Life knocked me down at several instances but it was my choice that I had always wanted to lead a happy life and fulfill my desires and not just let go off everything like this. It is all about learning to love yourself, loving your soul, dreaming big, gratitude.
How could that happen to me? How can a physically fit person like me who is so fitness conscious, never had any family history could even think of being affected by the cancer. For a moment the world around me freezed and I could feel like no blood flowing down through my nerves. I could feel that numbness. At that moment I literally wished if somebody could confirm me if my diagnostic reports had mistakenly got exchanged with someone else or if the test was a result of some human error.
Thirty-six hours passed by and I was still in the state of shock and unable to digest the fact that I have been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), a life-threatening disease which if ignored would shorten my life. It required immediate attention.
It was around 4 years ago, when suddenly one fine day I noticed some raised growth under my neck at a particular point. As far as I could remember, it was only for a short period of time and then it vanished after a couple of days. I neglected it. About 3 weeks later, I discovered another tiny growth at some other area in the neck and during the next 4 months I was experiencing the same growth randomly anywhere over my body. Sometimes they happened one after the other, and at times in clusters but caused no painful sensation. One day they vanished and I felt relived thinking maybe it was due to the extreme heat of Delhi.
Months passed by and I was normal, no more external growth or any other visible symptoms. Hardly 6 months had passed, I noticed the return of those swollen lymph nodes and this time the enlarged ones; they didn’t vanished even after 1 year. This had now started to bother me as it’s been more than 2 years now and I was experiencing one or the other symptoms. My worries increased when I noticed some change in my routine. I started feeling breathless and got tired easily. My physical activities began to hinder due to my increasing fatigue. Although I had no major reason to doubt about my health but since my family insisted so I got my medical checkup done. After doing a brief physical checkup, the doctor asked to get few of the tests done that included a blood test too. I still had no clue of what was going on or what could happen, but I agreed to get it done without thinking much. Still it was my internal motivation that kept me going and I patted on my back saying there’s nothing to get worried.
It was 10:00 am and it had been pouring whole last night. I received a phone call from the hospital saying I should come and collect my reports and if possible should accompany some senior family member along with me. I confirmed if it will be okay to come alone and so they agreed pretending to make me feel comfortable, maybe. I could sense something was wrong but little did I expect such news that shook me from inside.
It was raining heavily and even though I was curious but still dropped of going to the hospital to collect the reports telling myself to spend one more day of my life being carefree. It was Tuesday and I was there in the hospital at the Report Collection Center to collect the reports. While the attendant was looking for my lab test reports, I was busy checking my messages on Facebook messenger. I am a Chartered Accountant and my work life is too busy to respond to the messages regularly from my friends. The attendant called up my name, and handed over the reports to me. Quickly snatching up the reports from the attendant I hurriedly opened them as if I had appeared for my twelfth standard exams and since long I had been waiting eagerly for the results to be announced.
I didn’t understand the terminology and went on to consult the doctor I was supposed to. He carefully went through the reports and asked me few questions. Questions one after the other started pouring in and I kept on responding like a twelfth standard boy appearing for his Viva exams.
My doctor asked me, “So, Mr. Ranjit, what were your initial symptoms?” I said.
“It started with external lymph nodes, the raised growth though quite smaller in size that of the pea-shaped and I simply ignored until after a couple of months they appeared and suddenly vanished, but one fine day they returned and again after few months I noticed the enlarged ones which then started to bother me.”
Then he asked me about the other persistent symptoms to confirm although everything was there in the reports.
“I mentioned about my fever that would last for 2 weeks or more but no other signs of infection. Even after the fever had gone, I used to eat less than my usual diet. My appetite lowered and until almost 7-8 months had passed by and I had reduced a lot.”
Adding further, I said, “…irrespective of the climate, even during little cold season, I used to drench completely with sweat at night or at wee hours in the morning.”
Before the doctor could ask anything, and without pausing even for a single second, I asked him, “What exactly has happened to me and is there anything serious or worrisome?”
The doctor said, “Let me please first ask you few more things before I could come to any final conclusion.”
Although the doctor had already concluded what was wrong just by looking at the diagnostic reports, still…
I could sense something was seriously wrong, because all that time the doctor had been trying to comfort me and being very polite and also getting to know about me personally like my job, and who all are there in my family, and is my wife earning, etc. The doctor went on asking few more questions and then deeply relating the things to that in the report, he finally disclosed me something that made me shiver for few moments. The world around me ceased and I just couldn’t breathe anymore. For few moments, my body was cold and I was speechless.
