This day, six months ago, cancer changed my life


On the 15th of March at 7:05pm I sent my wife Sapna a screenshot of the medical report I had received. She responded, “What the fuck”.

The day had gone by rather smoothly.

My request for a documentary profiling the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Garud commandos had been approved. Thus I spent the day at Chandinagar, an air force base in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district, lost in what unfolded before my eyes. (See photo)

Later in the day, a call I missed from the hospital reminded me of the unfinished agenda.

The lady at the other end wouldn’t tell. She’d rather email.

When she did, we had an explanation for a lump on the left hand side of my neck which ordinary medication couldn’t shake off. I’d read up and suggested to my doctor the worst-case scenario only to be chided for ‘over-enthusiasm’. However, my guess turned out correct. Mine was a case of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, they ruled.

At Sapna’s reply, I smiled. On my forehead was cold sweat. The mind was agitated. And my day still had work left in it.

After realising that this no longer was a nightmare from which I would wake up to a ‘normal day’, I wrote in my diary:

“We will deal with this and deal with this well. There is one thing I promise now – my zest, my love and my humanity is only going to grow stronger. And I swear to whomsoever it may concern that I am going to beat the shit out of this. Cheers” 

Over the next few days we worked with doctors to understand the full picture. It was heartening to see my organisation standing by me. The leadership granted me concessions I had not granted myself.

Of everyone, I was most nervous about informing my mother. Living on her own in Mumbai, I did not want her alone and worried at the same time. But her response, when I informed her in person, left me relieved.

As television journalists, our acquaintances see us even if we don’t see them. It also is our job to stay in touch with as many as possible. This ailment forced upon me a hiatus from which I did not know when I would emerge. Some who were concerned began asking why they weren’t seeing me. Every time someone asked about my health, I told them the truth. People offered assistance, advice, personal stories or simply their best wishes. That so many felt so strongly was almost therapeutic.

I was also lucky in that I did not suffer a single symptom associated with my ailment. The disease was at an early stage of its existence revealed the tests and consultations.

A slower but testing experience was to begin.

By the middle of April, I embarked on six cycles of chemotherapy under the soft-spoken and tireless Dr Dinesh Bhurani of the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre in the capital. Those undergoing chemotherapy are warned about multiple side effects which include but are not limited to pain, sleeplessness, mood swings and nausea. For me, it was a period of observing the resilience of one’s body and mind. I was impressed how well my body faced up to regular doses of controlled and targeted toxicity. There was discomfort yet it never got quite as bad. It also was a period of seeing oneself in a new light quite literally as chemotherapy took most of my hair away!

With time on hand, I read, wrote, saw and learnt as much as I could. Sleeping without an alarm and meditating daily helped restore my health.

News about cancer fatalities broke my heart. They also filled me with fear. The words, ‘what if’ never really left my side. In many ways, struggling with cancer is akin to climbing a difficult mountain. Sad as it may sound, not everyone who begins necessarily completes it. I came across many whose situation wasn’t as comfortable as mine. I hope they experience a turnaround soon.

Fortunately by the middle of September, scans could no longer find cancerous cells in my body.

This would not have been possible without the person I, even before my cancer, referred to as my ‘Rock’, my wife. If one moment she was my loving companion, the next she could be a cop knocking sense into me. She went to maddening lengths so that I ate the right food and stayed away from infections. All of it came at a price – her stress levels were peaking and it showed. I’ve promised to not make her worry about my health. Also, being a far better writer than yours truly, she has penned a perceptive (and shorter) piece on this experience which I’d urge you to read (https://goo.gl/Szzf7C).

Cancer can make one’s knees buckle, to begin with that is. It’s a dreadful disease but one from which we are at a safe distance or so we all would like to believe. Cancers associated with habits aside, the disease can affect anyone. After all, it is a cell which goes rogue and increases its tribe. Having said that, I must add that cancer is weak in its early days. It is made weaker by a spirit that is both, happy and strong.

Why did it happen to me?

Science does not offer an explanation. But the fundamentals for a healthy and stable existence were not in place in my case.

Forget others, I used be extremely harsh on myself. No matter what one did or achieved, I’d always be unhappy, unsatisfied. In seeking more and better (not your healthy, motivated way, mind you), in punishing myself, I stand guilty of having caused my mind and body immense and undue stress. As someone who believed that life is all and only about work, I used to look down upon the very thought of sleeping beyond five hours a day. While I did find time to exercise but my eating habits and what they call ‘work-life balance’ consistently left a lot to be desired.

