In the face of losing everything, such as my husband Nitesh’s battle with stage 4 colorectal cancer, I chose to surrender myself to the mystic law of the universe. Despite the overwhelming devastation and loss of hope, I discovered that life can still hold beauty and fulfilment when approached with an open mind. Through the journey of healing, both physically and emotionally, I learned valuable lessons about resilience, the power of the human spirit, and the importance of humility and compassion. Connecting with others facing similar struggles, we supported and uplifted one another, finding strength and growth despite profound loss. There is always hope, even in the darkest of times.
Beginning of a new life and meeting Nitesh in IIM-Calcutta
In 2015, I joined IIM-C to pursue my MBA and that’s where I met Nitesh, a fellow student in my batch. Despite being strangers, Nitesh opened up to me about his struggles in life, including challenges with relationships, academics, finances, and his start-up.
I felt a deep sympathy for Nitesh, seeing someone so young and ambitious facing such difficulties. From that day forward, I made a commitment to stay connected with him and provide support as a good friend.
Nitesh was fully dedicated to his start-up, which he named ‘Appetti.’ Due to his intense focus, he had only a few friends at IIM-C. The pressure of managing his work and studies had taken a toll on his health, leading to issues like constipation and stomach problems. He often skipped meals and stayed up late, and it was evident from the stress on his face that he was going through a tough time.
My Internships in Egypt
As life moved forward, a twist emerged in our story. While I was interning in Egypt, I lost contact with Nitesh for three long months. I had reached out to him for business advice but received no response, leaving me uncertain.
When I returned to India, I assumed everything was fine and avoided meeting him. However, Nitesh insisted on seeing me, and what I saw shocked me. He had lost a significant amount of weight and shared his health struggles, including rectal bleeding.
He tearfully asked me to accompany him to the doctor, expressing his fears about not being able to achieve his dreams. Though I initially hesitated, I couldn’t ignore his plea. In his hostel room, as he prepared to leave for Mumbai to be with his family as per the doctor’s advice, he distributed his food supplies and expressed uncertainty about when he would return. It was a humbling and emotional moment for both of us.
Dealing with Cancer
After Nitesh safely reached his destination, he called me to let me know he had arrived. Sensing something was wrong, I encouraged him to share if there was anything I could do to help. That’s when he revealed his battle with stage-3 cancer and asked me to keep it confidential. I was taken aback but remained confident that Nitesh would receive the best medical care and recovery.
Despite our lack of knowledge about the disease, its stages, and necessary precautions, Nitesh displayed immense courage in choosing the best treatment available. He sought my assistance with notes, permission letters, and applying for health insurance, which was available for college students. I started researching and believed in his ability to make wise decisions about his treatment.
At that time, we were only friends, and I was busy with my studies and a start-up based in Mumbai, which required frequent travel. My brother managed the operations in Mumbai, while I oversaw them from Kolkata. Despite my busy schedule, I was always there for Nitesh, even though I could only manage 3-4 hours of sleep.
Later on, Nitesh informed me that he couldn’t stay in the hostel for long upon returning to Kolkata due to shared facilities. I approached the college director and requested a separate room for him. The director personally selected the best room available in Tata Hall, a guesthouse where visitors stay. I was grateful for the director’s compassionate response.
Thanks to the incredible support from students, professors, and directors, we received overwhelming help in raising funds for Nitesh’s treatment. This support allowed us to afford the best possible care for him.
Cancer treatment and its side-effects
During Nitesh’s treatment, he underwent radiation therapy and oral chemotherapy in Mumbai. The oral chemotherapy, taken in the form of medication, had severe side effects. He experienced frequent vomiting, excruciating pain, and difficulty sleeping. He found solace in staying in dark rooms and occupied himself by messaging on his phone, preferring not to engage in conversations. It was disheartening at times, as I felt a sense of awkwardness when he showed no interest in talking to me.
In August, Nitesh returned to Kolkata and was relocated to Tata Hall, where he had a separate toilet and a dedicated kitchen. As I continued with my routine of attending classes and returning in the evening, I would visit his room in the hostel. During the seven-day break for the festival of Raksha Bandhan, we both went to our respective homes.
