Fighting cancer by focusing on living life
In December of 2011, when I was diagnosed with Cancer (Extraosseous Osteosarcoma), it was extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer, with very little and uncertain treatment choices; and very poor prognosis.
My primary tumor was on my lower back; about 6+ cms in size. One of the oncologists from my care team told me that medical science doesn’t know a lot about this cancer, and there was a high probability that, secondary tumors might start showing up in my lung and intestine in next few months; and in that case, it might turn into a terminal disease. Due to all such reasons, I was prescribed one of the most aggressive chemo regimens, consisting of High-Dose Methotrexate, Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and Cisplatin. It was also one of the worst chemo regimens known to the mankind for its side effects - as per my oncologist.
On top of this, I was the single earner in my family. My daughter was 6 years old and son was merely 10 months old.
The future was completely dark.
But there was a silver lining
No matter how bad the current situation is, there always exists a silver lining, if you try a bit harder to look for it. My silver lining was that:
The tumor was not attached to any vital organ.
In spite of being so aggressive in nature, my body was able to confine the cancer locally, even at the size of 6+ cms. That means, something in my body succeeded in preventing the metastasis.
These were the starting points to create positive vibrations in my mind, and my objective was to create sustainable positive vibrations in my mind, irrespective of the ultimate outcome of the disease. Remember, you cannot fool your mind; you have to accept the reality, but rather than reacting to it, respond to it in much thoughtful manner to create meaningful positivity within and around you, which your mind can believe every moment of the day. I knew that if I could manage to do this, then I would defeat the cancer without worrying too much about the ultimate outcome. I knew that, my cancer might destroy my body, but it won’t be able to destroy the well-being of the core awareness about myself, which is my truth, strength and weapon to fight negative forces within and around me. So, I just decided to do that.
How did I do it?
Defeating cancer a day at a time
During initial days of my treatment, when I was in the hospital, one fine day while looking outside through my hospital room’s window, I saw a typical scene of people driving through the traffic. Suddenly a thought struck my mind, that if I just consider the span of my life for today, the probability of me surviving is certainly higher than those people in the traffic rushing to reach their destinations. I was surrounded by the finest care team and my family members; whereas, those people in traffic were surrounded by other cars, some of which were driven by crazy drivers.
Nobody knows with absolute certainty, what their lives will turn into in coming months. Our present is the only thing we have some control over. So, the key is to strive to take full control of our present by focusing on harmonious living.
So, I made this as my mantra: Defeating Cancer a day at a time by focusing on harmonious living.
Ever since then, every day - including the bad days - I would indulge my mind in focusing on all the good people and things I have in my life, influencing the daily outcome of my battle in positive manner.
I made this as my habit and celebrated every day of my life. As a matter of fact, this same habit helped me in getting my life back on the track, after I completed my treatment in October of 2012.
Partnering with my care team
I realized one thing that, no matter what I believe in, if my care team is not on the same page as me, then it is not going to work; so, I decided to play two roles:
Me as a patient.
Me as my care team member, who is partnering with my care team to save my life.
As a member of my care team, I started doing this:
Getting involved in my treatment decisions and making tough choices on my treatment plan as a team.
Being extremely grateful to my care team and finding every meaningful opportunity to express my gratitude towards them for treating me and caring for me.
Cooperating with my care team throughout my treatment, even during the toughest times.
The result was that, everybody on my care team loved me. Many doctors and nurses told me that, I was their dream patient. As I was constantly acknowledging their efforts, they also started acknowledging my positive attitude and also started giving me a lot of credit for positive outcomes throughout the treatments. This acted as a virtuous cycle that created sustainable positivity between me and my care team. Here are some of the positive outcomes throughout my treatments:
My tumor removal surgery went for almost 4 hours - 45 minutes for tumor removal, followed by extremely complicated stitching exercise carried out by a plastic surgeon for almost 3 hours. She did such an amazing job, that closing the incision wound did not require skin grafting. In her words - “I did not know what happened, but I started stitching and your skin came together”. What a modesty! She is extremely experienced and successful plastic surgeon, but did not fail to acknowledge my positive attitude. Now, that’s the teamwork!
My recovery after such a complicated surgery was extremely quick. I ended up taking painkillers only twice during the recovery; and recovered mostly within one and a half week, when I was told that my recovery during first week would be extremely painful and it would take at least 3-4 weeks to recover completely.
My body responded very well to the side effects of toxic High Dose Methotrexate.
This amazing teamwork between me and my care team greatly influenced the daily outcome of my cancer battle in positive manner.
Celebrating my life with friends and family
I took a deliberate decision to share my battle with all my close friends, who could visit me in person, and offer all kind of help to make me feel better. The response was overwhelming.
A friend would accompany me in my hospital room before and after his work hours. I had spent about 10 weeks in hospital and he was there for me for almost every day.
Some friends would bring home-made meals.
Some friends would visit our home and prepare healthy meals for me.
Throughout the day, there was always somebody visiting me, and spending their valuable time with me.
I became the center of attention and was thoroughly pampered throughout the treatment. I would greet my friends with a big smile on my face and they would admire my positive attitude.
This interaction with my friends created a sustainable support system around me and my family, which influenced the daily outcome of my cancer battle in positive manner.
More than me, my family was greatly impacted by my cancer battle. My kids were too young to understand the seriousness of the situation, but it was really hard for my wife and my parents. At the beginning of my battle, we made a conscious decision, to invite my parents from India to join us in my battle. My wife and my parents are the people with strong positive outlook towards the life, in spite of the uncertainties surrounding them. They were definitely shaken by my cancer diagnosis, but bravely joined me hand-in-hand to fight this battle. Again, the objective was to focus on daily outcome than worrying too much about the ultimate outcome. Here are some of the activities that we did together:
During the hospital stay, due to the severe nausea, I couldn’t eat hospital food. Almost every day, my wife and sometimes my parents would join me for meals at hospital. My wife would get home-cooked food for me.
At home, while recovering from chemo, many times I would lie down on couch or bed, completely exhausted, unable to move much. During those times, my parents would hold me close to them like a baby, and shower their parental affection on me. It had such a great healing power that it always helped me in healing faster.
Throughout my treatment, I had all the time in the world at my disposal. I was never in this situation before, ever since I started my career. So, I decided to use this time to focus on strengthening my bonds with my wife and specifically with my younger daughter, who never got enough attention from me, ever since she was born. After decades I was truly living my life with and for my family.
This interaction with my family made me truly realize their importance in my life. It helped me in strengthening my bonds with my family members, especially with my daughter. It unified our individual self-awareness into this single powerful awareness focused on defeating and crushing the cancer every day, and living harmonious life.
And I kept on winning almost every day
Of course, there were few days, when I would feel down. It’s normal to feel like that, when you are going through such an ordeal; but largely, I was able to maintain my positive outlook towards the life throughout my battle and was able to take complete charge of my life in spite of uncertainties around the final outcome.
My body could have succumbed to cancer, but I knew that, irrespective of the ultimate outcome, I would be the winner. And this strong belief in myself, my care team, my family and friends made all the difference throughout my battle.