While stress is common, its impact on individuals is not.

My journey, for what it’s worth, has made me realise that our body and spirit have in them the keys to our wellness. We only need to cultivate the right environment.

Cancer came to me as a pause. Thankfully in leaving, it gave me the opportunity to reset.

WRITER WORKS WITH INDIA TODAY TV AS A SPECIALIST ON CONFLICT AND SECURITY ISSUES

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66 thoughts on “This day, six months ago, cancer changed my life”

  1. Was horrified to read the headline, but always saw that fighter in you. I’m just so happy that it’s freakin gone. Stay alive you idiot!!! Lots of love.

  2. Dear Jugal, I’m one of those who enquired about you from others but couldn’t muster the courage to ask you how you were doing. I wasn’t sure what the appropriate question would be. I wasn’t sure how you were dealing with your ailment. Today I know, and I must say, you make us proud. I’m sure you make Sapna proud too, even though you tested her patience on occasions 😊 I’m glad to have read what I did today. I can’t wait to see you back on the field, with the same sense of enthusiasm and passion towards your job that defines you. But do take care of your health. I know you’ve fought well but it’s only half the battle won! See you soon, soldier 😊

  3. Inspiring fight with a dreadful disease. My uncle, an airforce veteran, fought the lymphoma successfuly and we have seen him taking care so as to avoid relapse. So please take good care Jugal Purohit. Best wishes.

  4. Keep up the good fight Jugal. Trust your own expertise in how wars are conducted. Kudos to your supportive spouse.

  5. My ‘awe’ of you has just gone through the roof Jugal! Now I know what your answer meant sometime back when you said – “I had a health problem but it’s ok now.” Hope to meet again – the joshila Jugal – in CAPS over a cup of tea, discussing, and agonising, abt the happenings around us. Way to go Jugal!

    1. Thank you Sir. Have cherished those meetings and discussions and there is no reason to not have them going forward 🙂

  6. At the start of the article itself I knew, I’m reading a victors note. And yes it was. Having a rock (wife) at home makes the world a whole new experience. We want to hear the shrill voice on TV back again. Best wishes to your complete recovery and better health.

    In God’s hands & plan we are all taken care.

  7. Jugal, your post is extremely touching yet motivating. I am sure with the fighting spirit that you have you will soon be up and running. God bless

  8. Jugal you were always very keen in getting the truth out and strived with a lot of efforts, you have overcome this one too, all the best

  9. Hey Jugal
    When I saw the link I couldn’t believe that it was about you. There wasn’t even a minutest trace in your demeanour that you had just overcome the dreaded disease. Of course it reflects your indomitable spirit and commitment to the work. Glad to have met you and even happier to know that you emerged a victor.
    Best wishes

  10. What an inspiration you are !! Blessings and salutations bro , wish you all the best , Beautiful acknowledgement of each aspect in this short read .

  11. Jugal ji, I follow you on Twitter. You are a gentleman and world is woefully short of them. It will be amiss on God’s part to summon you too soon. May श्री सियारामजी take care of you

  12. Jugal shocking to read the story, I am sure with positive approach you will certainly come out victorious. God bless you with enough strength to withstand difficult time

  13. Jugal you are a Phoenix…thanks God that you have realized how precious is your existence… Spread your wings …come back from your ashes…you have done it…my deepest regards for your ‘rock’ and your mother you had given birth to such an indomitable soul!!! Love u Buddy…

  14. Bhai i know ur a fighter and happy to know this has been passed. You dont know me but we both are from same community( Journalism )buddy….get back soon

  15. I have cherished the few meetings I have had with you. Take care, my friend. Have always known you as a gutsy fighter. Stay that way.

  16. @Jugal, I’ve always believed that ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’.

    Having seen cancer claim my mother, and after having read ‘The Emperor of all maladies’ to try and understand the disease, I can understand what you and Sapna have been through.

    I’m sure that you’ve seen the last of Mr C and will continue to do what you do best for many many more years.

    God Bless, Buddy! Bash on, Regardless!

    Uday

  17. Hi Jugal, you had been a fighter and glad to know that you emerged as a winner ! Familiar to you since long, have seen your dedication and zeal on screen but let me tell you that this off screen performance is way beyond! Salute ! stay connected to your soul, keep inching towards health and happy mind!

  18. You make it sound so simple but am sure it wasn’t. Congratulations to you and your family for a successful fight back. How I wish Cancer didn’t have to teach any one to slow down, take it easy and healthy. Good luck Jugal

  19. At the cost of repeating myself, I’ll say – You, my friend, are an absolute rockstar. The strength and composure with which you fought this rogue force, and your unwavering spirit through it all, is commendable, to say the least. Cheers to you and Sapna! God bless.

