It was 2011, and I had just completed my SSLC exams. During the summer holidays, I attended cricket coaching classes for three months. When the SSLC results were announced, I was pleased about being the School topper. My joy knew no bounds, and I was relishing the moment.
But as they say, life has its twists and turns. In my case, the twists and turns happened too fast and too sharp. After nearly a fortnight of the results, I had irregular episodes of Nausea and Vomiting. Due to this, my travel to school was challenging and cumbersome. Despite being a bright student, I lost my interest in studies due to the health issue. I took a break from school and consulted the Railway hospital Since my father was employed with the Indian Railways.
Though I did not exhibit any symptoms initially, there were regular bouts of Diarrhea and fever. The Blood Tests showed high infection because of high WBC levels, which stood at 53,000. Further tests carried out could not diagnose anything. The Railway Hospital suggested that I should go to Mumbai for further consultation. Without thinking further, my father and I went to Mumbai. I underwent another check-up at the Mumbai Railway Hospital and was shifted to the Tata Memorial Hospital.
After further tests at the hospital, I was seated outside in the waiting area. There I noticed a poster that displayed the symptoms of Cancer. While the symptoms on the poster matched mine, I was half-heartedly assuring myself that I did not have Cancer. The Doctors then put all my doubts to rest and told me that I had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, a type of Blood Cancer which progresses quickly if not treated on time. They comforted me, saying that it would be cured in 8 months. While many other forms of medication were suggested to me by our relatives, we are happy that we stuck to the Allopathic form of treatment (Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy).
Since we were new to Mumbai, it wasn’t easy initially. Also, the hospital had a policy wherein they accept blood for transfusion from donors directly rather than from the blood bank. However, we found blood donors who regularly donated blood for my transfusion. After 2-3 months of low blood count, things improved. The blood count became stable, after which Chemotherapy was carried out. It was a difficult phase in my life, wherein I lost nearly 30 kg of weight quickly (87 kg to 57 kg). However, as I began to recover, the weight also increased.
Mobile phones were not used much in those days, and I had just a few friends. In the midst of this, I found the best friend of my life. My Papa. He made innumerable sacrifices for me during those times. Due to fewer seats in the hospital, my father used to stand for 8 hours to attend to me. Even at home, he was always taking care of me. He prepared food for me and always attended to me. He was the only inspiration for me to recover at that time. Also, seeing small kids fighting Cancer pushed me mentally to hang on and stay put in the fight against Cancer. After ten months in Mumbai, I resumed living in my hometown. I got admission to the 11th standard after that.
Though the time in the hospital appeared shorter than other cancer patients, it was a difficult period. Mothers are the best emotional support in these situations. However, in my case, since my mother was undergoing severe Depression at that time already, it was decided that the occurrence of Cancer would be kept a secret. Even after the passage of 1 year from recovering from Cancer, we never told my mother. Since my siblings were minors then, it was a testing time for all of us. When she was made aware of this after a year through a third person, she broke down but was happy that I had recovered from Cancer.
Before I came in touch with Love Heals Cancer, I was undergoing much Stress. After connecting with Love Heals Cancer, I was in awe of the stories of Dimple Didi especially. When I saw the patients’ attendants sleeping on pavements outside Tata Memorial Hospital, I used to think about doing something for them. Dimple Didi’s charitable activities have strengthened my resolve in this regard. Through Love Heals Cancer, I have connected with Jimit Gandhi and Divya Sharma, with whom I can relate since we are survivors of Cancer.
During my journey, I have had the fortune of meeting and being cared about by people I never expected. The School Principal refunded my school fees during my treatment and motivated me through phone calls. The classmates who sent me Get Well Soon cards—the teachers who kept checking my health progress through regular phone calls.
The Railways Hospital authorities in Mumbai supported us in all possible ways. Special mention should be made of the Doctors of the Tata Memorial Hospital, who were composed and understanding. They bore me during my bouts of Anxiety and emotional outbursts. Dr Reema Nair, a senior Doctor at Tata Memorial Hospital, was always supportive and provided special attention to me during my treatment.
Though there are no specific reasons to be pinpointed why Cancer occurs, I went deeper into my lifestyle and discovered that my unhygienic habits may have been a cause for this. I have reviewed my lifestyle and changed it for the better. The discipline I have inculcated due to this has made me more organised in life. Though I am still on a controlled diet, I have no regrets sometimes though, I have an occasional down moment when I rue the one-year gap in studies due to the treatment.
I believe that whatever happens, there is always some good in it. This is what I want to convey to all the Cancer patients. Cancer is not a killer disease but has an 80% survival rate. It can be detected, diagnosed, and cured. Contrary to popular perception, it is on par with other everyday illnesses that can be cured. Keep positivity around you. During my treatment and recovery, we did not have the luxury of Internet resources. Use the testing times to read inspiring podcasts and videos. Along and above the Cancer patients, the Caregivers are the silent warriors who face more pressure and give emotional and moral support.