I am an IT professional living with my family in Mumbai, and I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia in August 2020. Before the diagnosis, I had no erratic symptoms that pointed to the disease. It was the pandemic’s peak, and I worked from home and was very comfortable. The only sign I had was a mild fever that would constantly be there, but since I was home, I believed that I was overworking myself, which was the reason for the fever.
As days went by, I started feeling a little tired and had a dull pain in my lower abdomen, so I decided to have a check-up with the doctor, and he mainly suggested a blood test along with a few other tests. And since it was monsoon season in Mumbai and Covid cases were also on the rise, the doctor suggested that I get admitted to the hospital for two days and get the tests done safely.
It was a hospital near my home, and while I was admitted for the tests, they prescribed antibiotics and paracetamol to help me with the fever and pain. I took the medicines for a day, and the blood test reports showed something abnormal with my blood. The doctors still did not conclude that it was blood cancer and told me they needed to take more samples to send to more prominent laboratories.
Initial diagnosis and news about cancer
Sending new samples to the laboratories took another day, and the results returned, confirming that I had leukaemia. I never expected this to be my diagnosis since I had been active inside the hospital. I was in touch with many people, took walks inside my room, and did not feel sick.
I was feeling normal, which is how I tried to be even after receiving the news. My wife was there for moral support and help, and I started thinking about what I should do next. I informed my medical insurance company about my condition, took care of the bills, and told the people at my job.
The hospital I was admitted to did not have the facilities to treat me, so I was told to shift to a better facility. After researching and asking around, I found a haemato-oncologist who asked me to mail my reports to him. The hospital looked at my reports and asked me to come and get admitted there as soon as possible.
The treatment process
After the diagnosis, the doctor suggested that I admit myself to the hospital for the chemotherapy sessions since travelling to and from home every day was not a safe option. The doctor explained that I would be having multiple cycles of chemotherapy, and there would be additional medicines and treatments. I realised this was not a process that would end in one or two months and prepared myself to get through it.
I had four cycles of chemotherapy that lasted eight months, and the doctors also told me that I needed to have constant blood transfusions till the treatment was complete. Since my blood group was rare, my family and I had to network amongst many people who would come and get tested and donate blood.
I had a four-channel catheter line inserted through my left hand that reached my heart since I need to have chemo and blood infusions constantly. Each line was dedicated to separate infusions, like saline, blood, chemo and medicines. Along with the chemotherapy, I had to take other medications to manage the side effects.
Supplementary treatments and additional care I took during treatment
The main thing that the doctors stressed was that I follow a stringent diet. I had to cut out sugar and oil from my food completely. I included a lot of fruits and vegetables that had to be cooked before consumption, and I had to reduce the intake of rice. The doctors were very conscious about the diet because it could easily cause fluctuations in the treatment, and they wanted to avoid that.
I was advised to maintain my weight since it is very easy for a person to lose a lot of weight due to chemotherapy, and I took as much care as possible to maintain that. Before the diagnosis, I took ayurvedic pills for my blood pressure, and the doctor told me to switch to allopathic medicines.
Since this was during the pandemic, I was also advised to wear a mask and gloves and sanitise myself regularly. No visitors were allowed in the hospital or home since you are immunocompromised during chemotherapy and the risk of infection is very high.
My mental and emotional condition during treatment
I did not have the time to wonder why I got it and how to deal with it. I was admitted to the hospital, and the treatment started pretty quickly. There were a few things that I requested from the hospital. I wanted a room with a view to have something to look at every day. I also asked for a twin-sharing room to have another patient with whom I could interact.
I am very religious, and I pray twice a day and listen to prayers on my phone too. I also had my wife with me, so I had someone familiar with me, and that helped me be in balance and not lose hope. I was still working through the treatment, so I had something to focus on while in my room, which helped me divert any opposing thoughts or feelings.
Apart from all this, I was always thinking about and planning the financial aspects of my treatment. I was the only one earning in my family, and I had to work out the expenses that were in line. All these kept my mind occupied and engaged, so I never really had time to be sad or lonely through the treatment.
The lessons that cancer taught me
Throughout my journey, I had to constantly process many things physically, emotionally and even financially, which made me realise the importance of believing in myself. My wife was always there to help me, but I knew I had to stay strong to get through this, and a significant booster for this believed in myself.
The second thing I understood was the necessity of having a circle that understands and supports you through the journey. I had my family members and people from work constantly checking on me and being in touch, which was a great source of comfort and motivation.
Above all, I was always focused on what came next. I was not thinking about the side effects or the pain of the treatment, which is the advice I would give to people going through this journey. Always plan what comes next, and don’t lose yourself to the disease.