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Harteij Bhartesh (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): Let’s Make Fighting Cancer Cool

Harteij Bhartesh (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma): Let’s Make Fighting Cancer Cool

Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnosis

It all started when I felt a bit of swelling on the right side of my neck. So, I underwent some tests, including FNAC. In 2013, I visited my brother, who lived in Hyderabad, and we concluded that the lump has turned into swelling and was not healed considering the time frame. We decided to have a proper investigation this time. We went to a general physician, and her first question was, how long had I had it? I answered it'd been two years since I had noticed the lump. Her immediate suggestion was to see an oncologist. When the test results came back from the biopsy, it was stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system).

I was in 4th year of my college when I had two options, Chemotherapy or alternative medicines. I thought, "if I start my Chemotherapy now, then I will not be able to attend college and complete my education." So, I decided to delay my Chemotherapy treatment and take alternative treatment medicines.

Decisions that hurt

In 2014, I completed my graduation and went to Hyderabad to see how alternative medicines were working. I underwent a PET scan and found out that the Hodgkin's Lymphoma had increased and was in its last stage. I was not shocked. I knew that this could happen if I delayed my chemo, but if there was an alternative that doesn't give me pain, why not opt for that?

I shifted to Bangalore for my post-graduation and had my bone marrow test done. We discovered that my bone marrow and every other organ was affected by cancer. It had spread all over my body, leaving me with no choice other than opting for Chemotherapy. Winning or losing was secondary, but at least I could try.

The long battle

I wanted to live close to my family, so I went back to Hyderabad, where I got an excellent doctor for my treatment. I started my therapy under him, who told me very frankly from the first moment that I only have a 5% chance of survival. His direct answer gave me a different perspective and a better approach to fight.

I underwent six Chemotherapy cycles; I remember the first one, it went on for 5 hours, and after that, I suddenly felt the Pain in my stomach. It was something that I had never experienced before. I knew that it was Chemotherapy. The next day my hair started falling, I didn't want to see myself bald, so I took a trimmer and trimmed my hair. I won't say that it didn't hurt; it did. But that's a part of the therapy; you have to deal with it.

Allies that were stronger than medicines

No one in my family had a history with cancer; we only knew what it was and just had a gist. Usually, when someone hears cancer, they probably think of death. Although I never gave much thought to the whole life and death scenario, I was very concerned about my studies and looks. All these were the concerns of a 23-year-old man whose life was hanging around the cliff. He wasn't naive, just young.

My most immense support was my family; they are the real heroes, fighting alongside us. We go through the Pain together, but cancer does not affect a single person in particular; in some way, everyone was a bit concerned by it. My family had an efficient approach, because of which we were able to face the situation head-on rather than cry over it. But no matter what we say, when a family sees their loved one with side effects, they feel the fear of losing them at the moment. They go through a lot of stress, maybe even more than the patient; this is why I believe that a family needs to be more robust than patients.

An idea

During my treatment, I often thought people took care of me and fulfilled my emergency needs. But others don't have anyone to help them or the money to meet their blood requirements. I had access to the blood that needs to be paid, but it still wasn't enough. So I would often find myself thinking that if I got cured, I would do something for the cancer patients because I felt privileged; not everyone is.

I completed my treatment in 2014; I was doing Yoga and exercise to get my immunity back, and just like that, time went by. I went to Pune for a job. During interview sessions, many people told me that since I had cancer, I won't be able to do a job and handle the pressure that comes with it. It pissed me off; I would reply, "Thank you for your time, sir, I will move out." I would go into the hallway and call my Dad and ask him for some money because I wanted to do something for cancer people. We already had conversations about these things before, but we never gave any action to it, nor did we know how to do it.

I came back to Raipur and started reaching out to people; all of them were dead ends. Then my brother stepped in; he told me that he would take care of anything that I need as it was my first campaign. He had some friends who were interested in helping. After a while, I connected with a guy named Aditya Ramachandran, who belongs to a newsgroup. He helped me to reach out to local people and local cancer hospitals.

New beginnings

On 1 May, I started my campaign, involved riding to 15 states, including 22 cities, in five and a half months, accounting for 30,000 km. Strangers reached out to me to offer their help via the internet. They would read some articles on my journey, feel motivated, and just wanted to help out in any way they could. I feel lucky to live in a country where I don't need to be a celebrity to influence a campaign, I need to start doing something right, and people will come forward to help.

Everything has been profitable since then; I met a lot of celebrities and other influential people. I started a group named riders of hope, where we would arrange blood for all the people in need of blood over the county. Because the campaign was spread throughout the country, I connected to many people, including many blood donor groups.

I finally got my cancer foundation registered on 1 April, the best birthday gift I ever had. Due to the lockdown, we haven't been able to lift it from the ground, but we are still doing some good by distributing sanitizers and masks.

Parting message

In the end, I would recommend you to stop worrying; there are a lot of better options now. Just remember the heroes who helped you during your tough time so that you can be one to those who are fighting now. Spread positivity so that everyone around you remains happy. Take it one moment at a time. Make cancer-fighting cool, you will have some bad days, but that is part of it. Try to make those bad days cool; some days will be better than the others, some won't; stop worrying too much, and enjoy everything as it comes.
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