Bouncing Back-Remission in Cancer

22nd July, 2019

Some of you have been wondering why I have not posted anything in over a month. Few also inquired if all was good. In my last post (11th June) I did mention that I was discontinuing the ‘daily diary’ and would only update the page, if I had something significant to share.

Well I am happy to say that all is good. I started going to office and stepping out for work from the beginning of this month. In fact I have also been out in the field testing some new cars, and it feels great to be back behind the wheel.  About 10 days back, I also had the port (which was fitted in my chest to inject the chemotherapy drugs) removed by Dr. Murad Lala, who had inserted it in the first week of April. He very efficiently and smoothly carried out the minor surgical procedure in the casualty ward of Hinduja Hospital, and sent me home in less than an hour!

As I have mentioned before, Dr. Murad Lala is an Everester and also a keen automotive enthusiast. All through the procedure to remove the port which was done with local anesthesia, we were talking about some new SUVs and their off-roading capabilities. In fact time permitting; Dr. Murad Lala may even join me and the Overdrive Team on some road tests in the future.

I must mention here that I have been extremely fortunate in being treated and looked after by some of the finest doctors in our country, like Dr. Srinivas, Dr. Asha Kapadia, Dr. Murad Lala and of course my friend and family physician, Dr. Shekhar Shah. They have all played a huge role in putting me on the road to recovery.

There are few other things I would like to share.

1. Chemotherapy is not as bad as it’s made out to be. Yes like many others, when I went in for the chemo, I had all these pre-conceived notions about how horrible and difficult it would be. In fact one cancer survivor (who had been through several sessions of chemo herself) told me, “If the cancer does not get you, the chemo will”. Now having gone through the chemo myself, I can confidently state she was wrong, and chemo is definitely not as bad as it’s made out to be.

Sure there were days when I felt miserable and as Dr. Kapadia says, I was also one of the unfortunate ones to suffer some of the worst side effects of the chemo drugs. But no, it was certainly not that bad. It is doable and a positive attitude surely helps, as do positive people around you.

 Given this I have a request for you all – in case you know anyone going for chemo, please do not scare or discourage them. Give them the courage and belief that they can conquer this challenge too. Take it from me it’s not that bad, and can be done, especially if you have proper help, care and support.

2. The other thing is the word “Cancer” itself. It’s like taboo, nobody wants to even utter the word or speak of it. Because of this stupid attitude in our society, people who are unfortunate enough to get a cancer, have this additional burden of hiding it and being in fear of “what people will say”. It’s high time we accepted that cancer is a reality and a disease that afflicts millions in our country. And it’s not a “Crime to get Cancer”. But I think it’s definitely a crime to make someone who has cancer, feel ashamed or small about it.

3. Should one go for conventional modern cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, etc, or opt for alternate treatments. Very honestly, it’s purely a personal choice. As far as I am concerned, I believe alternate treatments are best defined as those without evidence of result. Yes, personally I do believe that presently the best form of cancer treatment is allopathy. And no I do not believe that ‘cow urine’ can cure cancer.

Hi, this is turning out to be one of my longest posts; I better end soon, before I am called a bore.  The question I am often asked is “Now what”? Well, medically I need to go for blood tests every month just to see all blood levels and things like renal function are in order. I also need to go for a bi-monthly ultrasound test and maybe in September, for a full body pet scan, just to check that the cancer is not coming back. As promised to my doctors, I shall very diligently do these tests, but frankly I now dread these examinations, because I do not want to fail in them.

In the meanwhile, I aim to live my live fully (as I think I always have) and be happy, and also make my loved ones as happy as I can. I also hope to do some work on improving road safety and would like to visit our protected forest areas far more often too.  It’s now four months that I have not been on an aircraft or gotten into a car and gone on a road trip. That has to change, and soon. It’s possibly the longest time in the last 20 years or so that I have not been out of Bombay. And the nomad within me is calling. Have to answer this call of the road soon. Take care and stay happy and healthy.