I was suffering with CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) and also because my blood platelets count was less than 10,000 so I was at a High Risk IV because at this stage an abnormal increase in the number of lymphocytes in the bone marrow and relatively low blood count takes place. My chances of survival are 10%.
Worriedly, anxiously and confused I asked him too many question at one go, “What is that… CLL and why me and I follow a very healthy lifestyle, so how’s it possible with me?”
I simply refused to believe all that. Somehow I lost my burning desire to live life… I lost all the internal motivation.
The doctor said, “Ranjit, it’s a high time and you should immediately start with your treatment else beyond this time we will not be able to help you further. Even if we start with your Chemotherapy immediately, we are not sure how responsive your body will be?”
The doctor further went on to explaining, “CLL is a type of cancer when some cells inside our body become lymphocytes, a condition where some cells would be converting to white blood cells in the bone marrow. These leukemia cells then spread in the blood and slowly affecting all the cells and a person’s immune system is the first to be affected…”
…and the doctor continued.
I was hardly interested in listening to the doctor anymore; I actually started counting the number of days I have left.
I took a deep breath, got up from the chair and had no idea how I would drive all the way back. I hadn’t decided if I should go to office or should back to home. Anyhow, I just started driving and went to office directly.
All I could tell is that the day in office just went off normally like all other days for the rest of the employees but deep inside me the news had actually shaken me so badly that I couldn’t concentrate whole day. I didn’t speak much with anyone that day. Somehow after spending the whole day, my day was over and I left for home.
On my way to home, I could see a couple holding hand in hand with each other and relishing on ice-creams, then I could come across a young girl around ten who had been demanding chocolate from her dad. I reached home at 6:50 pm, and as I entered my both daughters aged, 10 and 12 then, came running to me and held me tight as usual. The elder one excitedly wanted to know how my day was and smilingly I said,“Yes, it was a good day darling! How about you? Did you finished off your homework and that are you preparing for your exams well?”
I wanted to talk to them more and even felt like spending some quality time with my family as if it was my last day today. I was in a very inconsolable situation. With this news in hand I already had so much left to do for my family before I depart from this world. I started to wonder how my family would survive after my death. I didn’t have too many savings, not many policies, any insurance, etc. enough for their whole life.
Our 2 daughters were fast growing, their education, their marriage, and lot many expenses. I could save only little with my income in all these fourteen years of my career. A lot started to bother me. I inquired about their mother (my wife), “Where is Simran?”
Pooja, my younger daughter said.
“Mom is in kitchen dad. She’s preparing a dessert for all of us for tonight.”
I told my daughters to go to their room as I had some work with their mom. …and the girls quietly departed.
I proceeded towards the kitchen. With every step, my heart also thumped like anything. I asked her how her day had been.
She replied, “Oh! The week started off good”.
It was almost 7:15 in the evening and my wife Simran wanted to know if I am hungry so we can have dinner little early today. I said in a somewhat weak, hesitating voice “No”.
I went to the bedroom, took off my shoes and without even changing the clothes lay down on the bed for a while. It was almost 8:00 pm when Simran called off the girls and also sent message for me saying that the dinner is ready and everybody should assemble at the dining table.
Excited Baani, “Papa, mom’s calling for the dinner. Come fast, we have the dessert too ready and I can’t wait today. It’s my fav one!!!”
After a pause, Baani, “Come fast na, papa!”
We all gathered and by almost 8:40, the dinner was over and I went back to the room. Although I pretended as if I was enjoying and I thought I am a good actor.
Simran read me. She didn’t question me then but after clearing the table and winding up her kitchen work as she came back to bedroom. She closed the door, changed her night dress, came closer to me, slowly touching her right shoulder to mine and sweetly leaning over to me as if wanting the two of us to be closer tonight…
I was already so tensed. I had no clue how to start and where to start first. So, I simply said, “Simran, I want to speak to you”.
As she tries to put her arm around my waist and with her soft smoothing voice, she said I know what you want to share with me.
Shocked and surprised, I asked “Do you know? Are you not scared of what will happen now? Are you not worried about our daughter’s future?
You seem to be so calm and polite! Are you trying to comfort me?”
Surprised at my reaction, she curiously asked me, “Honey, What are you talking about? I thought you are tensed because of the office politics as sometimes whenever you are, your face is pale and you seem to be tensed the same way like you are today. So, I was just trying to comfort you; it’s the part and parcel of life dear.”
