When this cute kid kicked Cancer’s butt!

When this cute kid kicked Cancer’s butt!

Hey people,

When I was a kid, I was intensely, madly, passionately in love with cricket. If you had have asked me what I wished to become once I grew up, the answer would be nothing but ‘a cricketer.’

I mean can you match that craziness of playing cricket whole day without worrying about, home, school, classes, any comic strips/ cartoons! Talk to me about the game, and I can talk for hours…I lived for Cricket and could see the same match for continuous many days till the time I would know the scoreboard numbers by heart.

Hi, this is Rohit, and this is my story of courage, determination, and fearlessness. 

This is a story of a twelve-year-old boy who fought a fierce battle against Cancer when he wasn’t aware of the seriousness of the disease. Let’s dive together to the memory lane.

Sometimes, real superheros live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.~ Anonymous

I remember that day of autumn was no different.

It was afternoon when I accidentally (or rather, fortunately) tripped while playing. For some reason, I couldn’t get up for a few seconds. Somehow my Dad sensed that something was wrong (You see, there is a reason they say that parents are God!). I had swelling in the left knee. Since the pain killers did not work for days, our family doctor asked for X-Ray of my knee. Later I was sent for MRI as he could sense something fishy.

And that’s how my journey with Cancer began in the year 2004. Ummm…Stupid Cancer, I was too little for this!

The MRI scan gave a clear picture that it was an initial stage Osteosarcoma, a kind of Bone Cancer in the knee (if you have watched The Fault in Our Stars, it’s the same disease Augustus Waters suffered). 

Within a week, I found myself at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Mumbai.

In those years, Cancer was not a disease much talked about. There was a stigma attached to it (there still it, but I guess it’s better now). My parents thought they would hardly find any patients in the hospital as we never heard anyone with this disease! ( I talked about stigma thing!). But we had a completely different picture altogether. With thousands of patients, this place looked nothing less than a ‘Mecca’ for Cancer patients where every patient had his own story.

And there I saw a million emotions in those quiet faces. But if you strike a conversation, they were more than happy to share their part of the world.

Their journey has stories of diagnosis, disappointment, and a ray of hope when they started their travel to this unknown city. After all, everyone needs a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry!

Once in TMH, they started their procedure with biopsy.

And it was tough I tell you! I still remember the pain it caused when the needle touched the bone. As I pen these lines, I still shiver with pain. The pain was so intense that I did not allow doctors to complete the process properly.

The thought of getting surgery scared me! No! Not because of the pain, but because of the fear.

Would I be able to walk again?

 How am I going to be a cricketer?

I saw my dreams getting shattered!

And then I resisted the treatment. ‘Oh! I can get well by medicines only!’

(The picture above is my parent’s favorite of all. They think I have incorporated all my childhood strength in this yellow color.) 

Somehow my sister convinced me to get admitted, and I trusted her words. I sometimes feel that being a kid can be one of the greatest blessings. This moment you are sad, and the other moment you find happiness in little things. You aren’t aware of any negativity in life!

Life is ‘fun’, ‘games’, and ‘happiness’ and that’s the best part of childhood!

Very soon, I knew the names of chemos instead of my classmates!

My treatment consisted of a total of nine chemotherapy cycles broken into  – three chemotherapy cycles, a total knee replacement surgery, and then six more chemotherapy cycles. Each chemotherapy cycle was for five days and it was intense. All the heavy medicine injections were given through a catheter tube (thin flexible tube) which went straight to the heart from the right elbow. The tube was there for the whole 8-9 months.

Since the chemotherapy had made me vulnerable to infections (due to low white blood cells), I was given injections for the next one week after every cycle to manage that. (Are you afraid of injection! Oh! I too belonged to the same category till they stopped scaring me!)

I wish it would end just this way, but wait there is more!

Chemotherapy does not come alone, it brings along with it other side effects of treatment too which includes weight loss, low appetite, no taste in food along with certain every food restriction to name a few, and I had them all.

For one year, I had to eat everything home-made boiled/cooked just so that my body did not have to fight another infection in between the treatment. But how could a Mom settle for tasteless food for her son even if it had to be boiled!

She would try to make the best of what she could every single time, even when she knew that I would vomit the food as soon as I take it! 

In those tough times, my parents were my pillars of strength though it was harder for them. Now when I ask them ‘What kept them going‘, I see their sheer determination of bringing me back on my feet.

They believe that there are equally good and bad times in life. If this phase is putting you down, you will equally have good times tomorrow. But for that to happen, you need to fight out this time with your heart.

I have ‘this mantra’ for my whole life now!

