” thingy.

    I got a call from my mom couple days back announcing that my maami had slipped on an invisible puddle of water on the mosaic floor surrounding the sink she just got done brushing her teeth at, causing a crumpled left knee. And yes, she’s arthritic, so double (no, triple) the pain and recovery time, I guess. But I’m told she’s coming along nicely, knee in braces, convalescing in Kanchipuram (her hometown), entertained by extended family (on an impromptu excursion to the temple city on the pretext of visiting ailing relative, I’m sure!). 😀

    Switching ailments, funny how I say “Carver” and you say “Cancer” and it’s all so bang on! (WTF?! I know. Let me enlighten.) I was just reading up on Raymond Carver in ArtsBeat and was jumping for joy when I learned they’re finally publishing an “uncut” anthology of the awesomeness that’s his short stories (of which I’ve, sadly, only skimmed the surface, but what’s the rest of my life for, now that they’ll have ’em all in one place?), the importance of which will become immediately apparent once you realize what a snoot his then-editor at Knopf had been.

    And suddenly, I recognized the names of the two Hartford English profs, both Chandler scholars, from a tribute piece I’d read a while ago, celebrating Chandler’s “gravy years” (the last 10 years of his life that comprised his tryst with true love, terrific writing (he was at his prolific best) and… cancer).

    Here’s an excerpt from that beautiful piece by Profs Stull and Carroll:

    “Well before his death at age fifty in August 1988, Raymond Carver spoke of having lived two lives. As Carver saw it, his first life had all but ended before his fortieth birthday. After a childhood on the poverty line, a too-early marriage, and ten years of “crap jobs” and “ferocious” parenting, in his thirties he had taken to the bottle with a vengeance. “I was completely out of control and in a very grave place,” he told an interviewer in 1983. Between October 1976 and January 1977 Carver underwent four hospitalizations for acute alcoholism. “I was dying from it, plain and simple, and I’m not exaggerating.”

    Miraculously, on June 2, 1977, estranged from his dysfunctional family and making a last-ditch effort at sobriety, Carver vowed never again to take a drink. “I’m prouder of that, that I’ve stopped drinking,” he later said, “than I am of anything in my life.”

    For the eleven years remaining to him he counted June 2 his second birthday, “the line of demarcation” separating his new life from his old. “There were good times back there, of course,” he allowed. “But I’d take poison before I’d go through that time again.”

    Moreover, less than six months after this turning point Carver met Tess Gallagher, the poet, short-story writer, and essayist who was to be his collaborator and companion for the next ten years. They began living together on New Year’s Day 1979, and what followed is literary history!

    Carver, who had all but consigned himself to the grave, lived to write the books that made him the most respected and influential short-story writer of his generation.

    Even after learning of the cancer that would cut short his second life, Carver counted his remaining days a gift, a miracle, and a blessing. “My life was a mess domestically, my health was a shambles,” he told Gail Caldwell a few weeks before his death; “this, in a way, is like a picnic, compared to that.” [From the fire to the frying pan, eh? Not bad, Mr. Pollyanna!] From beyond the grave he expressed his astonishment and gratitude in a posthumously published poem aptly titled “Gravy”:

    Gravy, these past ten years.
    Alive, sober, working, loving and
    being loved by a good woman.

    “Don’t weep for me,” he urged his friends. “I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone / expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”

    So is there life after cancer? Heck yeah!

    [And it’s touching (to say the least), what Tess Gallagher, in a recent letter reflecting on her life and work with Raymond Carver, wrote:

    “This morning an image came to me — that it was like the overlapping hum of two hummingbirds when we worked. You couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. Only afterwards, stepping away, can things be said about the contribution of each of us and, as you’ll understand from my image of hummingbirds, such speaking is a kind of violation of the process and result.”

    On this, Profs Stull and Carroll commented:

    It may at first seem paradoxical for two poets to choose as their emblem a bird known not for its song but for its audacity. This paradox is resolved in Tess Gallagher’s poem “Bonfire,” which is subtitled “for Ray”:

    It wasn’t for music
    you came to me, but
    for daring — mine
    and yours.
    When they have to, they will write in the Book
    of Welcome:
    Two darings, two darlings.]