Upon Nitesh’s return, I noticed a significant change in him. He started paying attention to the little things and expressed appreciation for them. It brought a sense of joy to my heart, witnessing this transformation.
Falling in Love with Nitesh
In September, I faced the daunting task of balancing my studies, classes, cooking, and other responsibilities while taking care of Nitesh. In order to provide support, I made the decision to live with him. As we spent more time together, our bond grew stronger, and eventually, we fell deeply in love. On a beautiful day, October 14th, Nitesh took me on a date and proposed to me, marking the beginning of our committed relationship.
However, there was an earlier surgery scheduled for Nitesh on October 9th in Mumbai, and he was filled with apprehension about undergoing a colostomy, which would alter his normal excretion process. He returned to Kolkata and spent the Durga Puja holidays with me. During this time, we conducted extensive research and sought additional medical opinions, all of which confirmed that colostomy was the best course of action. Throughout this period, we cherished the moments we spent together, focusing on our relationship, our health, and our overall well-being.
Nitesh bravely proceeded with the surgery, which lasted for a gruelling eight hours and required 42 stitches. On that day, my anxiety was overwhelming, and I stayed in constant communication with him, providing support and reassurance over the phone. Following the surgery, Nitesh made arrangements for me to visit him in Mumbai on November 1st, coinciding with the festival of Diwali. I gladly accepted his invitation and stayed by his side in the hospital for the next four days as he transitioned to the regular ward.
During those days, our love and compassion for each other grew even stronger. It was a time filled with humility, inspiration, and deep emotional connection. We faced the challenges together, knowing that our unwavering support for one another would carry us through.
He proposed to me in the hospital
In the hospital, Nitesh asked me a heartfelt question: “Dimple, you know the truth of my life. I have stage-3 cancer, had surgery, and had to live with a colostomy bag. Despite my cancer and the difficulties ahead, will you still be with me? Will you marry me?”
With sincerity, I confessed that although we started as friends, I wanted to stay by his side. I shared, “It’s a part of life. What would I have done if you had cancer after we were married? What if you had an accident and lost a vital body part? Life is unpredictable, and if challenges arose after we were married, I would face them with you.”
Afterwards, Nitesh proposed to me in the hospital and informed his family. I told my mother, who asked about the possibility of cancer relapse, to which I replied that it was unlikely. We didn’t research cancer further, as we believed that the doctors were doing their best and we were following all protocols. Instead, we focused on our academics, startup, and studies, as we felt that we couldn’t do anything more about cancer. Nitesh was advised to take one month of bed rest, but he recovered quickly as usual. As a result, we decided to return to Kolkata.
The second phase of treatment & its complexities
The second phase of Nitesh’s treatment began, and I promised to take care of him, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I felt nauseous when the nurse cleaned his colostomy. As Nitesh’s treatment entered its second phase, I stood by his side, keeping my heartfelt promise to care for and support him. However, the reality proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. The sight of the nurse cleaning his colostomy bag stirred a feeling of nausea within me, a feeling I fought hard to conceal so as not to dishearten Nitesh. The act of cleaning the bag, a necessary but unfortunate part of his treatment, left our room filled with an unpleasant odour. Despite these discomforts, I held onto my commitment to Nitesh, staying true to my promise.
Weeks went by, and Nitesh, displaying remarkable tenacity, resumed attending classes even though he had only completed half of his treatment. This new phase, which reintroduced academics into our lives, added an extra layer of complexity to our daily struggles.
December arrived, bringing the excitement of job placements to campus. Students were busy with preparations, and anticipation filled the air. In contrast, our world revolved around the six-month-long battle with Nitesh’s cancer treatment, with another six months looming ahead. Balancing these contrasting elements was undeniably challenging, but we held on, fueled by our shared courage and unwavering commitment.