There is a small incident I remember which still occupies a big place in my heart.

And that was the support of my little young army of friends. One of my childhood best friends, Utkarsh visited me and brought cards sent by my school classmates. This kind gesture was more than enough to push me harder towards getting better, I now knew that I was surrounded by so many lovely people, and I looked forward to my bright days and my happening life with them.

I guess everything together helped me to recover faster!

Here is a little piece of advice from my heart to yours: When you love people, let them know. Tell them that they are valued, and there is a reason they are here. Your good words will help them move forward during their hard times.

As a young adult, the memories haunt me sometimes. When you are a kid, your mind is less occupied with ‘bad thoughts’.

But as you grow up, the negativity piles up and tries to make room in your heart. And here comes your will power to control the negative thoughts and keep a positive approach towards life. I have also learned to believe that whenever one finds himself in any crisis, it is important to keep your trust firm. Now that trust can be on your God, or any invisible power you believe in!

Many times when someone says that ‘I was too young to remember anything from my days of treatment’, it surprises me. Because it’s not easy to forget a major life event, and the pain you suffered. (Also, I was in Class Six, not a kid to forget things! I always knew how to smile. Any day! Can you see that above?  😉)

And Cancer is not a disease that happens to every other person (Thankfully. Phew)! Neither do such phases come and go. They always leave ineradicable traces in your mind and remind you to be thankful for whatever you have.

And here I am! Thankful to everything!

Thankful because I am here, breathing and living my life. It might not be the ‘best’ as per society’s standard, But there is life! There is always something to be thankful for, even if it not according to your expectations. If you enjoyed your life before cancer, then do not be afraid of life post-Cancer because you will find the beauty in your life again.

 If you are brave enough to start, you are strong enough to finish! ~ Gary Blair

I still have few scars on my body due to the treatment, surgery, and the catheter tube, but I am not afraid of them. Because they always remind me that I am stronger than whatever tried to hurt me!!

You see, I believe in magic! And years later my diagnosis, I am still a cricket lover (also a food lover now (sneak- peek into my world)). Who knows, a few years from now, you might see me in the stadium, if not playing cricket than may be accompanying Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box of Eden Gardens, and going for the famous snacks post the match. 😉 🙂

May we all learn to trust, grow and remember that ‘This too shall pass!’

Health and Healing on your way…

Rohit

P.S: Childhood Cancer is worse. When you are an adult, you can do things to take care of yourself, but as a kid, there is so much at stake! Whenever I visit the Childhood Cancer Center, my heart screams in pain. Please do share this story among your circle to let everyone know that there is faith, there is love, and there is healing too. This face needs love and recognition. ~ Ankita

How to face your fear AND befriend courage :)

How to face your fear AND befriend courage :)

Hey peeps,

Months ago, I was walking in the trail when I saw a beautiful deer. I was amazed. It’s not normal to see deer, and here it was, an alert, beautiful piece of art standing in front of me. It made me so happy that I decided to stand there so that I could watch it more. Few more movements when it didn’t recognize that it was being watched, however just as it came into the consciousness of being watched, it ran!

Hey! Hey! I am not gonna harm you! I didn’t move either. i just wanted to watch you. Please don’t run!

Ha! I wish it had listened to me, and faced it’s fear. May be we could be good friends, and I could bring home made food for it for my next trail visit! You missed a great opportunity my DEER!

Well, we do behave pretty similar when it comes to facing the fear. We panic, and the heart signals the mind to run! While it’s easy to run from an enemy, it gets nearly impossible to run from ‘Fear of Unknown’.

Fear of next doctor’s appointment.

Fear of talking to stranger.

Fear of speaking up in a meeting.

Fear of asking for a hike.

And the list is long enough to fill our day with virtual uncertainties, and jittery feelings.  While fear has some important message to convey, fighting with the feeling makes us skip the learning, and we get stuck fighting our inner demons. Here are some of MY go-to-methods. I hope it helps you too:

