About the Healing Circle
The Healing Circles by ZenOnco.io and Love Heals Cancer are sacred platforms for cancer, warriors, winners and their caregivers. This platform offers them a virtuous space, where they can share their experiences without prejudice. It is rooted in the belief that love can heal cancer. Love and kindness can help one to inspire and achieve. The purpose of the healing circles is to provide everyone traveling with cancer, an environment where they do not feel alone. We here listen to everyone with compassion and sincerity, and respect each other’s way of healing.
About the Speaker
Mr. Rajen Nair is a winner, who has found inspiration within himself. He had encountered a hearing disability early in his life. Instead of letting the shock take over, Mr. Rajen overcame it to be able to successfully motivate the younger generation having cancer today.
Our honored guest is a volunteer, motivator, and teacher for cancer patients. His motto in life is to bring a moment of smile and joy to cancer kids; to empower them to forget their pain and suffering. He teaches photography to cancer kids, winners, and warriors. He also received the BPCL Bharat Energizing Award. Mr. Rajen believes that creativity helps in healing cancer.
Mr. Rajen Nair Shares his Journey
It started with my hearing problem. It happened in the late ’90s, when I was working in my office. During that time, we did not have a cell phone. We had a telephone, so whenever there is a long conversation on the phone, we tend to shift the receiver to the other ear.
We usually start with the left one, and if it’s a long conversation, we shift it to the right ear. So, whenever I shifted the phone to my right ear, immediately there would be a drastic reduction in volume. Otherwise, I didn’t have any hearing problem.
I consulted this with my colleagues to check if even they faced the same problem. They said no; they didn’t face this problem. Their hearing levels were balanced in both ears. So, my family members suggested that there might be a minor problem, and I should visit an ENT for ear examination. I used to be a marketing professional, so most of the time I was on field work. One day I was passing by a hospital, and spotted the ENT department.
I informed the doctor that I didn’t have a hearing problem as such, but while talking on the phone, I couldn’t hear properly on from my right ear. There was a reduction in the pitch sound. He checked, and it came as a big shock to me.
He said that I was suffering from a disease known as Otosclerosis. This takes over 10-15 years to develop in an ear. It’s a result of the hardening of blood vessels inside ears. We have got three bones inside our ear, so my middle bone is very stiff. When we hear any voice, this middle bone has to vibrate and take the sound inside. The doctor said that I would have to undergo an operation, and also said observing my age, that it was better to do the surgery right then. It has got a 98% success rate.
This surgery for Otosclerosis is known as Stapedectomy. They would be cutting my middle ear, and placing an artificial device. My doctor also warned me that ultimately I would go deaf completely; it had started in one ear, and will spread to other ear gradually.
However, I went for a second opinion in a very well-known hospital in Mumbai. There, the doctor told me that for the surgery, I would have to be admitted at the hospital for three days. They would make me semi-conscious and cut my middle bone to replace it with an article device.
Initially, I ignored the surgery as it was quite expensive for me. I had a medical insurance policy, so I called up the agents to reveal the scenario. At that time, one of them said that I should go ahead with the surgery and later, would be able to claim the amount. So, I went for the surgery, but unfortunately it was not successful. Later, I slowly started to lose my hearing ability.
I am open to the world from my left side, but totally deaf from the right side. To add to my problem, I contracted tinnitus. This is a very rampant disease in the western countries; not in India. Tinnitus is a buzzing sound inside the ear, and in some cases, the problem stays forever. I have been caring tinnitus since 2000!
One fine night I got this sound, and I woke up. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. This was in the initial days. So, I went to the ENT hospital and the doctor said that they would do one more surgery for it. But then, I researched on it on my own, and discovered that there is no cure for tinnitus. I have to live with it for the rest of my life.
It depends on the stress level. If my stress is too high, then the sound will be so high as if I am near to an aeroplane, or like a pressure cooker whistle. In tinnitus, you have to be very calm and quiet, but if you have any physical or mental pain, then this sound will go up and there is no medicine for it. So, calming yourself down is the only solution.
I went into depression and also had suicidal thoughts. I still remember my family members monitoring me 24×7, because this came as a shock to everyone that there was no medication for this. I would have to carry this my entire life.
It was very difficult for me to accept it. Doctors put to me on steroids to calm down my nervous system, but after 3 months I gave up my medicines and fought with it myself.
I also lost my job and then started a trading business. I also got some orders, but because of my faulty hearing, I gave up my business and then I consulted myself on what should be done. I had a habit of writing.
