My name is Guruvinder Kaur and I’m a stage 4 colon cancer survivor. My cancer has metastasized to a major part of the liver and other organs, so it was quite bad, as per the doctor. If I go with what the doctors said I would have survived only 2 months, although, I have survived now more than six months. My treatment is going on and I am taking double chemotherapy.
I am a social entrepreneur, I run a brand called ‘Nekki Officials' where we empower women tailors by giving them work to have a sustainable livelihood. I also work as an international social activist and have been working with some NGOs for the past seven years. I am an Indian Director for a UK-based NGO where we work on different subjects that are not often talked about openly like menstrual hygiene, mental health, domestic violence, and now “Cancer Awareness”, which is gonna be a highlight throughout my career. This is very close to my heart because everybody who knows me considered me as the healthiest person since I run a platform called ‘Healthy living with Rooh’ where I have some international clients for whom I prepare a balanced diet with the recipe that includes millets, grains, pulses, etc. to be used so that they can opt for a healthy lifestyle. So, everyone was shocked that I got this disease even after following a healthy lifestyle.
My life was running smoothly in 2020 and I was working as usual. Suddenly, I started losing a lot of weight, around 10kg without doing anything. At first, I was happy that I’m becoming lean but near Diwali last year, I started bleeding through my rectum. So I went for my checkups and did all the blood tests. Everything was normal. The doctors said that it could be hemorrhoid since in India almost 40% suffer from piles and they said it is curable. They asked me to take 6 months of medicine. Thus, I started with the treatment.
What usually happens is that no one thinks that they can get any severe disease like cancer as no one wants to imagine themselves in a worst-case scenario. I never thought that it could be cancer and continued with hemorrhoid treatment hoping that it will get cured. However, my health was dropping continuously. Then I consulted a lady surgeon at Amritsar and got all my tests done. She also said the same thing and started with the treatment, but nothing worked. After a month, I was at a family wedding when I started bleeding heavily. I called my doctor and she asked me to go for a colonoscopy. The very next day I got my test done. The procedure was done with a screen in front of me where I could view everything. I saw something wrong in there but tried not to think about it. However, when the doctor asked the person to take a biopsy, immediately it clicked to me that it could be cancer. After the procedure, I asked the doctor, “Is it cancer?” and she said “Yes”. The toughest part was to face my family. Everyone cried but I consoled them saying “Don't worry, god, will take care of me and will not let anything happen to me.” Later, after all the tests it was diagnosed to be stage 4 cancer.
My Frantic Treatment Journey:
I consulted other doctors and they said that my colon cancer is really bad and I might have just a couple of months as it was very malignant and has spread to other organs. They said that I will have to undergo chemotherapy in which they will put a valve in my chest to administer medicines and that also after the surgery I will have to carry a stool bag for the rest of my life. I did not want to go through any of this so I told my family that I am not going to do this treatment. If I only had a few days left, I would like to spend those time with my family at home and not wait for death lying on a hospital bed. Everybody then started looking for other alternative treatments.
Now when I say alternative therapy, In India many people have fooled around because of the fraud people who claim to cure cancer 100% within a few months of treatment. I started my treatment with ‘Cancer healers’. I started taking their homeopathy treatment. It eased my stomach pain a bit at first but eventually, my condition worsened and I stopped taking their treatment.
The symptoms of colon cancer are discomfort in the stomach, loss of appetite, constipation, and bleeding from the rectum. Only when the bleeding started did I consult my doctor and he said it is hemorrhoid and I started taking treatment for that.
So if anybody is facing these symptoms I will request them to get themselves screened. Even if it is a hemorrhoid, get it screened because there is no harm in screening! Cancer is something if you are diagnosed early, you can get your treatment early and get a cure.
My condition was drooping and I was getting suggestions of all sorts from my relatives and friends. I started taking homeopathic and ayurvedic medicines but nothing worked. Then I visited McLeod Ganj where they give Tibetan ayurvedic medicine. There were thousands of people, however, those medicines didn't work for me. I continued with my treatment there for three months. The first month was great as I did not have any pain and all was good but the next month I started having intense pain and I used to have tramadol thrice a day which is said to be one of the strongest pain killers. I suffered a lot in those four months.