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Chemotherapy and My Birthday
As Nitesh entered the second phase of his treatment, facing the daunting chemotherapy, a significant day arrived on December 6. It held a dual significance as it was my birthday and the start of his chemo. Despite the approaching therapy, Nitesh’s spirit remained radiant. In his room, surrounded by a small group of friends, he orchestrated a heartfelt celebration. His gift to me became a symbol of his unwavering positivity. Nitesh had a remarkable ability to create unforgettable moments that would forever be etched in our hearts.
Even during the cycles of chemotherapy, Nitesh defied expectations. His energy remained strong on the days of treatment. The initial four to five cycles were relatively gentle, with minimal side effects. We discovered solace and shared joy in our biweekly movie nights, turning the lengthy chemo appointments spanning three days – one at the hospital and two at home – into moments of resilience and togetherness.
However, the aftermath of chemotherapy took its toll in the subsequent week. Nitesh struggled with persistent irritability, relentless nausea, a diminished appetite, and heightened sensitivity to light and sound. Even the soft sound of typing became uncomfortable for him. Seeking solace in solitude, he gradually communicated less. It was an immense burden for someone as young as Nitesh to endure such intense symptoms. As he braced himself against this wave of side effects, the looming spectre of the next scheduled chemo session stood as a constant reminder of the ongoing battle against time and his health.
Finding Joy in Small Things
As Nitesh went through his treatment at the Tata Medical Center in Kolkata, we sought moments of normalcy amidst medical care challenges. After his chemotherapy sessions, we found solace in the hospital canteen, where we enjoyed his favourite dish, dosa. Despite the significant distance of 70 km between the hospital and our hostel, we learned to become self-reliant, taking care of tasks like removing the chemo pump and dressing the wound ourselves. It was undoubtedly challenging, but within that crucible, we discovered the immense joy of companionship and standing by each other’s side. As I became more attuned to Nitesh’s health needs, I started preparing homemade meals for his hospital visits, providing a nourishing and comforting alternative to outside food.
The cafeteria at Tata Medical Center became a special place for us, offering a welcoming environment to share a meal and maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the clinical surroundings. Through these simple yet meaningful gestures, we uncovered pockets of happiness in our day-to-day lives, forging a strong alliance of mutual support during those trying times.
Nitesh Adjustment with Colostomy Bag
Nitesh faced an uphill journey in adapting to life with a colostomy bag. Initially, he felt self-conscious and fearful of leakage or others noticing the bag, causing discomfort and hesitation. However, as time passed and with supportive companionship, he found the strength to face this challenge. He took charge, learning to change the bag independently and ensuring he had emergency supplies. I stood by his side, offering reassurance and reminding him that the bag was just a small part of his life, not defining his entire being. As days went by, Nitesh’s spirit soared. He gradually embraced his new normal and fully embraced life. His resilience shone through as he continued to participate in his favourite sports, with the colostomy bag by his side, sending a powerful message that he was not merely coping but triumphing over his circumstances.
Unconditional Support from Friends
In the midst of our challenging journey, we discovered a glimmer of hope in the unwavering support of our friends. One of my closest allies, Akanksha, played a vital role in ensuring my attendance in college. She attended classes on my behalf, collected notes, and patiently explained the lessons to me. We understood that this was an unconventional arrangement, but it was a necessary compromise. Other friends also stepped up to help Nitesh with important tasks, such as preparing his resume.
We felt immense gratitude in our hearts for the steadfast support provided by our professors, directors, and classmates. Their camaraderie became the foundation of our resilience, serving as a pillar of strength throughout our journey.
Classroom Project and Nitesh’s Craziness for Kite
Nitesh, Kishan, and I embarked on a class project, Nitesh’s spirit is undeterred by his illness, which temporarily lessened his contribution. Kishan’s initial misjudgment turned to heartfelt regret as I explained Nitesh’s reality. Ever inspiring, Nitesh traded chemo for a cherished kite festival in Jaipur, his joy echoing through our video calls. His passion and optimism were constant reminders of resilience, his playful spirit kindling our own hope.
Our connection was not defined by project roles but rather by the unyielding warmth and courage we found in our friend, Nitesh.
