Life could not have been more beautiful. Well, it could have been but then who is not a little greedy. I had returned from the States after a work stint of a year and a half. I was absolutely elated to be with my family & friends and being able to eat golgappas from my favorite roadside vendor.
Just when you think life is going exactly as you had planned, God throws in a roadblock and smiles. And I found myself standing outside an oncologist’s clinic.
YES! I had been diagnosed with cancer – Ewing’s Sarcoma to be specific. It is a type of childhood cancer but I was 25 when I was diagnosed. Being the big Bollywood fan that I am, my mind transported to the deathbed scene from the movie ‘Anand’. Cancer equals Death! – I thought, and it is what anybody would think in such a situation.
Google, Hospitals & Cancer
I did what all of us do when we face an issue – Use GOOGLE. I googled the name of my disease and within the first few clicks, learnt that it was curable. I went to the office next day and wrapped up my work to the best of my ability, given my state of mind. Soon I found myself at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. I was intrigued by the sight in the hospital – new born babies, children, young and old; all battling cancer. And it made me wonder. ‘Does cancer spare anyone?’
Let The Battle Begin!
I realized that I would have to be really strong to stand in those serpentine queues to meet the doctors and run from one doctor to the other carrying my case file. There was no time to feel sorry about myself. THE WAR HAD BEGUN! The doctors suggested an intensive one year chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. But the treatment turned out to be more traumatic than the disease itself. I lost my beautiful hair and my physical stamina. The treatment even threatened to sap my soul.
My thoughts swung between two extremes. “God, Why me? Why did I get this? What did I do to get this? I have never harmed any one, never cheated any one, never stolen.” And then I thought “Can it get worse than this?”
I was thankful that my treatment was showing good results; I wasn’t under a risk of amputation of one of my limbs like many other unlucky souls around me; and YES, I wasn’t dying!
However many a time, I found myself alone on the seesaw with no pal to push me up when I was feeling so low. Most of my friends were busy in their normal lives and no one could empathize with me. It was then that I discovered a new planet inhabited by people just like me – Planet Cancer. An online social community for young adults touched by cancer where they could share insights, explore their fears, laugh and even poke fun at cancer. The Crazy Sexy Cancer Book by Kris Carr – an actress, gave me lots of tips on how to kick cancer’s ass and that too in style: “Don’t capitalize cancer. Giving it so much importance is a big no-no. Infact spell it wrong: c-a-n-s-e-r. It gives you power over that stupid little two-syllable word.” Haha!
I found a lot of inspiration from other patients around me, some of whom were battling cancer the second or even the third time. My strong willpower, positivity, hope and courage helped me in the fight. It made me believe in the words: “When Cancer was looking around for a body to hang out in, it made a big mistake when it chose mine. Big mistake!”
The legendary words of Jim Valvano made a big impact on me. “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soulmate. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”
Having cancer does not mean you lose your sense of humor. Finding humor even in such a difficult situation helped me relax. My parents, brother, cousins and my entire extended family became my support system during this journey. I became much closer to my parents after seeing their selfless love, care and support. I came out victorious in the fight. But the journey had made a big impact on me. I also realized how we humans live in our own little bubble, fretting over small things oblivious to such realities until a tragedy hits us or someone close to us. After my cancer I realised the collateral beauty of it all. I have started loving and respecting my life much more after coming close to losing it.
Each one of us, at some point face the ‘challenge of our life’. For me it was fighting cancer, for you it can be losing a job, being in a bad relationship or separating from a loved one. Let’s face it, life itself is a constant challenge. It’s full of unexpected detours that no one but you can navigate. It’s very easy to get bogged down by failures and challenges and give up. What really matters is giving whatever it takes to fight the challenge, coming out smiling and saying “I survived!”
I would love to hear from all of you on what you think about my story and if it has affected the way you look at things now. I wish all of you the very best and keep going through tough times! May this New Year be filled with only the best things!