Monday, March 06, 2006


This is the letter I sent to O.P. Jain of Sanskriti Foundation where I did my artist residency in 2002. I'm ambivalent about BLOGGING it because I wrote it to him personally. However, I feel so grateful to him for his part in the chain of people who helped on this end-- and I'm eager for you all to know his role. The letter also reveals some background regarding my experience with the big C through my mother's illness in the early 1980's and this is something that most of my long time friends may know but my newer friend do not. Anyway-- I'll let Susan decide-- whether or not it is rude to post a personal letter-- sorry Susan for passing the buck.

I have many more letters of this sort to write-- will keep you posted. Love, M.

Dear O.P. Jain,

I will never be able to fully express my sincere gratitude to you for your immediate, compassionate and concrete help in a time of serious need. That day on the phone when I explained to you (and so bluntly as I had no energy to spare) who I was and my condition-- You wasted no time and said you would make some calls and and find the best place for me. This you did and the next morning I was admitted to the Dharamshila Cancer Hospital and Research Center under the capable care of Dr. Pawan Gupta.

I want you to know that the care I received was, not only the highest quality medical care possible, but also that the doctors understood the importance of communication and understanding. One might think that in a life and death situation the fact that the person is an artist would be trivial. But it is not so-- and my biggest fear was that I would be putting my body into the hands of doctors who would not see or understand or care about my artist spirit. I have never been capable of making a separation in my being between artist and person-- as it is one whole thing.

The medical staff at Dharamshila (from Dr. Gupta and across the board) immediately responded to my need to know everything they knew in order to make the decisions, regarding choice of treatment (or not), in a manner true to my spirit. They addressed my individual needs and fears while simultaneously tending to my body. In fact, the very first thing they did was to relieve my immediate discomfort by draining the 'free floating' (it sounds so cheerful) fluid-- and it took some time-- while I kept insisting that they look at my portfolio which included photos of the art as well as a few photos of me crossing a stream or trekking in the Himalayas etc. In retrospect it must have been quite a comical scene-- a lady in the bed of the emergency room with tubes coming in and out of her body-- one tube with golden liquid flowing out and the other tube with nutrition flowing in-- and I'm insisting the doctors look at my book of road collage! Comical or not it was as important to me as the medical records from Aashlock Hospital and they not only looked but I could see that they were moved and then I knew I could safely leave my body in their care.

And so I turned myself over to the care of the medical staff at Dharamshila and for the next 4 days was cared for and analysed and tested... and together with the doctors came to the decision to try the chemo therapy treatment. At this point I must tell you that this is a thing I promised myself I would never do. My mother died at age 55 from cancer. I was 25 and I cared for her on and off during a 2 year period where she underwent various chemo therapies along with radiation therapy and surgery and I have seen all too closely the 'medical machine' version of life and death. I vowed to live my life as fully and true to my spirit as was possible-- knowing that, in terms of calendar years, my life span might possibly be shorter than some. I promised myself that if my mother's cancer genes ever caught up with me that I would accept and face early death rather than die in the way my mother died. Now I find myself saying I'm not ready to go and-- with the help of Dr. Pawan Gupta especially -- I came to the decision to try the chemotherapy which he assures is far more advanced than in my mother's time. I am committing to each treatment (which entails one 4 hour IV drip every 3 weeks) one step at a time-- keeping open my option to discontinue treatment at any time.

My plans are to live in the mountains I so love in the Dharamsala/McCloud Ganj area where I lived for 3 months in 2002-- and to commute down to Delhi for the chemo treatments. To my surprise there seems to be a network of people (artists friends and family) who are trying to round up funds to help me pay for the treatments. And a Los Angeles gallery is possibly arranging some kind of fundraising event. So I feel lucky that they sprang out of nowhere-- or so it seemed to me.

Back to my gratefulness to you for your part in this amazing-- life affirming-- chain of people and events. I feel lucky in a way that this terrible thing happened to hit me while I was here in Delhi where quality medical care was immediately available. This is also the point at which you have saved my life (and I apologize for sounding so dramatic-- but it is so). I will try to find some way to thank you for your immediate compassion and response to my dire situation. But whatever I come up with-- I know it will never seem adequate from my point of view. Thank-you again and always.

Margi Scharff

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