At a gathering of SUVs
Feels great to be back in the field
Been doing some off-roading too
At a lake near Udaipur
The wife is delighted we have started traveling again
Picnic time with friends

31st August, 2019

Hello, wishing you all a “Great Ganesh Festival” in advance. Just wanted to update that I have started traveling and resumed almost all normal activities. Thanks again for your kind words and wishes. Shall post some recent photos from the field soon.

13th October, 2019

Hello everybody. I have not written anything for almost a month and a half now, so I thought it’s time for an update.

Thanks to all the good wishes from so many of you, and great care by my super team of doctors and my wife Madhu, I am fortunately doing quite well. I am back to work and have resumed all my normal activities and even went into the wilderness recently with my dear friend Commander H.K. Singh.

But, there are a few things I want to share. When I meet people now after this cancer treatment of mine, I get a feeling that several who are aware of my illness, are curious to know if I am really cured. And how I can be so normal and eating almost everything heartily, and also enjoying my drinks.   Well, it’s quite simple really. As any good doctor will tell you, after you undergo treatment for cancer, they do not say you are cured until you have been free of the disease for 5 years at least. The term they like to use is “you are cancer free”. For now that is. 

Obviously the situation can change, because such is the nature of this disease.  And I am fully aware of this.  I finished my chemotherapy treatment in June, after the full-body PET scan showed I was cancer free. My next scan should be done 6 months later, which is in December or January. In the meanwhile I get USGs of the area the cancer was last detected in, done every 2 months. And the USGs done in end July and September, did not detect anything. So I am hopefully clean for now.

In the meanwhile, I am not going to stop living. In fact right from the day I was detected with the cancer, I had decided that “I will not stop living, until I am actually dead”. From whatever my doctors tell me, this attitude to fight the disease and not stop living and enjoying life, is something that has helped my treatment and recovery.

They say “This disease of cancer is fought at least 50 percent in the mind”. Today I will let you in on a little secret. Even in between my chemotherapy cycles, I was enjoying a drink or two. Not secretly or anything, but with the permission of my doctors and wife.

The gap between each chemo cycle was 21 days, and on the 7th day after the end of the cycle I would pour myself a single malt or cognac, while enjoying some music or a movie at home.  I did not want to live and behave like a cancer patient even when the treatment was on. So why now.

I have always believed in living life to the full, and that is something I will strive to see does not change till my very last day on this planet. BUT, I must confess I have been very lucky with the timely detection of my cancer, the right treatment and the suitable response from my body and mind.

I have fortunately had tremendous support from my wife Madhu and entire family, my Man Friday Raja and my colleagues at Overdrive, etc. Having seen so many other cancer patients in hospital during my treatment, I fully realize that every individual’s case and situation is different. The treatment, response, recovery, all varies from person to person.

 I wish all cancer patients everywhere all the very best and pray for their complete recovery. The only suggestion I have for them is- “Fight hard and fight well. And don’t give up living. Not until your last breath.” Because, “Life is what you make it, and one day we have to leave it all behind, anyway”.

Recently went on a driving holiday to a wildlife sanctuary
At a FRH (Forest Rest House) with Commander H.K. Singh
Delightful to be back in the wilds

14th October, 2019

Hi, there is something few of you have inquired about, but I missed mentioning in yesterday’s post. Have I recovered fully from the after and side effects of the chemotherapy treatment?

Let me try and explain this simply. Cancer germinates and grows in some cells of the body. One of the ways to treat it is chemotherapy, where you are given strong and suitable drugs that kill cells. But, we still don’t have the technology to only selectively target the cells where the cancer has sprouted.

 So while the chemotherapy medicines attack and try killing the cancerous cells, they also kill the good and normal cancer free cells. Simply because they cannot distinguish between them. This is the collateral damage and biggest side effect of chemotherapy and is clearly visible in things like loss of hair.

But the side effects do get reversed in time and I have firsthand experience of this. Unfortunately some side effects can stay, and may or may not go away with time.  In my case I had mentioned that I had developed acute tinnitus, where I had a constant ringing in my ears and any and every loud noise, particularly the tinny sounding ones, caused distress and pain.