  • Invite them to tea: There are times things go out of control. You want to speak to someone, but you can’t. It’s something personal. An uncomfortable feeling runs in your body, and you want to run. It happens with me every time I have a doctor’s appointment. I don’t want share it with my husband as I feel like he is telling me same thing every month, and I still don’t get it. Lol. Anyone who lives with Cancer can tell you that how overcoming fear can be an ever-evolving process. I get up, I fall again, and the cycle continues. However, something I do many times is to ‘invite my fear to a tea party‘ where we chillax, and talk to each other about our needs. A warm cup of tea in my hand, and I sit in silence trying to sip in the fear, and ask myself, ‘What is something which is making me afraid?’ As we talk, ‘Fear‘ relaxes, loosen up, and so do I. It helps! At least till the time, it doesn’t knock me again!
  • Talk to friends/family: When ‘YOU’ can’t be your best friend, look for support. It Give your fear a voice. Call someone. Speak up. It’s perfectly fine if you want to cry. Cry your heart out. Feel the ‘feeling‘ again, and vent out every insecurity which is making your mind a battleground. Most of the times the other person would push you harder to make you climb the wall of courage however, even if doesn’t happen, you will see the walls of your fear falling down. You can see the other side, which is not that scary, I promise! (And in case you have no one to talk to, send me an email. I can be your ‘Fear buddy’.)
  • Meditate/Pray: Trust the divine, when you can’t trust yourself. In the last 3 years of my Cancer journey, there are days I have lost hope, I have cried infinitely, I wanted to jump from building, but I survived, and I am still standing strong. Something which helps me when nothing else does, is to remember the divine. I remember once I read in a book by ‘Wayne Dyer’ that he pulls an imaginary rope, and holds it whenever he feel down. The idea clicked me. While I cry, I just try to hold my cloth, or a bed sheet part, or anything and imagine that it’s God’s finger. Trust me, it works. It makes me calm. Somehow my inner child knows that she is being protected, and she is relaxed. There are many days when the only way I could sleep is by holding the pillow cover.
  • Fake it till you make it: Alfred Adler developed this therapeutic practice in 1920 where he asked to ‘fake‘ the feeling, till you get used to it. While there are times you just want to surrender to fear, ‘try’ putting a courageous face once. Every time I visit Cancer hospital, my inner child cries like anything. I want to run, scream, and do whatever could be done to avoid the visit. But, alas! I can’t. And therefore, I try to put a courageous face. I smile a lot. I talk a lot. To every receptionist, every nurse, every volunteer.

  Hey! I din’t feel any pinching while you took out blood. You know your job so well! Thank you!

  I like your watch. Where did you get this from?

  Hey Nicole, what’s the plan for Halloween? I am sure your son would be pretty excited.

Funny enough, now I know many staff from the hospital. Sometimes even when we don’t interact, I get a warm ‘I KNOW YOU‘ smile. No, No! I am not a courageous person, even though I am practicing this for last 3 years, but I surely have made some difference in my thought process, and in the lives of many people.

How do you get yourself to a point of believing? Start make-believing. Be like a child, and make-believe. Act as if you have it already. As you make-believe, you will begin to believe you have received.Rhona Byrne

  • Visualize: Have you tried visualization? It works! I remember when i had to teach Yoga in my building, I was scared like anything, I had never faced and talked to 10-15 people together, and then I thought of trying to visualize. And I swear, the actual experience turned out to be better! There are times you are afraid of a meeting, presentation, or you have a meeting with your manager. You want to give your best! Try visualization. Sit for 5-7 minutes. Imagine the scenario. How are you dressed, what are you talking about. Imagine yourself being confident, and talking about your points in a clear and concise way. And at the end imagine that the other person is happy with the conversation, and you too are proud of how you handled the situation. Try doing to as many times as you can. May be before going to bed, or just rising from bed. Tell me how it goes. 🙂 I can assure you that it’s gonna help you!
  •  Move your ass: This is nothing new I am gonna talk about. ‘Move you body’ buddy. Exercise releases hormones which makes your body relax. It helps clear the fog of your mind, so that you can see a clear path ahead, and know which way to proceed. Doesn’t matter if it is as simple as skipping, running or 15 minutes of Yoga. It will help you snap out to fear feedback loop.

Being afraid doesn’t make you inadequate. And I have never met anyone who is not afraid of ‘nothing‘. But everyone finds his/her way of dealing it. I see thousand faces of fear every month when I visit Hospital. Some look scared, while some hide it behind their face, some will accompany it to the prayer room, while some decide to cry.  And trust me, every form is beautiful in it’s own ways.

Fear is one of biggest enemy one can have! It’s lying there in a dormant state. Always! When triggered, it comes in various shapes, size, people, events, and experiences. But if you see clearly, it is trying to make you a better person. Either you face or surrender to it, both ways the universe is teaching you the best of it’s lessons, ‘Face it, even if you hate it or Let go of what you can’t control.’

Universe always gives you more than you would have asked for. If not a gift, may be a lesson, which is going to help you. Always!

