Background of Kidney Cancer Winner
I have always been into sports. I have been an athlete, and a marathon runner since 12 years now. I run half and full marathons. I have been a footballer and cricketer throughout my life. I am very passionate about traveling and bike riding.
Detection of Kidney Cancer
It was in January 2014 that I had been on my routine visit to Mumbai for full marathon. Also,
I had an upcoming corporate cricket tournament by the end of February. I played the first match, and while I was returning, I went to the mall with one of my cousins.
When I went to the washroom, I realized that the color of my urine was dark brown. At first, I wasn’t so sure; I thought it was probably a urinary inflammation. When I came home, and before going to bed, I went to the washroom and found that the color was still dark brown.
It was then that I realized that something was very wrong. My parents are doctors, so I called up my mom. She said that we shouldn’t delay this, and consult a doctor immediately. I had a match the next day. So, I told her that I wanted to play the match first, and then we would visit the doctor. However, my proposal was denied.
So, we started the investigation; it went on for 2-3 days. We did an ultrasound and some other tests, but everything was normal. There was no infection or anything unusual in ultrasound, except for the fact that I was passing blood with my urine.
Later, one of my dad’s seniors recommended us to get a colored CT scan done for urology, which would help us understand the case better. In a colored CT scan, once you go without dye and then with dye, they can differentiate between the two to know what exactly it is.
The moment I went inside for the scan, within 5 minutes, the radiologist came out and asked, “Do you have pain in your right side?” I answered no.
He was surprised, and said that they needed to share it with the doctor. I said that my parents are doctors, so he could share it with them.
When I came outside the CT scan room, I could see from my parents’ expressions that there was something wrong. They informed me that there was something called renal cell carcinoma, which is a Stage 2 Kidney Cancer.
There was a big tumor growth in my kidney, which was bigger than a golf ball inside my right kidney. It had become vascular, meaning that it had received blood supply, and when it burst, blood oozed out.
My first question was “Why me?”, but then I realized that asking that question would not help in any way. So, I lifted my spirits, saying,
“Okay, whatever has happened, I am going fight it till the end.”
The most important feature that I learned from my mom was to hope for the best, and be prepared for the worst. So, that is what I did.
I was hoping for the best, but was prepared for anything that would happen; this thought really helped me. I took things the way they came to me.
When I first went to the doctor, I asked how much time did I have; was it 3-4 months? I had decided that I was not going to die in a hospital. I would go for a world tour; I would drive the best cars in the world, travel to different countries, and then die; but certainly I would not die in a hospital. Luckily, the doctor said that I had a lot of time, and I could do it later.
Treatment for Kidney Cancer Stage 2
According to the doctors, the tumor was neither benign, nor was it a case of TB growth. So, 99% it was a renal cell carcinoma that needed an operation. I picked up my reports and consulted different doctors in different countries as well. All of them responded that they had to open it up and look inside. There could still be a chance that they would save my kidney. There was no other option, so I had to go for the surgery.
I was operated in March, and eventually, they took out my kidney, ureter, three arteries, four veins, and some lymph nodes. I still remember the compliments that I had got from my surgeon after four days of my surgery.
I was 34 years old at that time; I was an athlete and a runner. So, the first thing that the doctors said was, “Sidharth when we opened you up, there was no fat, and we actually found a 22-year-old boy inside. So, it was not difficult for us to operate you.”
In my case, no chemotherapy or radiotherapy was given because it required a third type of therapy called immunotherapy. So, I was on lots of strong medications.
Cancer – A Stigma
I returned home, and was in the bed for three months. I had a very supportive family, and my mom was my biggest support. While I was on bedrest, one of the things that I really wanted to do was to connect with other cancer survivors.
I wanted to understand what I was going through, because there are many rough questions in your mind at that time; and you don’t have answers for it.
One of the saddest things I discovered was that there were no support groups in India because here people are never vocal about cancer. They keep it to themselves, and there is a stigma attached to it.
At that time, I started writing my blog (which is now merged with website flyingshidharth.com). Within 2-3 months, people from 25 countries connected with me. Sadly, Indians were the least among them. Mental block is still a huge factor here.
For me, the most frustrating thing was that a month and a half ago I was running in a full marathon of 42 km in the humid weather of Mumbai; so I had that kind of fitness. However, after surgery, it was difficult for me to stand for 10 minutes at a stretch under the shower, or even climb four stairs. It was the toughest time for me because I never knew if I would be able to make it till there again. I was unsure if I would be able to complete the full circle of my life.
The Flying Sidharth
I started reading other cancer survivor stories, which played a huge role in my life. Yuvraj Singh and Lance Armstrong inspired me a lot. I kept telling myself that if two of the fittest men in their respective countries can fight cancer and bounce back with the same spirit and fitness level, so could I.
- In five months, I started to walk slowly
- By the sixth month I started walking briskly
- After seven months I started to jog a little
- Finally in November 2014, I started to run half marathon daily
For me, running a daily half marathon was not just about the timing. It was just that I wanted to finish it without pain and injury. I did not stop there. In January 2015, in the eleventh month of my surgery, I went to Mumbai and ran a full marathon. Again, the timing was not important. I just wanted to complete the marathon, which took six hours to complete the full marathon.
That was the time when our runners’ group gave me one of the best compliments that I have received so far. They said,
“Sidharth, Milkha Singh was called Flying Singh and from today we will call you Flying Sid”
This is how ‘Flying Sidharth’ came into the picture and I started my blog, and now all my blogs are named as The Flying Sidharth.
I still remember that after 333 days, it was at the end of January, when the corporate cricket tournament came up again. My team welcomed me with open arms. I went ahead, and we played a tournament. What more; we were winners even. It was the best memory that I cherish.
