With the right attitude, everything seems possible. It has been my motto ever since I was diagnosed with leukemia. I am Aashim Joy, from the United States, and this is my emotional and inspiring story that showcases how a healthy mindset can help you achieve your goals. A disease that initially drained me mentally and emotionally, over time, helped me understand my will power and learn several valuable lessons.
How it began
I married my wife in the latter half of 2016 and moved to the United States to work. New York seemed an apt choice to achieve my professional goals. However, I wasn’t aware of what life had in store for me. The initial few months in New York were great for me as I traveled and discovered new places with my wife. Within 2-3 months of my visit, I started developing mild fevers. The fevers never seemed to disappear completely, making my family anxious about what was happening. At first, I did not take this seriously.
Over time, I faced immense pressure from my parents and wife to visit a doctor. Staying in a different country and new healthcare procedures posed various problems for me. Finally, on the 7th of July, I decided to visit a nearby emergency center where they took a blood sample. Oblivious to what was coming for me, I was relaxed and admired the neat healthcare facilities in New York. Towards the end of the day, two lady doctors summoned me and confirmed my symptoms.
As it was a Saturday, an official lab test could not be done. However, on close inspection, I understood that I had leukemia, a type of blood cancer. At first, I was shocked as my symptoms were mild fevers. My wife was next to me, crying hard. My only concern was whether it was curable. Thankfully, it was quite possible to cure this cancer.
Although my wife was in denial until the official reports came in, I had accepted the truth and was preparing myself for the next step, as that seemed the best thing to do. Luckily, my parents had recently visited us, and they were with me when I was diagnosed with leukemia. Although my journey has been intense and painful, it is only with my wife and my parent’s support that I dared to fight it.
That weekend was the most overwhelming and emotional week of my life. Since I was staying away from my relatives, I had several calls pouring in from my friends and relatives. I knew how difficult it was for them to not cry in front of me, but they showed immense strength and provided heaps of support and wishes. When you hear that someone has been diagnosed with cancer, our first instinct is to respond as if they will die soon. The stigma is ingrained so deeply in our minds, and we barely understand the scientific route of the disease. However, I have always been a practical person and have believed that we can fight all our battles with the right attitude. If you make up your mind, then even the toughest of your struggles seem possible.
The Treatment for Leukemia
Thankfully, I reside in the United States, where health care facilities are excellent. However, I made it a point to do my research and understand my situation. Within a month, I began intense chemotherapy. No doubt, my sessions were mentally and physically exhausting, but I am grateful that my body withstood the treatment well. When I was called in for a bone marrow biopsy at the end of the month, my disease was gradually reducing. I could finally see how the process was killing my cancer cells.
However, it wasn’t a short process. The treatment spanned almost three years. But I was glad I was making progress. I remember my doctor suggesting I opt for a bone marrow transplant to reduce the chances of a relapse. I tried hard to find a suitable donor from my relatives. However, I never found a match.
This process helped me start several drives back in my home country India. We had multiple centers set up in Delhi, Kerala, Bombay, and Bangalore. Almost 10,000 people signed up for a bone marrow donor registry. It was slightly easier to set up this drive in India than abroad since most of my networks belonged here. It gave me immense happiness to see so many volunteers ready to save lives across the world.
The Importance of Family
In the next six months, my family and my wife’s family proved to be generous. Living in the US can be a daunting task as you don’t have helpers; hence you do a lot of work by yourself. It was tough for my wife, as she had a lot on her plate. She was juggling home, work, and my treatment, which was only making her tired. Our families stepped in to help us and provide us with support and love. It helped me understand how important it is to have your family during such times. Without them, it would have been nearly impossible to manage everything.
My wife has been my pillar of support through all those operations and visits to doctors. I strongly feel that this journey is nerve-racking for the patient, but it is equally difficult for the caregiver. It is primarily essential for both of us to stay confident and supportive.
I remember my chemotherapy sessions that lasted for three years. I had multiple rounds of chemo, with the initial stages having regular sessions. I had around 20 sessions a month. It gradually reduced, and I started making progress. Thankfully, I have never gone through radiation therapy.
Side Effects of Cancer Treatment
Additionally, I look bigger now, and the side effects keep piling up. But it is so much better than popping 20 pills a day. But in comparison to fighting a disease, these concerns seem trivial now. I feel that our life is never a bed of roses. Some days will be good, and some will be bad. But if you have the will to live a happy life after this and fight with that attitude, then you will make it through.
Coming from an Indian family, I was recommended several alternative treatments by my relatives. Some suggested Ayurveda or some cure followed by babas. However, I was determined to strictly follow only scientific courses that have been concrete proof of success. While I completely understand that it’s a personal choice, it seemed like a better option for me. I also made several lifestyle changes. My family and I have shifted to a holistic lifestyle now.
We now concentrate on eating healthy, organic food, and olive oil. I believe these small steps make a big difference in the long run. Additionally, giving up on nonstick utensils and light walks have helped me. I feel you should stick to a regime rather than switching frequently.
This journey kept me away from my work. So having time for myself helped improve my mental health. I loved playing scrabble with my words, and this enhanced my vocabulary too. While staying at a hospital, I often read and regularly spoke to my friends and family friends. I have also started using social media positively. I recently started a Facebook alumni group, where I monitor all posts and stay in touch with everyone. These activities have kept me energized and mentally happy.
While I understand that this journey is too emotional, it also depends on your willpower. I have always been a happy-go-lucky person and believed that life offers me good things. When I was diagnosed, I was not ready to give up. I had too much to do. I did have moments of sadness. However, you need to dust yourself and move on. It is hard, but it can be done. Thinking of small goals and achieving them helped me stay positive. Once you start attaining them, you will be happier and optimistic.
My key learnings from this journey would be to value your relationships over materialistic pursuits. Also, never give up. Keep smiling and build a positive attitude. Never ask, “Why me?’ Maybe this happened so you could spread good things around you. You can fight this battle with your head. Remember, you are not a survivor but a warrior who has fought her/his way through this, and I hope my journey helps make someone’s life better out there.