Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnosis
It all started on the 29th of December 2007, my 50th birthday. The entire family, friends, and relatives were together, and we had a lovely time. Life was very comfortable; I was commanding the Artillery Brigade in Delhi. I had a beautiful house, very affectionate and caring wife. My son was doing engineering, and my daughter was in the 9th standard. My life was like an Onida TV, "The owner's Pride and neighbors envy, and I was so proud of my life. But when everything is going alright, God gives you some challenges so that people do not forget that God also exists.
In the summer of 2008, I was in Delhi; I saw a little swelling on my neck; I thought that there is no time to go to the hospital, so I will get it checked later. A friend of mine is an anesthetist, so I just went to him and had a cup of tea with him. I shared with him that there was something rubbery on my neck. He asked me to get it checked. I got my routine annual check-up done, and nothing came out of it.
He then advised me to do an FNAC, called me after 3-4 days, and asked me to come for a cup of tea. I sensed that the doctor inviting for a cup of tea meant some bad news. He gave me a very serious look, so I asked if the test results have come, and he said yes, and that the things were not okay. I never imagined in my dreams that it could happen. I was leading a very pious life; I had no habits that could lead to cancer.
He took me to the oncology department. I didn't know what oncology was because I never heard this word. He said that the doctor would tell you everything, and then he vanished. The doctor said that I don't need to worry, and it will be cured. He asked me to forget about my office, career and just come to the hospital, and that it was curable as it was diagnosed at an early stage. I listened to him for 10 minutes, and then I asked whether I have got cancer because I had heard of it as the deadliest disease.
He laughed and said that cancer is a very maligned word. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He asked me to give the six months to the treatment and tell my wife about this. I asked the doctor how much time I have? He said to me that I should not think of that. I came out of the room, and he had made it look so simple, but it was ringing in my head. When I sat down on my vehicle and my house was 10 minutes away, it hit me again and again that I had cancer. The whole world around me changed. I was listening to everything, but in my mind, I was thinking about how things will work out, what will happen, how bad it would be, and why me.
Disclosing the News
I reached home, and I was not listening to anything. I just had my lunch and went back to my bedroom, but I think ladies have the sixth sense to guess what's going on in their husband's minds. My wife came to me and asked me what was going in my mind as I didn't look normal. I asked her to close the door so that I can tell her what it was. She closed the door, and I disclosed what the doctor had told me. She is the lady of steel; she absorbed the news. I am sure it must have been more devastating for her than it was to me, but she did not show any expressions. She kept quiet for two minutes, and then she said that if the doctor said it would be cured, then it will be cured; why should we bother.
The whole afternoon we kept talking about it, discussing on whom we should share the news. It's a life-changing experience; everything changes around you. In the evening, both of us decided to take it as a challenge and not ask why me because one option is to keep crying, and the other is to face it like a soldier. We believed that one adversity has come; let's fight it out and win over it.
We decided that we will not hereafter cry about it and will face it very strongly. We called our children and disclosed to them and told them that we would fight with them and asked them not to let the disease dominate their daily life and to continue with their studies.
Cancer couldn't stop us from enjoying life
The next day, my wife and I went to the doctor, and he briefed us on the treatment, how Chemotherapy will be, how much time it will take, and what difficulties will come through.
He gave a long lecture on everything and explained that they would take a biopsy, and the Biopsy results will come out in 7 days, and depending upon the Biopsy results, they will decide the treatment protocol. So after that, I told him that we had planned a family holiday to Sikkim with all the relatives and children. So I asked him whether I could go after giving the Biopsy and then come and take the treatment.
The doctor almost fell from his chair; he said that "here is the champ, I am telling you got cancer, and rather than crying, you want to go on the holiday. He said, sir, you are great, and if you can enjoy the holiday, then go ahead and come back, and only then will we start the treatment.
We went on holiday with the children and family. We did not tell anyone, but there was a minor scar of the biopsy, so either my wife or I used to do the dressing, and we told them that it's just a small boil that has happened. My wife and I cut short our visit by two days to come back on time.
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Treatment
We came back and started Chemotherapy for six months. I asked the doctor, "what is chemotherapy? He said that they would give me medicines, and the first day, he gave me some medication and then asked me later whether I was okay. I said yes, and he told me that my Chemotherapy has started, and it was that simple. But I feel taking Chemotherapy is not that simple since you have a lot of side effects.
I read the book of Lance Armstrong, a cyclist who had cancer and had only a 3% chance of survival. But not only did he survive after the treatment, but he also became the world champion again. He was my inspiration, and in his book, he said, "I don't know which one will take me first, cancer or the Chemotherapy. I felt that Chemotherapy is not an easy task, but my body was strong as I was always into physical fitness and mentally, too, I was ready to fight. So I took on that chemotherapy, and it was a challenge because I had to attend to my office also, as generally, I don't take leaves. There were times when I was undergoing the drip, and I was clearing the files in the Chemotherapy center because I could not take leave.