I interrupted her in-between and in a quite worried tone, I said “No, it’s not about that.”
Without wasting even one more minute, I went on further.
I said, “Simran, you remember I had feeling of fatigueness and you remember those tiny lumps, which over the period of months that had grown into big and then appeared and disappeared and re-appeared?”
“Yes, I remember everything. But what’s the matter Ranjit?” asked Simran, in a somewhat worried tone.
Then curiously she asked,“Oh! I forgot you were supposed to get your reports today and it completely slipped out of mind due to all those domestic chores. Is … is there… is there something to worry about Ranjit?
Why are you quite… please say something na!”
My grief-stricken voice didn’t let me utter anything, I felt as if my vocal cords lost its voice and I was not able to say anything. Simran could now sense as if something was seriously wrong.
Shaking me so hard, she asked, “What’s wrong, please tell”.
I told her, “Darling, I have CANCER and I am in the last stage that is the highly risky stage where my chances of survival are just 10%.”
With tears almost rolling down her cheeks, she was shocked and numbed and pale and confirmed if it was no joke.
She wanted to see the reports.
“Here are the lab test reports and here is what doctor said after thorough examination and seeing at the reports”, said Ranjit.
Ranjit and Simran had no words, and the whole night they both couldn’t sleep. They kept on thinking whether to inform their daughter about this and if yes, who should inform them.
It was clear that their mornings aren’t going to be those lovely mornings where the alarm rang normally and everyone in the enthusiastic mood would get back into their routine as usual. The morning came and Simran and Ranjit just pretended as everything was normal, though Simran’s eyes were red and swollen. The daughters thought as if ma & pa would have had a fight last night over some issue because papa always busy is unable to spend some time with mom and there are lots of minute things to be taken care of that mom alone handles most of the time like grocery buying, buying fruit & vegetables, etc.
The next day it was revealed to the daughters as well about the father’s condition. While the younger one couldn’t realize much the consequences, the elder one was speechless. He face turned pale too.
Soon the Chemotherapy started in the hospital. The doctor suggested us that I should stay in hospital because they would be able to check the values and understand if the treatment is working as per plan. My wife used to visit me every day and she started taking petty jobs to support the treatment costs.
“Ranjit, as the doctors said the cost might stretch to a few lacs to even more, I have started taking up tuition at home and other small things so we may be able to be on a safer side financially.” said Simran in a very supportive tone.
In the next few months, even the house where we were living was sold off and my family had to shift to slum area. While in hospital, I and my wife realized that there are several others suffering from cancer. There were people with meager to almost no money in hand. Even affording medicines or even the cost of tests and diagnostics was something they couldn’t bear while we were still in a little better position than them.
I used to get bore in hospital, I also had no job in hand. I started exploring some options online and after a lot of study I realized why not help these cancer patients.
I wanted to do something for my family and also for these poor people around me. I felt it was a give back time before I leave for heavenly abode.
Fortunately my body was also responding to the treatments but the costs incurred for treatment, other consultations, medicines, etc. was quite high.
I and my wife started speaking to some doctors and looking at our combined efforts, a small NGO also approached us. We were soon moving to a better new world. While it wasn’t impossible for me to go out of the hospital, I handled the calls and speaking to needy people and their families in the hospital, my wife ran post to pillar so we could help these people… but I knew that she was doing this all for me. She felt that I should stay motivated during my entire cancer treatment journey and she did her best to make everything work so I could live with my dream.
Simran and I started seeking help and donations to help them bear the cost of such patients. We arranged second opinions for the cancer patients at lesser consultation prices. By the time, almost 8 months had passed, I was discharged from the hospital but our relationship with old and new cancer patients continued. New people came and joined and some old ones contributed in one way or the other.
Even the internal motivation and few good words if some cancer survivors could give to the newly admitted cancer patients, it worked wonders at times because positivism acted as a catalyst in the treatment of even the worst cases where if the survival wasn’t possible, but the life span of other cancer patients increased and they could live a little longer.
Not only did I cured and my continuous cancer therapies and holistic approach helped me to get rid of those cancer cells almost nearly, I was also able to find a means of employment this way and started my own NGO venture by supporting in the best possible way to both my family and to the cancer affected people.
I realized that even in most difficult times, one can survive and defeat against all odds. You not only need to be optimistic but also end up believing in yourself and romancing your soul.
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