Balancing between Health and Career
Amidst the prioritisation of Nitesh’s health, his passion for the recruitment process remained unwavering. Balancing our academic responsibilities, household chores, and treatments became a delicate juggling act. However, an unexpected opportunity arose when I received an offer from a German firm, presenting a difficult dilemma. With the support of Nitesh and my parents, I made the heart-wrenching decision to let go of my dream job in favour of unity.
Nitesh, ever the dedicated worker, kept his tech companions close, even during his chemotherapy sessions. This worried me as I yearned for him to prioritise his well-being, focusing on nutritious meals, regular exercise, and mental peace. However, his captivation with artificial intelligence was a testament to his inquisitive spirit.
In March, we made the bittersweet decision to close our startup, taking the necessary steps to wrap up pending tasks. As I had to leave for Mumbai, Nitesh’s mother arrived, providing timely support and ensuring he was in good hands. This chapter of our journey was one marked by sacrifice, but it also illuminated the extraordinary depth of love, resilience, and dedication that bound us together.
Valentine’s Day Celebration with Nitesh
Valentine’s Day unfolded with a heartwarming display of love and affection as Nitesh and my mother stood by my side in Kolkata. Despite my ongoing recovery, Nitesh carefully planned a trip to the mall, creating beautiful memories for us. Shortly thereafter, my mother had to leave for Jaipur, torn between her concerns for my well-being and Nitesh’s ongoing chemotherapy. In a selfless act, Nitesh wished to spare her the burden of witnessing his treatment, so we reluctantly agreed to her departure. This moment, filled with both sadness and strength, exemplified the resilience of our spirits and the unwavering bond we had formed.
Joka Me Roka (My engagement inside the IIM-Calcutta campus)
Our convocation on April 1st held a special surprise – an engagement, a joining of two souls, lovingly suggested by Nitesh’s mother, taking advantage of our families coming together. Despite some initial doubts, Nitesh agreed, and our simple hostel room 213 became a sacred space filled with unforgettable memories, a place I yearned to revisit and cherish.
The engagement marked a radiant milestone, uniting our families and igniting dreams for our future together. After the convocation, my professional commitments called me to Pune. Following tradition, Nitesh’s family requested no visits before our marriage. However, we managed to arrange a meeting, a precious moment that, against all odds, continues to fill my heart with warmth. Throughout it all, our love story serves as a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the unwavering power of love amidst life’s trials and tribulations.
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Beginning of Career with BNY Mellon
When I moved to Pune for a great job opportunity at the Bank of New York Mellon, I felt really hopeful and positive. My partner Nitesh was also nearing the end of his treatment, and we both looked forward to a bright future together. We were excited about getting married but decided to keep our relationship private for now. Despite that, I was determined to nurture our love and focus on my career. The excitement of starting my new job and embarking on a new phase of life filled me with hope and determination. This journey is a testament to the power of love, following our dreams, and the inner strength we all have.
Worst Moments of My Life
After finishing his treatments in Kolkata and Jaipur, Nitesh surprised me with a visit to Pune before he had to return to Singapore for work.
Unfortunately, his visit brought devastating news. Nitesh told me that his cancer had gotten worse and was now in its advanced stage, leaving us feeling shocked and overwhelmed with sadness. We felt lost and didn’t know what to do next, so we reached out to his doctor in Mumbai for guidance. The doctor suggested a thorough evaluation to understand the situation better. We were filled with emotions and humility at that moment, knowing that we had to face this difficult journey together.
When I explained the situation to my manager, they kindly granted me leave for the unexpected trip to Mumbai. Nitesh’s relatives joined us, and we all struggled to cope with the overwhelming news. Along the way, we took a short break in Lonavala, where I witnessed Nitesh’s incredible optimism despite his difficult circumstances.
The news had come as a shock to everyone. We decided to take a break in Lonavala, during which I was texting a friend, Akanksha. I tried to keep the chat content hidden, but Nitesh managed to read it. Despite the distressing news, he remained optimistic, and we didn’t talk about his health.