In my early 40s, I did a Diploma in Journalism. So, I decided to write travel stories. Then, I thought that whenever I see a travel story, somebody has to do the photography. Earlier I didn’t have any interest or inclination in photography, but later I did my Diploma in Photography, and started posting my photos.
I was working as a freelancer in a South Korean citizen journalism. Then I got a break through Guardian UK. While doing several interviews over the phone, I built up a good network of photographers all across the world.
Surprisingly, I started being recognized for my photography skills, whereas during my yester years I was never interested in it. Now, I think that maybe when you lose one of your senses, you start utilising your other senses more sharply. Photography is all about your eye and hand coordination, so that could be one of the main reasons that when I lost my hearing sensation, I developed another. Or, maybe it was a hidden talent which I discovered accidentally because of my incident.
- In 2009, I started visiting a deaf school in Goregaon, where I was conducting free photography classes on the weekends. That continued for 3 years.
- I did 1.5 years of photography in Dharavi Kumbharwada for slum kids.
- Then I was invited by various NGOs in Goa.
- I did photo workshop in Goa, Faridabad, Hubli and many other places.
- But after 3 years I could not continue because I got an assignment as a cameraman for a Malayalam TV Channel.
Meanwhile, I developed great bonding with deaf students, which we continues till date. I have seen those kids growing; I got 10 professional deaf photographers. Today I am proud to say that if you come across any deaf person with a camera in any part of India, I might be directly or indirectly responsible for directing his interest in photography.
In 2013, I participated in HOPE, which is an annual program conducted by Tata Memorial Hospital.
- They had invited me to HOPE, and the journey continued from there.
- I used to conduct free teaching classes every alternate week in the pediatric department in OPD of Tata Memorial Hospital.
- Then, I was invited by Saint Jude NGO for childcare, which is one the largest NGOs in this domain.
- Now, I have my own group.
In my class I have 10-15 kids and I don’t expect every kid to be drawn into photography, but even if I have one or two, they take my phone number and we are in touch with each other through social media.
Creativity helps in Healing Cancer – alternate treatment helps kids to triumph over cancer
Today I have a very good network of cancer kids, along with other deaf and disabled kids – these are the two groups that I have got.
During the COVID pandemic lockdown, I started cancer art project, where kids with cancer can display their art and photos, and for the deaf kids I have enabled photography.
I was not much interested in studies or making money during my youth. I was more into creativity, and writing was my passion. My motto in life is that if anything bad happens to you, you should try to turn it around, and think how to make good out of this bad.
There is no point in crying over why it happened, what you should do, or gain sympathy and all. You yourself will have to motivate and try to get out of that trap. In my case, it was the sheer need for survival.
I learned photography because I had a family and I had to make a livelihood. So, I thought that I would write and do photography. It all happened accidentally. I am a default photographer, who was never interested in photography.
I taught the deaf and disabled. I had workshops in Goa for blind and deaf students. In Faridabad, we had autistic kids also. Autistic kids’ thinking processes are always on images not on words. So, I felt that they can be good with creativity. Our thinking process is on words but autistic kids think through images. They can be very good in creativity and art.
For cancer patients, it is a very simple logic that if you are not feeling well, you will be affected physically. But, at the same time, as it is a long journey, it affects mentally too.
These little kids are vulnerable; they don’t have a vocabulary of so many words to express everything. So, they will always be silent.
They don’t know how to express their pain and suffering. A grown up guy will always talk it over but not a kid who is just 8-9 years old. So, I always say,
“If you are not well it affects you mentally. But if you have any creativity in your hands, it always lifts your spirits when you feel low.”
I believe that each and every person possesses some sort of creativity. Not necessarily, he will be talented in photography, but it could be art, drawing, music, reading, or anything.
I had discussed this idea with a doctor – if mentally I could keep cancer kids happy, I would be giving them some meaning and purpose to life. I reiterate that creativity helps in healing cancer.
I tell cancer kids,
“Today if you are identified with cancer disease, would you like that identity? No right? So remove that identity.”
One of the challenges is to draw the kids’ attention, as they get bored very easily. I use very simple terms. I don’t train them in advance photography; only simple ones. The whole idea is to inculcate creativity in them, as it helps in healing cancer.
So, if I can make them happy, I can give them some purpose. I’m an example to myself; I had a disease and I came out of it. That is how I have made an identity of my own. Today, Rajen Nair is known for his photography; for his work among the deaf. So, I tell everyone to develop their own identity.
Identity crisis never helps in healing cancer. Today, I have got so many cancer kids from all over India. Also, there are lots of kids from overseas. So, we have found a group. I am not a teacher to them. I have always been a friend. To connect with them, I come down to their level to resemble a kid.