  5. dipali

    September 5, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Yes, I saw my mother-in-law recover fairly quickly from a broken hip after hip replacement surgery, only to break her knee soon after. She spent months in a cast and had extensive and painful physiotherapy after that. She was moving around with a walker, but didn’t live for long after that. My father is now more or less bed ridden after recovering from two hip replacements.
    Despite being paranoid about water on the floor, and regularly walking and taking calcium, I did manage to slip and fracture my left wrist a couple of weeks ago. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t break a leg!

  6. dipali

    September 6, 2009 at 12:00 am

    The Carver comment is fascinating, BTW!

    • Of C 'n' C

      September 6, 2009 at 10:21 am

      Gee, thanks! And somehow, seasonally speaking, I’ve always felt it’s no fluke that Summer is followed by, er… “Fall.” 😀

      To switch cycles (from nature) to cinema, I find myself chewing nails off waiting for that “Meatballs” movie, of all things, from the Fall lineup — yes, despite Megan Fox! And that book was a hoot, is why.

      • Of C 'n' C

        September 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

        p.s: Looks like I may have put two and two together and (all-too-quickly) come up with three, cubed! One look at Fox on top of that “Meatballs” link and my heart sank for a protracted second, but small mercies are the order of the day — her pic was just a peg to lure unsuspecting airheads to the page (aside from being a lame attempt to blow the wind out of the sails of the rest)!

  7. Amrita

    September 6, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Memsaab – ha, I didn’t even notice! that cheered me up!

    Nsfw – I’m sorry about your mom. And yes, I too only started paying attn once people I loved started to fall ill. It feels unreal that this could one day be me, but I can’t pretend like a lot of other people that “it’ll never happen”.

    Pitu – same pinch!

    Of C&C – Man, I had no idea that Carver had all that going on! I can believe the former part of his life but the latter part just makes it awesome because its the last thing I’d have expected. I wish I had taken that Carver class in college now, instead of reading it on my own. Will definitely keep an eye out for that anthology. … Also, you’re like the third person I’ve met on the web today increasing my interest in that Meatballs movie. Hmmm. I need to read that book.

    Dipali – I’m so glad you’re feeling better. After a certain point, esp if you’ve had a kid and even more so if you’ve had a boy, you’re going to experience a certain amount of bone-density loss. So watch out for those spills and get yourself some rubber soled shoes and keep safe! 🙂

  8. nsfw

    September 7, 2009 at 1:52 am

    but I can’t pretend like a lot of other people that “it’ll never happen”.

    Precisely. When one is young and dumb, one kinda assumes one and one’s loved ones are immortal.

    I am not going out of my way to share but I do hope that people realize it can happen to anyone including themselves.

  9. nsfw

    September 7, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Somewhere I read, the mortality of your loved ones is nature’s way to make you come to terms with your own mortality. So when you know that we all are fellow travellers to the grave, the most obvious question becomes, “Just what are going to do with your gift of life?” 🙂

  10. M

    September 8, 2009 at 10:55 am

    huh – just back after helping my mother through a double knee replacement, this post touched several nerves…. extensive exercise didn’t help my mother though. Remains to be seen what happens to my joints….RA, how I love you!


  11. Amrita

    September 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    NSFW – this is probably the last place on the net where someone will call you out for oversharing (i mean, have you SEEN this blog?) but yeah, funerals will do that to you. it’s been a very bad year in general and for the people my family knows in particular.

    M – Don’t talk to me about RA! I’m hoping my early adoption of yoga will stand me in good stead coz I’ve got the beginnings of it already. At some point though, there’s just so much you can do – nature is going to have its way no matter what. I hope your mom’s feeling better. that stuff is hell on wheels.

  12. M

    September 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm


    I have done yoga for donkey’s years as well – and yes, RA bows down to none…my doc’s comment (he has a refreshingly no-nonsense attitude, which I prefer) was that yoga might slow RA down, but that I probably would need knee replacement in the not-too-distant-future….his advice was to stay employed, so I’d have health care!

    Mom’s doing much better thanks – she says the pain of a double knee replacement is nowhere close to the pain pre-surgery, so yikes!


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