I want everyone to know this because it's easy to say that ‘Oh! I am sorry to hear that you have Colon cancer.’ Only a cancer patient knows what it's like to go through this. If you can't give positivity towards the cancer patient family or caregiver, please, it's my request to everybody to not spread negativity, do not squeeze out the strength from them. It's more difficult for the family to hold themselves with strength while they are trying hard to put a smile on their face and reassure the patient that they are going to be fine.
So somehow, my treatment was going on and around July I had a complete blockage in my stomach and was nauseating for 15 days. I fell unconscious and was taken to a hospital. The next day when I was in my senses, my doctor visited me and screamed at me “Is this the same person that I've known? I can’t see you lying on this bed waiting to die. I want to see you doing your work, inspiring people. Is this what you want to show to yourself, your daughter?”. I said no, certainly not. He then told me to get into chemotherapy and get a proper line of treatment.
Everyone in my family was sending my reports to India as well as abroad and everyone said that it’s really bad and I won't survive more than 2 months. Then we landed at World Cancer Care in Ludhiana. There was a wonderful doctor who made me understand why I have to undergo chemotherapy over other alternative treatments. He also made us understand the importance of mental health and counseled us that whatever treatment I am gonna get will work up to 50% and the rest 50% will be based on the positivity around me. He then referred us to the American Institute of Oncology where the same doctor treated me. It was stuck in my head that if I go for chemotherapy, I will have to wear a valve in my chest and a stool bag. But he then made me understand that nothing like that is gonna happen.
Treatment has become advanced now. It's just going to be a drip in your vein. I had my first chemo and had the bravery mark on my hand. This showed me that, "Yes I have been brave and have survived for so long for something to which I have been scared for even more than death." People make a huge deal out of chemo. Side effects are there but it's not that bad. I also faced some side effects like stumbling on words, pain in all joints, dry tongue, and diarrhea after the therapy for a few days. It completely differs from person to person. This made me realize how blessed we are as compared to someone who is diagnosed with cancer.
It was my daughter who was my motivation and stayed by my side. She always supported me throughout this difficult phase. Even though she was just seven years old, she still does little household chores at such a young age, making cards for me every day, calling me beautiful. She was the reason I thought "yes, I can beat cancer." The journey has been very tough but I would like to thank people who have helped me to overcome this. I used to wear bright dresses and earrings to show that cancer doesn't mean we have lost hope. People around us have the mentality that if someone has cancer they must look like a patient. It's a taboo and we should break it. People used to come and ask me how much time I have left. Well, If you are not my well-wisher, I would rather not have such people in my life. So, it is very important for all cancer patients and their families to remove such people from their life.
Cancer is something that depends on the way you take it - positively or negatively. Some people consider it as a huge thing and the end of their life. But if you see in the word ‘Cancer’ there is ‘Can’ so, I always say ‘Yes I Can!’ and have made a target for myself that when I enter 2022, I will be cancer-free!
I will fight cancer like a warrior because “Haarna toh humne seekha hi nahi hain!”
I had once donated my hair back in 2018 to motivate my aunt who was having cancer at that time. My hair was donated to a UK foundation that makes a wig out of it and gives it to cancer children. So, this time too when I knew I had to take chemo, I donated my hair since I did not want my hair to go to the bin when it can be used to bring smiles to some cancer patients.
Message To Cancer patients:
Always have faith in god! If the medicine works for 40%, the rest 60-70% is your faith in God, the positive mindset will help you get better. I visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar daily and I strongly believe that I will get cured because of my god. So whatever God you believe in, always put faith in the almighty.
Don't think too much and don’t google it! Have faith in your doctor and family. Keep doing things that you love, be it drawing, cooking, or anything. I also love to cook, being a celebrity chef, I cook for my daughter every day.
You should find reasons to live, it could be anything or anyone, and keep counting on those reasons as your blessing that you can see that person every day when you wake up.
Be cheerful and smile: this is the most beautiful thing God has given to you. So don’t forget to smile every day!
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