I put on a lot of weight and lost all my hair, but I had the complete support of my family on the entire journey. My wife had told everyone that if someone wants to come and cry, they should call at home, and if someone wants to sympathize, then we don't want sympathy. My children would come and kiss me on the head and say, you are looking so good in my bald head, and that's how we sailed through that.
I continued with my work and did exercises. Once the treatment was over, I regained my shape; I was into extensive physical fitness to shed my weight. I went up for upgradation for the low medical category, but the people asked how they could upgrade me as I just went through the treatment, the catheter was still on, and it was not even six months since Chemotherapy. But I had to get upgraded because I was to be selected for a very special course called National Defence College. I told the doctor at army headquarters that all those who claim to be fit take a lift, and I use the stairs, so he can decide whether I was fit or not. So he approved me fit, and I was selected for the course. I underwent that course, and for two years, I was very regular with my check-ups. After the NDC course, I was posted to Jodhpur again in a very good appointment.
The sudden relapse
Everything was alright, my house was packed up, and I was to go for posting, but then I realized that my disease was reoccurring and it was converting from low grade to high grade, and that was a hazardous situation to deal with.
I went to the hospital, and the doctor planned my treatment and asked me to apply for the posting to be canceled and do it immediately. I came back and told my wife; it's like the enemy always strikes you when you are not prepared. Luggage was half-packed, my son was undergoing training for being a pilot, and my daughter was in 12th standard. So many administrative issues were there, but one has to overcome. My treatment started again, and I had to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
I underwent an autologous transplant, and it is a complicated process. My wife was with me in the bone marrow transplant chamber because you need someone to share your thoughts when you are alone.
While they put the catheter tube, some infection got into me. When they wheeled me into the bone marrow chamber and administered the first medicine, the infection got into my blood, and I suddenly had chills under the temperature, and I went into a coma. I lost consciousness, and after one hour, when I opened my eyes, my wife and all the doctors were worried, and all were looking at me. I didn't know what had happened, and when I looked at the watch, I saw one-hour minus from my life. I still don't know what happened in that one hour. The doctors asked me if I was okay, and I said yes, I was okay. It appeared to me as if I had gone into sleep, but later on, they told me that I had gone into a coma, and it was great that I revived.
That infection made my recovery delayed, but I used to maintain the physical fitness regime. I used to do walking within that one room in terms of time and not in terms of kilometers. I used to do half an hour of walk and Yoga and 15 minutes of pranayama in that room.
Mental trauma for kids
When we were in bone marrow transplant, my daughter was undergoing her 12th board exams, and my son had just joined the unit, he was newly commissioned into the airforce, and with great difficulty, he got leave. He came back home to live with her sister, and both were alone as my wife and I was both in the bone marrow transplant chamber.
I was dangerously ill, and they both had a lot of pressure on my health for those 30 days. Before the exams, my daughter would come, but as she could not come inside the room, she used to wave at me through a glass window and talk to us on the phone, and we used to give her blessings for the exams. She was under a lot of mental pressure, yet she came out a winner; she got 86% in her board exams, and then she got admission to the Delhi University.
The children also faced a lot of trauma and stress, but they also had resilience, and we all fought it out. My son also successfully completed the training and joined the unit.
I came out a Winner
I came out as a winner again, and after six months, I got promoted to major general, and then I went into a very prestigious appointment. Twice I came to a time when I felt as if I would not get cured and doubted whether I would live the next day or not. I not only survived, but I fought back to get into shape; I was upgraded medically and got my promotion.
Cancer struck the third time after five years when I was okay and was at Amity University. The doctors advised to take a dose of chemotherapy, so at that time, I took a dose of chemotherapy, but I didn't tell anybody or took leave. I used to go to Delhi, take the dose for five days, and come back and continue with my work. I was a veteran of two wars earlier, so in the third one, I could take it under my stride, and I told cancer, "Come on, try me; it doesn't matter now.
That was the third time, and after that, cancer has not dared to come near me. I get myself checked regularly, and I am absolutely fit and fine now.
My wife is a nutritionist, so she takes care of my diet, and we are leading a wonderful life. I believe that family support is the biggest asset. As a family, we sailed through all the challenges thrown in our path together.
Every life crisis teaches you a lesson, so I learned a lot of lessons from my journey:
- Courage to face adversity. Since I have gone through so much and even fought with death and came out of it, no adversity matters to me now. I don't get fazed by anything.
- Be a fighter; victory and defeat is all in mind.
- Have faith in destiny. Don't die before death comes; live your life to the fullest.
- Have compassion, be more forgiving. I achieved more patience through this journey.
- Find joy in small things. Pick up those little moments of joy and live it up. Be thankful to God. Find happiness in day-to-day happenings.
Winning and losing is in mind; if you decide to come out as a winner, then you will definitely come out as a winner. Just hold on, and don't worry; the doctor and medicines will kill the enemy.
Be mentally strong. Cancer is a great leveler. Tell 'try me' rather than 'why me.' Don't get stressed and be positive. Improve your immunity, and don't die before death comes. Keep hope; miracles do happen. The Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.