About the Healing Circle
Healing Circle at Love Heals Cancer and ZenOnco.io are sacred platforms about expressing and listening to each other’s different healing journeys. We give every cancer fighter, survivor, caregiver, and other involved individuals a closed space to engage with one another to listen to each other without any judgments. We all agree to treat each other with kindness and respect and listen to each other with compassion and curiosity. We don’t advise or try to save each other and believe that we have guidance we need within us, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.
About the speaker
Mr Mehul Vyas is a stage IV throat cancer (Larynx) survivor. He is technically cancer-free as he is in his sixth year of remission and devotes his time to bring awareness about cancer and on lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. He regularly gives speeches and presentations in educational institutions and other organizations. He is an admin of two groups – ‘Youngsters Against Smoking’ and ‘Cancer Survivors in India’. He is very active on social media, interacting and helping people in all ways that he can.
He is happily married to his childhood friend, Anagha, and is the father of 14-year-old Arjun. He has been settled in the US for the past six years and works with Alliance Data as a Senior Fraud investigator. He investigates credit card and other financial frauds.
Mr Mehul shares his journey
I used to smoke and drink with friends since my college days, but I never thought that I would have throat cancer. I had friends who used to smoke and drink more than me, and I had this thought that I would quit smoking and drinking if throat cancer catches up with any of them.
In 2014, I started losing weight, my voice became hoarse, and I had pain while swallowing and breathing. At the bottom of my heart, I felt that there was something miserably wrong. I did not even want to think that it would be throat cancer. But I still kept smoking as I was so addicted to it. I went to a local doctor who kept changing antibiotics and said that I would be fine.
One day, scared and miserable, I went to my mom’s place and told her I could not sleep. When my mother heard me breathing that night, she took me to the hospital. I had my last cigarette while parking my car at the hospital. I was a slave to my addiction. The doctors performed an endoscopy and found a big lump on my right larynx (vocal cord). They immediately got me admitted, performed a biopsy, and confirmed it to be stage IV throat cancer. My world shattered. I cried for two days, but then I gathered my strength and decided to fight with throat cancer. Anagha and my family started to look for treatment options. Anagha was eventually able to get me admitted to a good hospital that was specialized in cancer care. Meanwhile, the cancer was doing its job, spreading as only cancer can.
After reaching the hospital, I was scanned again. The doctors there told me that it was difficult for me to survive over a month as the throat cancer had spread to my spine, and there was nothing much that they could do. How much I wished that if life could have a reverse gear, I could go back in time and correct my mistakes. Why should my family suffer from my mistakes? The doctors planned to try aggressive chemotherapy. I had a tracheostomy tube in my throat to breath, a peg/feeding tube in my nose and stomach, and IV’s in my arm. I was all prepared for the big battle.
Fortunately, my body started responding to chemotherapy. A month turned to two, four, and I was alive, fighting the demon. Meanwhile, I kept reading many books and kept researching on my enemy, throat cancer, so that I could get smarter. I was doing much better.
I underwent a scan again, and they found that some traces of the throat cancer were still there. I was given a choice to either remove my vocal cord (which they preferred, but I would never be able to talk again) or continue with chemotherapy and radiations together. I choose the latter as I was confident by now that I will beat my cancer for sure. I wanted to talk again. That worked for me. In fact, cancer started the fight, and I finished it!
It took around a year to complete my treatment, and it’s been six years now, and being cancer-free is my biggest achievement. My family was very supportive, and without them, I would not have been able to get through this. My son handled everything very gracefully. He was just seven years old when I got diagnosed with throat cancer and had seen me suffering. My wife used to clean my dirt from my tracheostomy tube. She used to drive me to the hospital every day. It was difficult for them, but they were always very strong. The fear of relapse is always there, but how well you handle the fear is what matters. We have to be thankful for what we have and live every day to the maximum. The love for living should always be there.
Life after cancer has been the best for me. I am doing all those things that I never thought of doing because now I know that I might not get a chance later. I made a mistake, and I was lucky to survive, but everyone is not. I go to schools and colleges, keep talking to youngsters, and show them my pictures of life before cancer, during cancer, and after cancer. I tell them that a healthy life is much beautiful.
My greatest teacher
Cancer is my greatest teacher. Cancer made me understand the value of life and the people around me. It made me realize that there are many things I need to complete in my life. It taught me the right way to manage pain. Say, for example, you are crossing a road, and you have a sprain in your leg. It hurts so much that you sit in the middle of the road and cannot move, and then you see a truck coming straight to you at full speed; what will you do? You will run, right? We will forget about the pain, and run for our life as the priority has changed. This is what we call pain management, and this is how I change my priorities and manage my pain.
I always tell other patients that don’t blame yourself or start cribbing. Life has no reverse gear, so face the situation. Take inspiration from survivors. Understand your enemy, ask questions from doctors till you get satisfied, and don’t blindly follow anything; always be open on getting a second opinion. You are the person who knows the best about your body. The brain can even either cure you or kill you; the more you think positive, the more positive things happen. So change your thoughts and stay away from negative people and negative thoughts. If life throws lemons at you, then make lemonade out of it. I believe that there is a power that holds your hand; you need to have the belief that everything will be alright.
Everyone shares their experience of overcoming fear
Mr Atul– The first thing that came to my mind was that the end could not be so soon, and that was the starting point of building up confidence and overcoming the fear. I believed that cancer could not be the end of my life. I feel that your family and your wishlist plays a vital role in overcoming the fear. The wishlist keeps you going, and you keep fighting, thinking about what will happen to your family if you are not with them.
Mr Rohit– I firmly believe that thinking positive always works. I overcame the tough times by not allowing negative thoughts to come in my mind. One can try keeping himself busy doing the things that he loves; it will not let in any negative thoughts.
Mr Pranab– During my wife’s treatment, she was worried about how I would be able to manage the expenses for treatment since I had retired. But I told her not to worry and assured that I would do my best to handle everything for her treatment. Death will come only once in life, so why should we fear it every day? I will die only once, not twice. Cancer is just like other diseases; the difference is that it is a long term treatment, and is more costly. We need to think of it like any other disease like diabetes or hypertension.
I tell my patients in palliative care that fear is there, but we have to come out of the fear, be positive and have the determination to fight to the last. If you fight to the last, at least you will be satisfied, and you will know that you have tried your best. So don’t indulge in negativity and always be positive.
Dr Anu Aurora– Fear of recurrence is always there, and there is nothing wrong with having the fear. It is essential that they get checked regularly and face the fear.