What do YOU do to befriend your fear? Share in comments 🙂

May you face your fears, and spread courage, and positivity,

Ankita

 

My 10 days Vipassana meditation experience

My 10 days Vipassana meditation experience

Hiee people,

What will be your reply if someone asks you about your most memorable memory of life?

Hands down, for me it would be my 10 days Vipassana retreat experience. If you are into reading self-help and spiritual books, a little dig into the pages and everywhere you can read about ‘being grateful’ for little things.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” 

However, I could never connect to this feeling. I tried hard to feel grateful, but the miseries would hit my mind saying, ‘Duh! It’s fake! Isin’t it?’ And I would get back to my real world. My world which was full of pain, problems and mental agonies. But Vipassana helped me to see ‘MORE’, to be thankful to my body if not for anything else, for it exits and re-creates itself every moment to help me see everyone and everything I love!

It allowed me to understand that beyond my so called ‘miserable’ life situation, there is ‘LIFE’, which is primary, which is already whole, complete and perfect.

I guess its complicated to put it in words about how I felt, I would still give it a try to put down my day to day feelings about my stay.

So, here you go!!

  • Day 0: Husband and I left home at 3:30 in the evening as we had to reach the center before 5 pm and it was about an hour drive. 15 minutes remaining for the destination and suddenly we started moving on the roads surrounded by hills and big bamboo trees on both the sides. Who knew there would be a different world of awareness in between those woods hiding from our eyes! Once we signed in and got into our respective rooms (which was separate for men and women), we gathered in the dining hall where we did some formalities and met our course manager. Husband and I talked for the last time before 10 days silence and gave confidence to each other that we WOULD stay and complete the course. An hour later we gathered in the meditation hall where we met our respective Assistant Teachers. I had a blurred vision of my husband in that dim light standing at one corner on other side. First instruction for meditation was given and we went to sleep at 9:00 pm. (Do you see the gong in the picture?)
  • Day 1: The gong at 4:00 am reminded me of my school times. I was so excited to start the course that it didn’t take me time to get up. 4:30 am and I was in the meditation hall. Yuppie!! But then who knew that it would be a roller coaster ride! Two hours passed like two days as my mind couldn’t concentrate on breathing. 6:30 am to 8:00 am was breakfast time. And that we meditated again till 11:00 am. I could feel the anxiety now as my thoughts where dancing boogie-woogie on the floor of my mind. ‘I am screwed up!’. While eating lunch at 11:00 am, I felt like breaking the boundaries and run. ‘But then everyone around is eating silently!  Looks like I am an alien to this world. Phew!’  The next meditation spree started at 1:00 pm and continued till 5:00. Now I was super exhausted, more because of my mind. I remember my mind singing a bollywood song ‘kithe chali hai morni banke’ on a repeat mode. 😛 5:00 to 6:00 pm was snack/ dinner and tea time. At 6:00 we came back for another round of meditation and everyday’s Discourse (final thoughts) by Goenka ji (teacher who started this technique in India) where her would talk about next day schedule. I somehow managed to sit till 9:00 pm. Knowing that husband was there going through same mental chaos as mine gave me some relief and strength. My mind was super active with negative thoughts on bed, and I don’t remember when did I sleep.
  • Day 2: I had slept just for 4 hours and didn’t realize I have taken a good nap in the hall during morning meditation. ‘What am I doing? I am not here to sleep!’  Throughout the day I kept fighting with my sleep cycle though the mind was less chaotic, and I was able to sleep peacefully at 10:00 am. Strangely, I have started noticing my body sensations too.
  • Day 3: Day 3 was even better and it felt like I was enjoying the process. I was trying hard to find a way to know if my husband was doing okay. I was worried, ‘What if he runs away?’ Lol. The feeling of calmness was there throughout the day. With fewer naps than yesterday I managed to meditate almost 11 hours! I was happy I came here! Yaaay!!
        • Day 4: It started with the same routine but we would be getting actual meditation technique in the afternoon at 3:00 pm. The teacher said that for the last 3 days we were sharpening our mind AND attention to do Vipassana in a better way. However, I experienced something magical at 11:00 am. I was concentrating on my breath when my right hand started vibrating. It was very intense. I could feel it for 5-6 seconds and then it was gone. ‘What happened just now? It is said that we are made up of frequencies. Did I just experience that?‘ My teacher had an answer to it: ‘Observe it.’  My mind was like, ‘That’s it? Okay!’ In the afternoon we were given Vipassana technique.
      • Day 5: It was just half day that I had been practicing Vipassana, and I could feel my body getting heated up. My chest area, belly and pelvic area, hands, thighs, every part was burning.  But the technique said that we had to observe our sensations! Lol. Okay. By 7 pm my body was a coal mine. The heat made me feel like I would vomit and cry. Did I say that we were not allowed to move our body too. Ouch! Eckhart Tolle says that ‘every emotional pain we experience leaves behind a residue of pain which lives on in our body in dormant state. The moment you observe it with your presence, the identification is broken.’ (‘Read Power of NOW.)  I could relate. I guess I was holding too much of anger. While returning back to my room at 9:00 pm I noticed that I had a back pain 3 years ago (which I thought was gone) had resurfaced! Day 5 ended as a painful day. Though I was still going strong! 
       

