Prateek (Hodgkin Lymphoma): “The battle is very personal”

Hodgkin Lymphoma Surrvivor

Since I was a schoolboy, I was a rather average guy who had “normal” interests such as playing cricket, exploring the world around me, and dreaming of future excellence. Spending my childhood days in Bangalore, I followed a conventional educational process where I first entered engineering and later moved to MBA. Presently, I work in a leading multinational firm in Mumbai. Returning to work after 6 months was both refreshing and exciting. Though I have gone back to my old ways of cribbing over deadlines, disagreeing with my boss, and sometimes (not consciously) pondering over colleague’s appraisals, I am thankful for surviving  hodgkin lymphoma cancer and seeing each dawn.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma. According to textbook definitions, stage 4 cancer refers to the last stage of cancer where the infected cells spread to other parts of the body. The doctors said I was at stage 4, but the carcinogenic cell activity in the spreaded areas was very little. My core treatment to fight the disease revolved around chemotherapy. My body needed 6 cycles that were spread over 12 sittings. Undoubtedly, mental and physical stress weighed me down, but I stopped putting my mind after a while. 

 

I have a family history of cancer so as soon as I learned about my battle, I did plenty of online research to equip myself with every little piece of information available across websites. Initially, I reflected on it and engaged in mindless thoughts. But then, I decided to take it in my stride and cherish life the way it is. Moreover, everyone in India who hears about your pain jumps to give you home remedies and pushes tulsi forward in every crisis. A misdiagnosed lump grew in me in over a month when I visited a general physician and a skin specialist to know what’s wrong. Finally, a lab assistant played a significant role in the identification. Post my chemotherapy sessions, I had to be lifted and placed in the wheelchair because the treatment kills both the functional cells and the cancer cells. My body felt drained. 

For someone who has been working each day, for the past ten years of his life, suddenly staying back home can be quite challenging. It is a wholly changed dynamic if you are sitting idle. But being an optimistic person myself and support from my company helped me cope with my anxiety. I got a monitor and synced it with my working system. This allowed me to work from home and do at least 60% justice to my role. Though I moved to basic tasks, I still got to check mails, do conference calls, and handle information. My job instilled a renewed sense of importance in me and gave a boost to my confidence.

I did not follow any unconventional method of treatment except for the regular consumption of flax seeds and wheatgrass juice. I am a very private person, so I don’t believe in divulging too many personal details to people around me. I do not have a group of friends that I will meet each evening to hang out with. My way of tackling cancer was to share it with only two to three close buddies who cared to ask me about my health and whereabouts. I feel it is an excellent approach because it leads to fewer conversations about it. Moreover, such news in India spreads like forest fires! The battle is very personal, and everyone has their way of overcoming it.

The hospital and Indian health care industry is majorly complicated. There is a massive investment in the equipment, and the insurance companies can sometimes be a menace. My cancer treatment bills were somewhere around two to three lakhs. The chemotherapy bills were settled directly by the hospital and my insurance provider. But the bills I filed were considerably less, and I faced frequent questions that were sometimes unjustified. I was shocked when the hospital told me that I could not leave the hospital until my insurance claim was settled. Honestly, that was traumatic after the tiring treatment.  

 

Though I thank God for belonging to an upper-middle-class family, I shudder to think about the plight of the common man who lacks basic education, financial resources, and knowledge of crisis management. My parents, sister, and limited friends were my support system. Though I did not have any role model, I read a little on Yuvraj Singh, owing to my cricket love.  Hodgkin lymphoma temporarily made me stress less about petty issues like minor business losses and job competition. Now, these are slowly coming back to me. But I had already warned you right at the starting that I am just another average boy. I had an 80% chance of survival and clung to that hope until I won.