Today, my youngest student is a 10 year old girl from Kolkata. Her journey was traumatic and I am in touch with her since then. Although she lives in Kolkata, she is the one who calls me every day.
Whenever any kid faces any problem, I am always there for them. Our relation is more than that of just a teacher and student. It has been 12 years. Several people ask me what I get out of it. Unfortunately, people in our country think it important to get something out of everything.
However, I have never gone with that kind of intention. I never even started an NGO because of that. I said whatever in my limited capacity I can do, I will do. Creativity in cancer kids helps in healing cancer. This is scientifically proven as well.
Mr. Rajen Nair says that kids inspire him to look at creativity as an alternate treatment.
I am always taken aback looking at the kids going journeying with cancer. Whenever I talk to them, I drive my motivation and inspiration from them. In fact, I wonder if my work helps in healing cancer, or do they stimulate my passion.
Last February, I lost my mom and went into depression. I took anti-depressant tablets. A shared mentality is that if you are going through something, you are either too weak or too strong.
Everyone told me to remain strong. They told me that since I have gone through so much pain and suffering, so how could I react in such a way. But, I was very close to my mom, and couldn’t cope up with the loss.
Even the doctors told me that if I was going to cry, then what would happen to the kids. Kids were the real inspiration for me; I used to think about them. One can learn quite a lot from cancer kids. They have many qualities, and one of these is the way they cope up at the time of crises.
I have lost 6 of my students. First when I got the news, the kid’s father called me and said that he had not shared the news with anyone, but was telling me because the kid often mentioned my name. The kid was very close to me. I wept for half an hour, but was somewhere glad that I could give him some moments of joy toward the end of his journey.
Whenever possible, I spend time with the kids. I go to their home; they come to my home; we go outside; so, we have good bonding. I don’t have to make the attempt to bond with kids, I can bond with them so easily, and I am more comfortable in the world of children. I avoid the world of adults. Children’s world is innocent; it is not corrupt and I get more happiness with them.
For me, visiting Tata Memorial Hospital is like visiting a temple, and sitting with the kids is like sitting with God. My whole life’s meaning revolves around kids.
Sirsa used to call me from Kolkata. She was in the last stage of cancer, and in the last stage, doctors suggest you to go back to your hometown. So, she went to her hometown. I remember our last conversation; ten days before she passed away.
I told her to be strong, and she said,
“Sir, I have taken 18 chemo cycles and I have to go to hospital every time. Still, the treatment is not over. Sir, you go and tell your God to do something about it.”
It made me speechless, and then she passed away. I was in touch with her mother; I used to console her. Now, it has been over 2 years.
Some time in between, I was going through a crisis, and had posted on social media and hinted at it. Her mother called me and said that she could feel the pain of losing a loved one, and she gave me a good news that she was blessed with a boy.
One day, I got a call from a mother, who asked me if I had you seen on Facebook that someone had shared the news of losing her child. She was so troubled from this that I told her not to get too much absorbed in these news.
Actually, she has a kid who has completed cancer treatment, and is now a survivor. But she always worries about him. There is no life for them. Even in their joy and happiness their mind is always in fear whenever they hear such news. I told that mother that I work on cases where kids are 100% cured of cancer.
We generally hear of mothers who take care of their cancer kids. Fathers are also present to take care of their cancer kids, but the stress and tension that mothers take, is unbelievable. We often miss acknowledging the fathers, who also undergo tremendous amount of stress. No one talks about them, but they are always in the backdrop.
Seeing their mothers never helps in healing cancer. Kids are affected by their chemo pain more when they see their mothers unhappy. They tell me that I have to become something to bring happiness and joy on their parents’ faces.
I encourage them, as cancer patients, saying that for the sake of their parents, they ought to become something. We are not ordinary, we can’t live an ordinary life like everyone; we have to put extra efforts.
“When you become successful, all the joy and everything that you have missed, you will get back and re-live the lost time. But, don’t take life very easily. Become independent.”
Photography can make you independent, and helps in healing cancer. You don’t have to wait till the age when you can look for a job. Even at a young age you can do freelancing; in the weekends do photography and earn some money to bring it home.
In Healing Circle Talks, Mr. Rajen Nair shares how He Learns from Kids
I would like to tell you in these healing circle talks, that I learn from kids every day. They are always my strength; I feel very happy with them. Spending time with kids can also be an alternate treatment of cancer.
I make an inspiring and motivational story, so I have been interviewed by many TV channels. I feel good that all the youngsters want to be like me. It feels great to be a role model for cancer kids. Aspiration helps in healing cancer.