      • Day 6: I expected that my morning would begin with same heat in my body, but it was different. The heat had subsided a little. It had now localized to some areas and was less intense. ‘When you become a watcher, pain-body or negative energy will continue to operate for a while. Since it has certain momentum, it would keep turning for a while and may create physical aches and pains. Be present. It will go away- Eckhart Tolle’. Now I could relate to what I had read in his book. By afternoon, many other body parts started paining again. When I asked my teacher about it, she had same answer for every question I had, ‘Observe it’.  Urgh!
      • Day 7: Oh! My teacher was so true! The shoulder pain got less intense! However, my whole body was sore. Day went by and I kept meditating. But at 9:00 pm when I went to bed I had some weird experience. I was trying to sleep observing my sensations when I felt a sudden surge of energy. It felt like there was a part in my body (lung area) where there was no blood flow for many years, and suddenly energy started flowing there after ages. I felt good for sometime, but as soon as the mind got into action, the sudden flow of energy made me scared. I suddenly switched on the light out of fear. ‘What was that? Something supernatural? I want to run. Should I bang manager’s door? Is there a way to escape?’ I was scared, scared of the experience, scared to quietness, scared of myself. The whole hostel was quiet. It felt like it was just me and my mind screaming and daunting. ‘I am not meditating for remaining 3 days. I will just walk in the woods, and stay in the room. God! Please help me.’

      • Day 8: I skipped morning meditation at 4:30 am but then there was this breakfast thing at 6:30 am. The morning felt a bit lighter and better. The mood made me go to the meditation hall once again. ‘Oh! Today is not as bad as expected!’. Accepting all my negative thoughts and emotions, I kept meditating. However, today I took more breaks, walked in woods, soaked the sun and drank the wind. I guess that’s what they mean to say when they say that nature heals. The environment made me calm, and I geared up to start my practice again. I was back on the mat and realized being much lighter. The body was still heated and soared but it was less painful as compared to day 5. My back pain too was almost gone, and it felt like I had released some weight I was carrying on my shoulders. 
      • Day 9: There were so many  ‘Go to home’, and ‘Stay here’ moments. The feeling continued throughout the day. One hour I was miserable and another hour, I was Okay. But then somewhere I knew, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. It was good that course was coming to an end else I would have a mental breakdown.
      • Day 10: Hurrah! We could talk today! Just after morning meditation session from 8-9 am, we were allowed to talk to each other. Everyone started chatting like anything! But I was still in the mood of quietness. I took my lunch plate and sat in the corner alone without talking to anyone. Suddenly a  girl passed by and said, ‘Looks like you still want to enjoy the serenity’. ‘Yes, I am just sinking in the feeling’.Please go! I don’t want to extend the communication’, my mind said. Few minutes of conversation with my husband in the dining area, and I felt like pouring my heart and crying. Any ways, we had to maintain the separation of men and women till day 11 when the course was about the end. I couldn’t sleep at night. There was a mixed feeling. I wanted to go/I wanted to stay. But the fact is that this experience was life changing. I thanked everyone around mentally for being a part of this thrilling experience and slept peacefully.
      • Day 11: We all gathered in the meditation hall in the morning. The final lecture with Goenka ji, and I bowed down in front of meditation hall for everything it had given me in last few days. I now knew I was tough. I now knew I could endure pain with a happy face. There was a feeling of exaltation and heightened awareness, as if something within me said, ‘This too shall pass. Stay present! Enjoy till it lasts!’ Funny enough, my 3 years of meditation experience was nothing as compared to what I had experienced in these 10 days, and still it was just the beginning. And I owed everything to this place! 

      I remember leaving my room with my bag when I saw two girls standing outside. We smiled looking at each other and suddenly I said, ‘Thank you guys for being a wonderful companion in my 10 days journey. I hope to see you all soon.’ And this time I really felt grateful saying this!

      As I listened to my inner voice, it whispered, ‘Dhamma Torana ! I will be back again! ‘

      Much love and peace on your ways…

      Ankita