In Mumbai, we had a meeting with Nitesh’s doctor, and it was during this encounter that I truly grasped the seriousness of his condition. It was hard for me to comprehend how the illness had progressed so rapidly, even after his treatment. When I gathered the courage to ask about Nitesh’s chances of survival, the doctor’s response shattered my heart. They told me that Nitesh might have around six months left, or possibly two years, if luck was on his side. The weight of this devastating news made me seek solace in tears, finding a small measure of comfort in the hospital’s temple. Deep down, I knew I had to shield Nitesh from the harsh reality, as I could see how tired he was both physically and emotionally.
Upon returning to Pune, I made a firm commitment to visit Nitesh every weekend, driven by an intense desperation to find any possible cure for his illness. We began exploring advanced genetic testing, even though it wasn’t initially recommended in India. Although the results didn’t bring the outcome we had hoped for, our determination remained unwavering.
We didn’t give up. We kept pushing forward, determined to find a solution for Nitesh’s illness. We sent his test results to other countries, hoping to uncover a way to fight his disease. This unwavering determination showed just how much love we had for each other and our incredible ability to bounce back from even the toughest challenges. It was a powerful reminder of the strength we all have inside us.
Nitesh’s Last Birthday
Nitesh’s last birthday is a memory that will forever be imprinted in my mind. It was a day filled with a mix of emotions and apprehension, knowing that the following day marked the beginning of his second round of treatment, which weighed heavily on all of us. Although I longed to talk to Nitesh and offer any support I could, fear held me back.
To make his special day memorable, I invited Nitesh’s friends from IIT Kanpur to join us. We tried our best to hide our worries behind brave smiles, but the awareness that this might be his last birthday cast a quiet sadness over our celebration. Despite our collective efforts in fundraising, caring for him, and exploring medical treatments, a sense of helplessness lingered, silently overshadowing our gathering.
Being a caregiver was an incredibly challenging role. I wholeheartedly dedicated myself to taking care of Nitesh, but there were moments when the weight of the situation became overwhelming. Nitesh’s brother, Gautam, created a poignant video that touched our hearts deeply. As we watched it together, our smiles carried a hint of sadness, acknowledging the difficult road ahead for Nitesh and all of us. In those moments, the strength, courage, and deep love we shared were a source of inspiration, reminding us of the remarkable resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Creating a Support System
During those tough times, I realised the immense importance of a strong support system. I reached out to Nitesh’s closest friend, KK, who happened to be an IIT Kanpur alumnus, just like Nitesh. We gathered all of Nitesh’s friends and formed a group, creating a network of camaraderie and shared concern. This became our lifeline, helping us navigate the stormy journey we were on. At first, I tried to keep these efforts hidden from Nitesh, but eventually, he discovered our plans. From that point onward, an unspoken agreement of silence settled in our home, where we relied on each other for comfort and support, even without saying a word.
As Nitesh battled stage four cancer, the challenges of his treatment became more and more demanding. He found solace in watching TV, using his computer, and taking much-needed rest. Throughout this journey, we encountered our fair share of disagreements, but I gradually came to appreciate Nitesh’s unique perspective as a patient. I realised that while I could empathise with him, I could never truly comprehend the depth of his experience. This humbling realization brought forth a deep sense of emotion, reminding me of his illness’s profound impact on both of us.
As the person responsible for taking care of Nitesh, I felt a deep sense of duty to meet his needs. However, as his condition worsened, the challenges we faced grew tremendously. During one visit to the hospital, Nitesh expressed his longing for guidance and personal attention in his fight against the disease. At that moment, I made a heartfelt promise to him, filled with unwavering determination, that I would be by his side throughout the surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiation. This commitment, though daunting, only strengthened the love, resilience, and humble courage that became our rock of support during the most trying moments of our journey together.
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Chemotherapy and its Side Effects
As Nitesh prepared for the next phase of his treatment, we decided to move to Pune. We were drawn to Pune for its cleaner air and the opportunity for Nitesh to practice pranayama and yoga outdoors, which he believed would benefit his well-being. However, this transition came with its share of challenges, particularly with coordinating his care between doctors in Mumbai and adapting to new lifestyle changes.
