Faith DOES move mountains !
One of my colleagues and I were selecting patients for the Final MBBS surgery examination which starts tomorrow. The Medical Officer led us to a gentleman who had been admitted for a repositioning of his nasogastric tube. As we talked to him to get his consent to participate in the examination, I noticed a booklet lying on his bedside table. I have the bad habit that I cannot pass by a book without having a look at it: and that is what I did. As I did so, the patient told me that he would like me to have it: it was a book that he had written. I was a little diffident but he was so earnest in his request that I accepted his gift with thanks.
|Mr Ho's Book|
The little booklet is named Cancer, My Wake-up Call and the patient, who is the author ,is Mr James Oh. Mr Oh is an accountant by training and has had a very successful career as a financial and wealth creation expert and has been instrumental in managing several companies, one of which he helped to list in the stock market.
In 2017, Mr Oh was diagnosed with a stomach cancer and underwent surgery and subsequent chemotherapy and other treatments for the condition. In this small book he has detailed his experiences and his struggle to deal with the diagnosis and the problems that he had to face during the treatment.
There are some very moving passages. When he was first diagnosed, he asked the question that many ask: “Why Me?” He has told us in his book about Arthur Ashe’s reply to a fan who asked him why God gave him AIDS. Ashe replied that he never questioned God when he was one of millions of tennis players, only one of who won the Wimbledon that particular year. At that time, Ashe relates he did not ask why God selected him for high honours, so, he went on, why should he ask God any questions now that he is dying of a deadly disease. Mr Oh also has immense faith in God and he also feels the same way, God gave him many favours, success and successful and bright children, why then should he question why God gave him the Big C?
Mr Oh has chronicled his experience of the surgery, the disappointment of discovering that the cancer had spread to most of the lymph nodes sampled and and how happy he was to recover smoothly from surgery. He has also detailed the experience of chemotherapy which was much better than he had expected initially, but later caused severe side effects.
He has much valuable advice to his readers about how to recognize that something is going wrong, how to bear up to the treatment and has several suggestions about diet and lifestyle which may make a difference. He also has several goals that he would like to achieve before his death, most of them are, unsurprisingly, related to his children.
The point that he makes is that his unwavering faith in God has made him possible to face this time of troubles with unwavering courage. He is confident that he is part of God’s plan and nothing will happen that God has not wished.
For a lifelong atheist like me (and unlike many atheists, I have not wavered as the reality of my mortality comes nearer,) this demonstration of faith is touching. I personally do not believe that God has anything to do with Mr Oh’s condition, and I think it risible that He may be following Mr Oh’s tribulations with interest to see that he does not deviate from his plan. But this does not alter the fact that his faith in religion has helped James to meet his adversity with courage and fortitude. This is not to say that someone lacking his faith would not be able to do so, but perhaps having faith in a hereafter helps sometimes; especially in such circumstances.
While I have never had the least necessity to recourse to religion, I do respect those with faith in their beliefs. This is because I have often seen such individuals face up to difficulties with calm and dignity. It also enables people to accomplish feats that may seem impossible.
I remember an incident. The year was 1988 or '89. We were walking to Kedarnath. On the way we passed an old lady, ill clad and barefoot, already limping as she slowly made her way forward. I gave her a curious glance, but did not think of her any further as I strode past. We were at the GMVN guest house by around noon, and were later, much later, sitting on the verandah when I suddenly saw the lady walk past the guest house towards the temple. Her eyes appeared to glow as she limped past, still barefoot, her eyes fixed on the temple. If you had asked me that morning my opinion as physician of her chances of making it to the temple, I would have put it very low indeed. I was pretty sure that she would not make it, even if she did, it would not be in one day, and sooner or later she would have to don some footwear. But her faith won the day and there she was, having conquered the difficulties by faith alone.
I also had the opportunity to bathe in the Ganges at Hardwar during the Purna Kumbh and I can still remember the villagers who stood beside me in the Ganges, some with tears streaming down their eyes as they said their prayers for their forefathers. They were confident that in so doing they were washing off all accumulated sins, not only for themselves, but for many generations previous to them. I was glad to be a part of this though I believed that the only things that were being washed away were some dust and sweat.
Another time I was in Chennai with a Church group, when we were hoping for funding to start cardiovascular services in a rural Siliguri Hospital run by the Church. Nothing came of it, but during this visit, I met a nun who was living out the last days of her life, a victim of inoperable lung cancer. She was fully aware of her prognosis and fully expected to not wake up every time she went to bed. But her face was lit up with the prospect of meeting her God. She fully was certain that she would wake up one day to be with Christ and far from being afraid of death, she was looking forward to it.
I sometimes reflect on what I think about this. Am I ok with this false belief (and I am pretty sure that it is false) if it helps a patient? I guess I am. If faith can help a patient face tribulations patiently and with grace; I am all for it. I am absolutely sure that they will not meet any supernatural being after their death, but if it helps them to face their mortality why should they not believe it? Unfortunately most so called religious people have no faith, they are only interested in the outer trappings of religion.
Be that as it may, the book that started all this chain of thoughts is available at the Silverfish Book Store in case you are interested. I wish Mr Oh a long life and much happiness.