12 years I have done everything without taking any money, and I could that manage because I was in my 40s but never do these things at your young age, never make this mistake. If you are doing it, concentrate on your studies, be successful, be comfortable then you want to do anything for the society you can always do it.
I gave a talk in VIT University in Vallore, where approximately 200 engineering guys were present, and wanted to pursue photography. According to me, basic education should be there, but along with that, one should have some creativity / skill that you can chase. It really helps in healing cancer.
I don’t guide kids for full-time photography. Rather, I tell them to take up a full-time job and parallel to that, pursue freelance photography or do part-time job. If you have lost your job and you know photography, then you can do photography also; you never know when your creativity can help you heal.
You should have some kind of back-up, and this is why in 2016, I got BPCL Skill Development Award by Cabinet Minister. That was for skill development. Along with me, there were many others who had got the award. However, the minister made a special mention regarding me, saying that by doing this kind of work, I am opening doors for employment as well. He said that if I am teaching photography, somebody will start a studio, somebody will start a class too. So, this circle keeps on going.
Mr. Rajen Nair’s Helps in Healing Cancer of Elderly Patients
Death affects me very much; I am basically a very sensitive guy. I don’t think that I fit into a commercial world. I have got a very melting heart. I can’t be merciless and take hard decisions; I melt down immediately. So, this kind of a character I took in a very positive way, where I can contribute to the society.
When Harsh, a 16-year-old boy died, his last words were:
“Mom, I feel very bad because at my age, I should be taking care of you, whereas you are taking care of me…”
His father approached me, saying that some other cancer survivor had written a diary, and it got published in the newspaper, so if I could publish Harsh’s diary as well. Being a journalist, I said that we will publish it.
But at the last moment his mother refused, saying that she didn’t want to have any memory of the loss. However, I am still in touch with the father. Actually, I am still in touch with all the parents who lost their kids. If I have ever come across someone, I keep in touch with them as far as possible for me. I have found my happiness in being with kids.
My mother is my inspiration; she lived a very healthy life up to 92 years. My whole life I have lived for her. I took care of my mother-in-law also, who suffered 8 years of Alzheimer’s disease.
I am happy that I was able to look after her as well. Taking care of elders is a very important thing in our society. Whenever I see an old lady I see my mother in them. I think the world is becoming too commercialized, too insensitive, and everyone is affected from it. Somewhere, we have to have to look retrospectively. Maybe this pandemic is a very wonderful opportunity to relook at everything in a very holistic way.
When we are little, our mothers take care of us, and when they become elders, there is a change of role. Life comes to a full circle.
I used to help my mom. My mom used to be physically fit before one month of her death also. I used to take her to the park every day in the evening because she can’t sit at home; she wanted to go outside every day.
If I had classes in hospital, then too at 4 o’clock I used to wind-up everything, as I could understand what she might be going through being at home all day. So, I used to take her out. I used to help her dress, comb and bathe. I was named Shravan Kumar by my friends!
I believe that we need to set examples. If I take care of my mom, my son will take care of me.
Creativity helps in Healing Cancer Differently for Everyone
How creativity helps in healing cancer –
Example 1: Rohit
I could relate to everything that we have talked till now. I always feel that creativity helps in healing cancer by diverting your mind. For example, I was never much interested in drawing, but while I was undergoing treatment most of the patients in children ward used to color and draw.
I used to see the happiness on their faces. When I was doing my engineering in Manipal I had language problem. I, along with my friends, used to volunteer at hospitals. So, once we selected cancer ward to visit and we got children ward.
We had to do something for 2 hours to divert the kids’ minds. Language problem was there, so we didn’t had any option. We went for drawing and coloring. When they started drawing I could immediately see the change on their faces; they had a glow, and were very happy.
It was 16 years back and there were no mobile phone, but music helped me a lot. Most of the time, I used to read my file and Google some words and search for their meaning. I used to kill time in that way. It was like alternate treatment.
While undergoing treatment, I realized that friends’ support was an extra support. I still remember that one of my friends came all the way and visited me where I was taking my treatment. He brought all the four big cards that had names of all my classmates written on it. That was something that I still cherish.
As we talk about creativity helps in healing cancer, I feel that sometimes we know that we have something creative within us, but we become little lazy and we don’t know how to become used to it. For example, I love writing, and I was writing for a very long time, but then I left it. I suddenly started keeping my laptop or dairy next to my bed and now it has become a habit.