The shift from stage 3 to stage 4 cancer significantly changed our roles and responsibilities. During stage 3, Nitesh was more involved in managing his treatment and self-care while I focused on cooking and providing study materials. We held onto hope during that stage, believing that life would eventually return to normal once the chemotherapy sessions were completed. These moments were filled with humility and intense emotions as we navigated the complexities of his illness together.
During the transition to stage 4, everything changed drastically. In one of our visits to the hospital, Nitesh expressed his newfound need for guidance and support, something he had never required before. With a deep sense of conviction, I promised him that I would be there for him, shouldering his burdens and tending to his every need as his caregiver. This included everything from organising supplements to coordinating with doctors from all over the world.
The side effects of stage 4 cancer took a tremendous toll on Nitesh. He endured around 40 painful mouth sores, making each sip and bite agonizing. Recurring bleeding added to his discomfort. Blisters covered his body, from his scalp to his back, dampening his spirits and making it difficult to engage in conversations. These were incredibly humbling and emotional moments as we faced the harsh realities of his condition together.
I tirelessly strived to provide him with the support he needed, helping him maintain his routine despite the pain. We sought a new oncologist after the previous one advised us to give up, painting a bleak future for Nitesh. However, my faith remained unwavering. Inspired by our collective strength and love, I continued to do everything I could to support Nitesh in his courageous battle against the disease.
Marrying Nitesh – My Only Hope
Drawing inspiration from the legendary Sati Savitri, I made the firm decision to marry Nitesh, believing that our bond could be the key to saving his life. Despite some initial concerns, my parents understood the depth of my commitment and supported us. Nitesh had his reservations, but I convinced him that our union was a beacon of hope. On our wedding day, a troubling text message from a friend arrived, warning Nitesh about our marriage and sharing grim medical opinions, stating that he had only 4 to 6 months to live. Undeterred, I rallied everyone to disregard the message, and we proceeded to the temple.
During the two-hour ceremony, we witnessed the pain etched on Nitesh’s face, but we found strength in each other, unwavering in our commitment, believing in the power of our love and the miracles it could manifest.
I never ceased my efforts to offer Nitesh the support he required, even in the midst of his pain. I worked tirelessly to help him stick to his daily routine despite his hardships. When our previous oncologist gave us a grim outlook and suggested giving up, I refused to lose faith. Our combined strength and love served as a powerful inspiration for me. With unwavering determination, I remained committed to doing everything in my power to support Nitesh in his brave fight against the disease. These were moments filled with humility, deep emotions, and a profound sense of purpose.
A New Journey Full of Ups & Downs
In our modest quest for Nitesh’s treatment, we found ourselves navigating a complex maze of US hospitals, dealing with regulatory processes, and facing substantial expenses. Seeking additional support, we reached out to our fellow alumni from IIT and IIM, whose invaluable assistance became our solace, especially in the United States.
The stories of cancer survivors, including Nitesh’s own journey, became a guiding light for us, showing us that it was possible to overcome the challenges we faced. However, our journey encountered a major hurdle when we needed confirmation from US doctors for our visa. Thankfully, luck was on our side, and we received timely approval from MD Anderson Cancer Center. This was a humbling and emotional moment for us, as it meant that we could continue our pursuit of treatment with renewed hope and determination.
Despite the difficulties caused by Hurricane Harvey, our journey to the United States lasted an exhausting 36 hours, but we persevered. As Nitesh’s health worsened, our strength and determination were put to the test.
Once we arrived in the US, Nitesh’s friend Rahul warmly welcomed us and arranged for us to stay with other friends. Their unwavering support lightened our burden, especially the invaluable contributions of Jagan during our time of need.
Although our appointment at MD Anderson got cancelled due to the hurricane, we found comfort in the prospect of rescheduling and the daunting task of choosing the right clinical trial. Being in the US gave us access to different hospitals and the opportunity to focus solely on Nitesh’s treatment, offering a much-needed break from the busy life we had in India. These were moments filled with humility, deep emotions, and a renewed sense of hope.
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TO BE CONTINUED…