Spinal Cancer Diagnosis
I always had pain in my back, but we did not have any advanced technology at that time to detect the exact cause. I got paralyzed when I was eight years old. Doctors then didn’t prescribe any medicines because they didn’t know what exactly had happened to me. After one year, I started walking again. There were no problems, but I always had pain in my spinal cord. I got an attack again at the age of 15. I went for an MRI, and it revealed that there was a tumor at the spinal end. It was the last stage of spinal cancer and had got very aggressive at that time.
The doctors said that we have to go for the surgery in one week; otherwise, I would not be able to survive. He even said that as cancer was so aggressive, I could die on the operation table too.
Spinal Cancer Treatment
I never thought that I would end up in a wheelchair. I saw my mom crying, so I asked her what happened, and she said that doctor told her that it’s cancer and you might not survive. I asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus?” She nodded, so I told her, “Then why are you worried. Life and death are in his hands; sign the papers, and nothing will happen.” But after surgery, the damage was too much. It was too hard to prepare myself mentally.
I got operated on, and my tumor was removed, but my spinal cord got damaged. After the operation, I took physiotherapy for three years. Those three years were like hell. I didn’t have any fear. It’s heartbreaking that since you are born, you have spent your childhood running here and there in your house, and suddenly you need four people to hold your stretcher to take you to the room. People used to see me and think that it might be a dead body.
My Journey as a bodybuilder
In those three years, every day, I used to ask, why me? My brother was a state champion, and I used to go to the gym with him; I would assist him during his championship. I used to do exercise at home from the age of 11. When I was 13, I asked my dad to join the gym, but he said: “no, you would get injured.” But my brother made him understand that I should do that. I used to do 100 push-ups in one set when I was 11 years old.
I joined the gym when I was 13, and I got the right muscles in just three months. I won Mr Golden Ludhiana. I had a good body, but my life changed after the age of 15. After the operation, I felt like there was nothing left in my life. I was at home eating food, was talking to everyone, but I never shared my emotions with anyone. My mom and my sister were my most immense supporters. They were always cheerful and trusted me a lot that I will do something good with my life. I used to do meditation and prayers, and that gave me the courage to fight with everything. I had a student named Amit Gill, who supported me a lot. He pushed me to join the gym, and when I joined the gym, soon my shoulders, biceps regained their form. My body once again responded very well to the exercises.
I went to my coach again and told him that I have six-pack abs, and I have the right muscles; every muscle is very defined, but I am in a wheelchair, so how should I start everything again. He said, “Don’t worry, you come, and we will do everything.” His words gave me confidence, and I started bodybuilding, and he started sending me for competitions in bodybuilding. He made me India’s first wheelchair bodybuilder.
It was difficult for me to compete, but I kept going on, and now I am the first Indian Pro Mr Olympia Bodybuilder, that is still not beaten by anyone. In 2018, I won the competition with 2nd place in the best poser of the year category.
Don’t overthink; go with the flow. Be positive and humble, and everything will be alright. Everything gets managed if you are positive. I sometimes used to get angry with my mother and sister because you get irritated when you are always in bed and cannot go anywhere. My mom, sisters, and family understood why I was irritated and still stood by me.
My spinal cancer was diagnosed at the last stage, but by the grace of God, I survived. Prayers helped me a lot to come out of everything. Whatever I am today is with the grace of God. When I was depressed, I used to get strength through prayers.
I believe that you can get inspired by someone, but you have to make your own path; no one can do hard work for you. I had to do a lot of hard work while acting too, but it’s life; if you are doing 100% struggle, you will get 10% success.
Life is going amazing now
Life is going good now. I have many projects, my biopic is coming to Bollywood, and I am also doing a web series. I have back to back projects that I am working on. Allen Woodman wrote my biography named Weightless: A True Story Of Courage And Determination.
I was in New York recently, and it was my first time in New York. I was surprised to see people waiting there for 1-2 hours to meet me with many gifts. It was a wonderful feeling to know that people recognize and love you in other countries too. I went to many people’s houses and found that they had big posters of me at their home. I felt very proud of the fact that foreigners shower me with so much love.
I quit bodybuilding because of financial issues and started doing stage shows. I did India’s Got Talent and South India Got Talent. Along with all these things, I was doing exercises regularly. Once, I went for a show for the IMC company. When I was done with my performance, the CEO of that company, Mr Ashok Bhatia, announced in front of 25,000 people that Anand Arnold is our next brand ambassador.
He asked me what you want? I said that I am an athlete, and I want to make India proud. He told me to do my work and promised that he would support me. In 2015, he took care of my expenses for diet, supplements, and trips to Europe. I got a boom from there, and then I got famous and got offers for movies. I went to America in 2018 and represented India for Mr Olympia. Then I went to Columbus, Canada, and won many medals.
I believe that there is a lot of struggle, but in the end, you get success. Now I am preparing for the Las Vegas championship.
I want to change society’s thinking. In India, people have different considerations for a disabled person. My movie would explain a lot about these things. It can happen to anyone, and anyone could end up in a wheelchair. I am a motivational speaker now; I do acting, advertisements, and endorsement. I also give free counseling to many people. I am an authentic Indian, and I will always work on making India proud.
Life is too short, so don’t spend it being upset. I don’t know how tomorrow will be, whether I will be there or not, but I can’t always be depressed thinking about it. We have to live in the present happiness. Be happy and make everyone around you happy.