  20. Jugal, I was so happy 😊 to read the last bit. You are a fighter; I’m sure you will be fine! Agree that many of us are too tough on ourselves for needless stuff. Lots of lessons therein. A supporting partner is, of course, a great help. Thanks for the story and take care. Look forward to seeing you back in ‘full’ action!! Regards, Ahuja

  21. DEAR PUROHIT. THIS DREADFUL DISEASE CAN BE WON OVER BY HARD AND DETERMINED MIND SET IN ADDITION TO PROPER MEDICTION. I WISH YOU GOOD LUCK.

  22. Take all the precautions even now. Did this impair your writing and eating? Since you are a lefty and this was on the left side of the neck. Was it a lymph node?

  23. Hi Jugal, you have been through a horrifying ordeal! Missed you at work but was not aware of your condition. Stay strong friend.

  24. So proud of you and the way you to chose to tackle it, Jugal. And really really relieving to hear that you managed to fight it out of your body successfully!

  25. Hey Jugal, so proud of you brother. You emerged stronger than what tried to hurt you! That’s how you’ve been all along and sure you will be always. Here’s to the Fighter, Victor, our Hero – cheers!!

  26. Hey buddy, got to know this thing online and glad to see your spirit strengthened despite all odds. Who else but you could have made this battle look so easy. There are no bravery awards for achievers who fight with life but if there was one and your wife shall receive them. Waiting to watch the documentary

  27. Dear Jugal,
    I am also guilty of trying to know about your health from others rather than enquiring with you directly. I was just not sure how to ask you about it and am sincerely sorry about it. However am happy to see the way you have handled it and am really really proud of you. Hope to meet you soon. Take care buddy.

  28. I am so proud of you Jugal. A very touchin an inspiring piece indeed. May you go from strength to strength. Hope to see you in the field soon.

  29. Hey Jugal!

    Congrats on kicking the shit out of cancer!

    I had a similar experience like sapna’s – had to take care of my father who was diagnosed with an advanced form of squamous cell carcinoma. I wrote about my experience of dealing with a cancer patient here – http://chennai.citizenmatters.in/cancer-treatment-experience-918

    Do share it with sapna. I’m sure we will be exchanging notes soon 🙂

    And yes, all of this makes you realize why it’s damn important to lead a healthy lifestyle.

    Keep fighting the good fight jugal!

    Regards,
    Ashwin Bala

  30. Well done Jugal,so proud of Both of You.All the Credit for putting up a fight and coming out of it goes to you and Sapu.Wishing you Both a Fit, Fine and Healthy Life.God Bless Both of You.

    1. Not for a minute can I allow you to discount your own efforts and being there at all times! We were in it together.

  31. Hi Jugal,
    Just read this, though shocked, i wont react.
    All i can say, trust the inner ‘U’ and believe me- medical miracles happen till you don’t give up.
    You were and will be my favorite always, god bless and prayers with u.
    vinod kumar menon

  32. Jugal, I and Raju Parulekar were discussing you last week and we thought that you must be busy chasing some stories in defense beat.
    But we didn’t have any idea that you are fighting such a tough battle, my friend.

    I have seen you always tirelessly running for the stories during our Yuva Newspaper days, Jugal you are a fighter, my friend. I can understand the pain of Cancer as my mother is also going through the same.

    Everything will be fine. Our Prayers are with you. You are a fighter and I am confident that you will be a winner.

    Please feel free to call me, if you feel I can be of any use for you.

    Get Well Soon. God Bless You.

    Kaptan Mali

    1. It’s very good to hear from you, Kaptan. Am very sorry to hear about your mother’s ailment. How are things with her now? I wish her and you all the very best.

  33. Hey Jugal,

    Didn’t know abt this.. But I still know u and Sapna and I know that you can fight and come out of this situation.. Reading this shocked me first but later I felt proud of you both.. Just take care of your health and pray daily.. Things will be awesome !! You are truly an inspiration !!
    Regards,
    Arvind Raman

  34. Dear Jugal, When we meet someone, we only look at the surface. When we look deeper we find the real person – strong and mature. You have a lot of work to do in this world. Be happy always:)

  35. Dear Jugal, I called your mother yesterday and enquired about you, as I was missing your smiling face and probing tone on TV. Keep on moving with your spirit and positive attitude, keep smiling and all other things will be taken care of by the Master

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