About the Healing Circle
Healing circles at ZenOnco.io and Love Heals Cancer are sacred platforms for patients, warriors, and caregivers, where they share their experiences without any fear of judgment. We all agree to treat each other with kindness and respect and listen to each other with compassion and curiosity. We honour each other’s unique ways of healing and don’t presume to advise or try to save each other. We hold all the stories shared in the circle within us. We trust each of us has guidance we need within, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.
About the speaker
Mr Rachit Kulshrestha is a two-time cancer survivor, a single amputee, and an epitome of positivity. He is an ardent adventure enthusiast and has cycled from Manali to Khardung La – one of the highest motorable roads in the world. He is living proof that nothing in this world is a limitation. Among other things, he is an amazing orator, with a unique style of engaging talks peppered with his own stories of grit and courage.
Mr Rachit shares his journey
When I was six years old, I got diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, and my left hand had to be amputated. I used to think that my life was over. I got so negative during my teenage thinking that I would not be able to do anything with my life. But then suddenly, I started believing in myself, realising that we have options in our life; either to cry on our limitations or to make something out of our life, and I choose the second one. I read a lot of interesting books. I learned a lot during those days, and it gave me the motivation to move forward. I believe that time and love heals everything.
I decided to let go of my past, and I am very grateful to my parents, my family, and so many people who supported me over the years and gave me the proper guidance to move forward.
I finished my graduation and had a regular job. But I wanted to do more with life as I was trying to find myself and what I wanted to do with my life. I kept going with the flow of my life, and I have realised that nothing is impossible. There will be limitations, but there will always be a way to overcome those limitations.
Later, I quit my job and moved to Goa. I worked as a barman and receptionist at a hotel. I was trying to do multiple things, learn a lot of art, meet artistic people, and I got inspired by a lot of things. I wanted to be self-dependent under any circumstance and therefore wanted to make a lot of money. So when the bartender of my friend’s bar was on leave for a few days, she asked me whether I could do it, and I said yes. I became quite good at it that within a week, I got promoted to the VIP level. I used to make drinks quite quickly and could also cut garnish with my single hand.
My journey started there, and I have never looked back. I started moving forward and kept pushing myself to do my best, and I felt that I could heal myself with time.
But life doesn’t always go so smoothly. When I was 27 years old, I got diagnosed with another cancer in my right leg. When we consulted the doctor, he told my dad directly that they cannot assure whether they can save my leg or not. When we used to ask him something or call him, he never gave the right response. Thus, we went to another doctor, which is why I always advise people to go for a second opinion. After getting diagnosed with cancer in my right leg, I had foot drop, and because of that, I could not play and run. I again thought that my life had come to an end. I underwent a lot of treatments, and I felt the need to do something more with my life; I wanted to fight more and didn’t want to give up.
I started to put a lot of weight after finishing my chemotherapy. At that time, my closest friends came home at nights and made fun of me for being fat. I was very angry at them then, but looking back, they pushed me to go forward with my life. They made me realise that not playing football wasn’t the end of life, and helped me to see what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t. That was the most important takeaway from my cancer journey; I learned that doing things will make me happy.
Sometimes, the pain becomes a comfort zone, and we get so used to it that we forget being happy. So, I always tell that we will always have problems in life, but there will always be a way to heal it and move forward.
I bought a cycle, but because of the second cancer and chemotherapy sessions, my immune system and stamina had collapsed. When I went out cycling on the first day, I covered 2-3km and was so tired that I couldn’t move forward. I became very angry and demotivated but decided to give it some time. Gradually, I started going to my studio for work by cycle, which was about 10kms away. Slowly, I started covering 20 kilometres a day. At that time, I knew some cycling enthusiasts who used to go for 100km cycling. I thought that it was impossible and that I could never do that.
I continued doing my regular 20km cycling when someone mentioned about cycling from Manali to Khardung La and invited me to join them. I discussed it with my friends, and they told me not to do it as it was dangerous. But the reverse psychology kicked in, and I realised that I have to do it. I made a diet plan and followed that religiously. I also did a lot of research online before embarking on my journey. I was so thrilled throughout the entire journey that I remember the whole path entirely. I cried a lot after the trip was over as emotions overcame me. Cycling is now my passion. I tell people to follow their passion. Everything falls in place, and the universe is there to help you if you believe in it.
When I did Manali to Khardung La trip, many people came to me with more hurdles, and my coach asked me to cover 200km. I thought that it was not possible and that I was okay with where I was. I just went for Pune to Mumbai cycling trip, and I didn’t realise that I had covered 200kms. I worked with an Italian chef in Pondicherry as a waiter, recited poems on the beach, and just went with the flow of my life. I believe that all you need is sheer passion.
I always had a passion for cinema, and I was always interested in watching movies, learning about movies, and animations. So, I learned everything from youtube. There was a director in Goa who was looking to create a project. I could connect with his work and come up with a lot of ideas. He told me to be a part of the project, and I learned that if you really want to do something, then nothing can stop you. Many such little things in my life helped me overcome and surpass the barriers.
