Ajay Shah (Germ cell Cancer): Enjoy life to the fullest

My Background

I have a family background of cancer cases. My brother had passed away due to Pancreatic Cancer in 2010. My father was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 2016, but he is perfectly fine now.

Germ Cell Cancer Diagnosis

In 2017, I found blood in my sputum, and consulted a doctor who asked me for a CT scan. When the CT scan reports came, the doctors found that my lungs were full of cannon-ball shaped nodes, and I was diagnosed with last-stage germ cell cancer that had metastasized to the retroperitoneal area of the abdomen and lungs. I never thought that I would be diagnosed with cancer someday, but once I got it, there was no other option than being strong and fighting against it.

Germ Cell Cancer Treatment

My wife Smita and I decided to start the treatment as soon as possible, and hence just the day after my germ cell cancer diagnosis, I had started my Chemotherapy.

On the second day of chemotherapy, I got sepsis, an infection in all the body organs. Because of sepsis, my lungs stopped working and the doctors had to put me on the ventilator. I was in the ICU for 21 days during which I was completely unconscious. The doctors said that there were very few chances for my survival. I even underwent a tracheostomy and had lost my voice. But after 21 days, I woke up, and I had survived through the sepsis.

I decided to change my hospital and shifted to a new hospital with the help of my boss Shirish Dwivedi and Dr Jyothi Kumar, CMO RIL. I started my treatment afresh and was happy with my Oncologist, who was highly motivating and caring to me.

Later, I underwent six cycles of Chemotherapy. I had developed bed sores because I had been lying in the same position and could not work initially. But gradually, I was able to do my work.

A tumor in my retroperitoneal area had shrunk, but it was still there in my abdomen. So the doctor asked me to go for a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) surgery, which would take around nine hours. I got my Surgery done on 31st May 2018. The doctor took out one tumor but left another tumor because that was encircling my right kidney. To remove that tumor, the doctors had to perform a Nephrectomy, and hence they left it untouched.

Germ Cell Cancer Relapse

The doctors declared me to be in remission and asked me to monitor the blast cells very closely. After the surgery, in July 2018, in just two months, the blast cells started rising again. During the PET scan, I learned that one more tumor was growing in the same area, i.e., the retroperitoneal area. Then the doctor decided to go for a different Chemotherapy regimen this time called VIP chemotherapy, which I took for three months.

I was again out of cancer in September 2018, but one fine day in December 2018, I had Pain in my liver area. I immediately visited the doctor and did my tumor marker test, which came to the higher side again.

It was already one and a half years that I was fighting with cancer, and hearing the news of relapse for the second time took a toll on me mentally. I was very frustrated. I took opinions from different doctors, and then I got connected to Dr Lawrence Einhorn through Facebook. I sent him a mail with the details of my treatment plan and current condition, and he replied to me the same day and said that autologous transplant was the last treatment protocol in the type of cancer I have, i.e., Non-seminomatous germ cell.

Dr Lawrence Einhorn asked me to go for a specific chemotherapy, and after consulting with my Oncologist, we went forward with the one he suggested. The Chemotherapy was 5-10 times higher than the conventional Chemotherapy. It was an autologous bone marrow transplant with high-dose Chemotherapy.

The transplant was very painful; I was in complete isolation for 27 days. I was not talking to anyone because I was affected by mucositis and Diarrhea. Before diagnosis, my body weight was 90kg, but after the transplant, my body weight came down to 60kg. I was not able to eat for around 20 days.

I had already taken so many chemotherapies that I was completely broken physically, mentally, and emotionally, but I had immense support from my family, which helped me a lot. My parents, including my in-laws, were always there for me. My sister Sujata and her family and brother-in-law Sanjeev and sister-in-law Sweta were always there to support me. My colleagues also supported me a lot. My doctors were also very cooperative. I got support from everywhere, which helped me always to be positive.

I researched a lot on my cancer and knew that I had to undergo an autologous bone marrow transplantation. After the treatment, I talked to survivors and connected with survivors who had defeated the same kind of germ cell cancer that I had. I now have a group of non-seminomatous germ cell cancer survivors.

I am now doing well and go for my marker test once every three months.

Life lessons

Before my germ cell cancer diagnosis, I was not much connected with my mother and sister since we lived in different cities, but after the cancer diagnosis, we talk to each other daily. I now know the value of a relationship and am now a completely changed person.

I used to smile after taking Chemotherapy. I always say that my Chemotherapy has affected my nervous system, and I am now a more joyful person. I used to cry on tough days, but then again, I fought with those days and came out of it.

I learned to live fully. I learned that we should give time to our loved ones. I try to help people going through the cancer journey. I help them in treating the side effects. I now enjoy helping people. I have connected many patients to Dr Lawrence Einhorn for a second opinion.

Parting Message

Go in the right direction, collect some knowledge of your cancer. Have faith in your doctor. If you are not satisfied with the doctor, then take a second opinion. Have strong willpower and enjoy your life to the fullest.

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