Example 2: Divya
I was always interested in paintings but somehow, it was limited to my science diagrams. When I was on this cancer journey, I started painting to pass my time but later it started giving me peace. I also learned other craft works and made many cards for birthdays and anniversaries. I learned paper quilling too.
I started reading novels. I never thought I could express my emotions through my writings but I started writing on this journey. I never thought that I could paint, learn paper quilling and craft works, read novels or could express my emotions through writings. Cancer gave me this opportunity to explore myself and I take these as “Cancer Gifts“.
Example 3: Yogesh Ji
Cancer taught me lot of things in life. I was a very different person, money was God for me in those days. But being a caregiver for my wife for 8 months taught me a completely different phase of life.
I love music and so in those days one of my masters gifted me a book. It speaks about how creativity helps in healing cancer or any other health issue. If you can connect with some creativity, it takes away your pain and shifts your focus. And from that onwards, I try to spend more time with music. I love Indian classical music, so I attend concerts and visit various places.
While I used to stay in Mumbai, I used to visit music festivals that lasted for 5 days, full 24 hours. Sometimes I used to sit whole night and listen to Pandit Jasraj, Bheemsen or Zakir Hussain. Those memories really empowered me in believing that there should be some hobbies. I hold on to music as my love, passion and creativity.
Example 4: Atul Ji
During my journey, I did not possess art or creativity but I am very fond of reading. During my hospitalization, I had quite a lot of time to read, so I finished lots of books about health and spirituality.
Also, I am very fond of photography, so I practice photography with my iPhone. I love nature, so I do nature photography, which helps in healing cancer.
My journey is of three and a half years. As I came across different hurdles I had just one thing in my mind that whatever comes we have to learn new things and move ahead. So, whatever we have not done so far, we should learn new things and move ahead with new learning in life. Therefore, that constant transformation was there in my life.
I did not know about cancer and how to deal with it or what lifestyle changes we should do but slowly and gradually I came in contact with different people, who showed me the path and I travelled on that path and I now have a totally changed lifestyle.
Atul Ji on his wife’s caregiving journey –
What helped her was constant support of our friends, they used to come and spend time with her and that gave her some time off from the journey we were going through. When they used to come they don’t talk about disease or treatment, they used to laugh, spend time with her, bring cards and would say let’s play one round of cards. This way it was quite relaxing for her. If you have a good support system of friends and family they can help you to relax.
Atul Ji’s Wife – I was into so many spiritual things. For me, spirituality helps in healing cancer. One thing kept me going – my husband is okay and everything will be okay.
His recovery was my faith. Every day I used to go to temple, and used to look at Lord Krishna, and asked him if everything will be okay, and the answer I was getting all the time was, “Don’t worry, I am here.”
Example 5: Shashi Ji
I love stitching and reading books, so in my free time I do that. I also love listening to music, so every morning I play some Bhajan and Mantras. I believe music helps us in connecting with ourselves more.
Mr. Rajen Nair: “Creativity helps in healing cancer, and other diseases.”
I always believe that creativity helps in healing cancer, and all other problems. Personally too, it has helped me a lot. I think it should be a part of education. For example, we have moral science, likewise we should add art and culture. It is still there in school, but importance should be given, parents should also believe that the whole focus should not only be in studies.
Creativity at the early stage also helps in growth perspective, it widens your horizons, it makes you think, it has lots of benefits. If you are focused whole day on studies, children don’t tell this but they start having negativity or sort of dislike also. Children should also have their own time and should be given their own space. If they are interested in music bring instruments for them.
Everybody has got something inside them but sometimes the whole life we spend without inventing it. For example in my case I didn’t even know that I could be a photographer, so there are lot of things in kids and we need to help them to discover them.
Transformation in Kids
I find kids to be very mature and having mental strength. They don’t express much because it’s a very tender age, but they know what is going inside them. I think that it affects them to see what’s going on their mothers’ faces.
For example, when I talk to kids going through cancer, and ask them about their cancer journey, they reply that they won’t tell me because probably I’ll tell their pain and suffering to their mothers.
Even an 8-year-old kid doesn’t want to show his pain in front of his mother. They try to put up a strong face. Their main motivation is their mother.
Kids are the product of their environment. And it’s the environment that makes them tough and matured. Back-up support and creativity play important role in their journey. Otherwise, they get frustrated. Depression is very common among the children. We talk about depression only in adults, but children too have depression.
They like to show their individual talent. Everyone wants to become something and want to have an identity of their own. That is what I tell kids:
“Look within yourself; you will find some talent in yourself. So, create your identity based on that talent. Dedicate and commit yourself to that skill. You should not only be a survivor, as that’s just a tag. You should be recognized for your talent.”