I started working with an NGO since I felt that a person with a disability should not be treated with sympathy; instead, they should be treated as normal human beings. I started reaching out to many people. One of my friends told me to become a motivational speaker, but I didn’t believe in myself at that time. But he kept pushing me, and when I tried my hand at it, many people started calling me.
Life kept going forward, and I worked on projects like Marvel. I followed my passion. I believe that when you take the step forward to achieve your goals, then God also starts helping you to achieve that, and everything will come out positive. The darkness can never stay forever; no matter what it is, the sun will rise again. Do the things that make you happy and let the bad days pass.
I had side effects during my treatment days, such as my skin would tear out like a snake’s skin, and I started losing my taste buds. I was upset for two days, but then I decided that I can’t be upset like this anymore. I did very basic things like eating nuts in the morning, and giving time for my wounds to heal. Always have fun, life is so beautiful, but we become so serious that we forget to laugh. We have to stay strong, do things that make us happy, keep fighting, and never let our spirit down.
What I have learned from my life is that the strongest tool that we have is our brain. We should not give up or stop ourself by saying I can’t do this or that. If we keep your mind happy, we can achieve and conquer everything.
Mr Rachit shares about the caregivers
My parents took care of me, and it was very difficult for them. It’s a huge challenge to be with someone very low, but the best method is to give them lots of love, compassion, and hugs. They will be angry and will push you away but never give up on them. A lot of patience is required for both patients and caregivers.
Mr Rachit’s message for Cancer Patients
Eat healthily, but don’t forget to have fun too. The best way to overcome the challenge is by laughing on it. You should laugh at your irony and challenges. I have forgotten my pain by laughing.
When I started cycling and received many medals for 200km rides, I used to think that I could do cycling only till the age of 40-50, after which old age might get the better of me. But then, I met a 75 years old man and cycled with him from Pune to Lonavala, and he was cycling with passion. I realised that there is no end to passion; you just need to keep going, and universe will help you in every way. Don’t focus your energy on negative thoughts; instead, you focus on your goals. I believe that, in the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me, there lay an invisible summer.
Everyone shares their challenging journeys
Mr Mehul – I had a tracheostomy tube in my throat so I could not eat or talk. We had an ice cream shop close by, and my wife loves ice creams. We would walk down to the shop, and she would have ice cream while I would just sit there. The doctor strictly told me not to eat anything as because of the tumour the food could go directly into my lungs.
But as my wife was eating the ice cream, I asked her to let me taste it, and promised that I would not swallow but just keep it on my tongue. She said no to me because she was afraid that it could go into my lungs, but I took the ice cream and started tasting a little bit of it, and ended up eating the whole ice cream. My wife asked me whether the ice cream had gone to my stomach. I said that I think so since it was not coming out. The next day she called my doctor and told the whole story, and even the doctor was surprised after hearing it. The doctor called me to the hospital, inserted the endoscopy tube and made me eat ice cream again. It was going into my stomach because the tumour had shrunk, and I could eat solid food again. So, I am very grateful for that one ice cream. I believe that we all have the power to do anything, but we have to bring out the spirit to do it.
Mr Pranab – The power within a human being gives us the strength to proceed and ignore the word impossible. There is a word in the dictionary “impossible”, but not within us. We can do everything if we have the spirit and power to make it a success.
I was the sole caregiver of my beloved wife, who combated metastasised colon cancer and survived two and a half years. We both were determined, she had immense willpower and resilience, but I knew that she would leave me. Anyone of us could go early, and that is a natural thing. The doctors had said that she would survive only for one to one and a half years since the prognosis was not good from the very beginning, but her mental strength prolonged her life to two and a half years and then she died a peaceful, and dignified death.
I believe that caregiving is an invisible art which is felt only by the care receiver. Normally, the caregiver ignores his/her health, so I suggest to heal thyself, and love has the power to heal anything. I believe that the care-receiver must feel that there is someone by his/ her side. Now I am involved with the Eastern India Palliative Care, Kolkata. We organise home care services and awareness programs because I feel that cancer awareness is the need of the hour.
Mr Rohit – I believe that if you follow your passion, then everything will fall into its place. We should take care of our small habits and do the things that make us happy. I used to play cricket for 8-10 hours every day before my treatment. When I completed my treatment and went back to my everyday life, going to school and playing cricket were the things that made me happy.
Ms Swati – My father is undergoing treatment for oesophagus cancer, and I get inspired by listening to different people’s journey on Healing Circles. It gives me the energy to motivate my father.
Mr Pankaj – Somewhere in the back of my mind, I want to be a motivational speaker, but my journey for the last 3-4 years has made me rethink. I am still on medications for cancer. I was operated for tumour, then I had lung metastasis, and I went for surgery and chemotherapy sessions. I again had metastasis two months back, and I am on my chemo tablets now. It is difficult for me, but I keep reminding myself of the difficult times in my life. Whenever I see metastasis in my CT scan, I think about the times that I have overcome death, and it gives me the confidence to do that again.
Ms Dimple shares about the Cancer Community launch
We have launched India’s first Cancer Community so that all cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals can interact with each other, even after healing circles, just like we do on Facebook. This is a ZenOnco.io cancer support group for cancer patients, survivors, doctors and anyone working in the field of cancer. Everyone can share their experiences, learn from each other and join hands in our fight against cancer.