After my kidney cancer stage 2 treatment, I started collaborating with different NGOs. I came across many people, who were mentally disturbed because of hair loss and certain biological alterations due to their cancer treatment.
I always tell cancer patients and other warriors that life is way beyond all these. Stay away from people who are negative and judge you because of your looks. They are not worthy of being in your life.
I work as a Cancer coach now. A lot of people reach out to me through my blogs. I interact with lots of cancer survivors and tell them that it is essential to have a positive mindset.
Most importantly, I like to talk about things that are generally not discussed. For example, they always talk about the patient, but hardly the caregiver. Nobody acknowledges a cancer caregiver’s pain, maybe because the main focus is the patient. However, it’s not just the patient who fights cancer, but the entire family, and close friends who fight with the patient. So, in my opinion, caregivers should not be neglected.
Cancer As I Know It: Six Simple Steps to Beat Cancer and Feel Awesome
In 2019, I wrote my book “Cancer As I Know It.” It was launched by The Indian Authors Association on Amazon. It is available in thirteen countries. It is a book in my own words, and it is just my version of how I took cancer. A lot of people acknowledged it.
During the cancer journey, you must stay with positive people and have a positive approach toward life. There are days when you will break down, which is okay. However, what is more important is that you get up after that. You will have questions like why cancer happened to me, but nobody knows why it happens.
During my cancer research, I reached out to Mayo Clinic in Florida. They are the ones who are researching for the last 24 years. They told me a few things, which were quite surprising:
- Firstly, the type of cancer that I had was very rare in entire Asia.
- Secondly, this cancer happens at the age of 60 years or so.
- Thirdly, the size of the tumor that I had takes at least five years to grow. That meant that for the past five years, I was running marathon and playing cricket with that tumor in my kidney. All this while, I had no clue about it.
A couple of things that I realized were that my fitness level was such that the symptoms took great time to show. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or bad, but all I can say is that you have to listen to your mind and body.
I am so glad that my parents never took it casually and urged to examine it. It was them who reiterated that it was not an ordinary situation. They also said that because I did not have any pain in the abdomen, it was not a great sign. If you have pain in the abdomen and you are urinating blood, then it means there is an inflammation. But if you do not have pain, then it is scarier.
It was all because of God’s grace. He gave me the signals. Otherwise, it would have spread inside the entire body. Fortunately, it was just in my one kidney, which is removed now. You can survive with one kidney; some people are born with only one kidney and still able to live a healthy life.
I drink a lot of water, restricted outside food and said no to red meat. The doctor suggested that my healthy lifestyle and running has helped me, so I should not stop doing it. However, I shouldn’t overdo it, so I have restricted my activities.
I still have some issues with my stomach. There was one particular healing that did not take place in the stomach in a way that it should have. So, I was supposed to have another surgery, but when I took a second opinion, the doctor said that we should not touch it unnecessarily, unless there is any issue in my lifestyle, or in daily activities.
So now, whenever I am running or cycling, I put a broad belt under the stomach so that it doesn’t put a lot of pressure.
My Motivation as a Kidney Cancer Survivor
My biggest motivation to fight kidney cancer was my parents and my entire family. I still remember that while I was going for my surgery, my biggest fear was what if I was not able to see them again.
So, more than myself I wanted to survive for my parents, my family, and my friends. I have very good friends who were always there for me in this journey. They always used to ensure that people are laughing, but I could see the expression in their as well as my parents’ eyes that they were really worried. However, it became my biggest motivation to triumph over kidney cancer.
I also believe that people who have several options, feel more depressed. However in my case, I never really had many options. I just had to fight the war and win it. Had I got 2-3 options for my cancer care, then probably I would have gone the other way too.
Emotional health is one of the toughest parts to address because there are days when you break down. However, it’s very important that you get up from it. So, I read about different people who survived cancer.
I did not talk much about it with my friends, but I started to cherish the good memories that I had – whatever I used to do in terms of my health, my passion for traveling, and whatever I had aimed for in life. Whatever I had not done so far, so I believed in pursuing that from then on.
When you break down, it’s essential that you detach yourself from it, and think about positive things, especially what you love. In my case, it was difficult because I was very fond of traveling, going outside, and running. But I could not do that, so one of my biggest supports became music and my dog.
He was there throughout my journey, I have written about him in my book as well. Dogs are just like your family members. You can sit down with them, talk to them, cry in front of them, say anything to them and they will always be there for you. So, my dog played a vital role in my cancer healing story.
Life after Kidney Cancer Stage 2
My life has changed completely since cancer. Now, I am more caring and patient. I have started to value things, life, people, and relationships more than ever before.
One thing that I did after one and a half years of my surgery was to reach out to a few of my friends with whom there was a communication gap. Why we had stopped talking, I still don’t know the reason. The first thing that I did was to try and reach out to them.
I wanted to speak to them because I had realized that even if something had happened to me, they wouldn’t have come to know, and life is way beyond these grudges. I didn’t want them to feel that I reached out to them for sympathy. It was just that I realized that life is way bigger than all these negative feelings.
I was able to reach out to three of them, and now again, we have become very good friends. We all are like it was more of a childhood behavior or ego. It often happens that you call somebody twice, and if the person doesn’t respond to you, you don’t try calling the third time.
However, there may be a possibility that the person is going through a tough time. I’m telling you that my entire thinking has changed since cancer. I see things positively; I do the things that I love. I am very passionate about traveling and bike riding, so I do that.
It’s your positive mindset and strong willpower that will eventually decide whether you end up being a cancer victim or a cancer warrior. Stay positive. Eat healthy. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy life, because it is the most beautiful gift that you have got.