This has now subsidized to a large extent and though there are some medicines available for symptomatic treatment, on the advice of my most trusted family physician, Dr. Shekhar Shah, I chose to bear the tinnitus and let time cure it. I have also learnt to live with it and am now able to ignore it to a large extent.

Another thing that I experience regularly is tingling and numbness in my hands and feet.  Again Dr. Shekhar has asked me to ignore this and if possible, avoid taking any medicines for it. And I am adhering to that and keep convincing my mind to not let little things like this, bother or restrict me in any way.

My kidneys which had also undergone a lot of stress during the chemotherapy are better, but still not up to full speed.  So I do regular renal profile tests, magnesium level tests, etc. And I do have to take a few pills as supplements for magnesium, iron, etc.

This is again something I have taken in my stride and don’t let it hassle me. In any battle, there is some collateral damage, and I too have suffered some in my fight against cancer. My memory has become a bit lazy too, and at times I do struggle to remember names and things from the past.

The reason I thought I should spell out all this, is that nobody should get the wrong impression that everything is just as it was before the onset of my cancer, and the subsequent treatment. But like I have said earlier, in my case chemotherapy was fortunately not as bad as its made out to be, and my recovery has been easier as I have learnt to ignore the little niggles and irritations. Possibly it’s got a lot to do with your approach to the situation, and your state of mind.

12th December, 2019

Hi, I have not written anything about my health for almost two months, so here is an update. Have been doing my bi-monthly USG scan and other blood tests and so far all is good. I have also recovered most of my strength and stamina and in recent months have resumed traveling like before. In fact just last week, I spent 5 wonderful days in the Pench Tiger Reserve, in Central India.

In my recent travels, I have had the opportunity to catch up with some friends and also colleagues. And the response from most to my cancer treatment and recovery has been very heartwarming. In fact a colleague who I actually am not that close to, warmly shook my hand when we met and said lets go get a drink, I have been waiting eagerly to have one with you! There was no talk of my illness or anything, but it was so obvious that he was genuinely happy to see me back. Ever since I have a lot more respect and regard for him and now consider him a genuine well-wisher and friend.

While the attitude of most has been similiar, there are few people who I just cannot understand.  I have had comments like, “Oh you are looking good. Who would believe that you were in hospital for chemotherapy just few months back”? Or this person who said, “How can you be this normal and living like before? You should be more careful you know”. Their attitude is almost like – why are you not behaving like a cancer patient and why are you not sad and low? They don’t want you to forget and move forward and have a good time. My response – screw you.

I guess we all have few negative people around us, but right from the day I discovered I had cancer; I decided I would not stop living until I was actually dead. And now I am even more determined to ignore these negative people and their petty remarks.

Life is what you make it, and I intend to live mine fully for as long as I can. And to me it’s never been about how long you live, but how you live that matters.  So next week I embark on a motoring holiday to Rajasthan with my dear wife Madhu. And I am sure the pleasure of the longish (about 12 days) road journey, will be equal to the delights of the destination. Wishing you all a “Great 2020” in advance.

Also photographed the master of camouflage - the Indian scops owl
At a forest chowky in Pench Tiger Reserve
Saw this Indian Roller in Pench

4th February, 2020

Today is “World Cancer Day”, an international day to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.  And I am happy to report that I met my fantastic onco-surgeon Dr. Srinivas last evening, and as per my blood tests and scans done on the weekend, all looks good.

But the weighing scale and the tightness of my clothes clearly show that I have been ‘living it up’, a bit too much. The Doc noticed too and asked me to take it easy on the food and also drink, because there are about 130 calories in 60 ml of whisky -which is more than in a pint of beer!

This makes me wonder – why are all the things that one enjoys, not nice for you? Just a little over 6 months back, I was getting treated for cancer and struggling to eat even a little. Now that I am fortunately well and want to enjoy all the good things in life, I need to go easy. Bloody hell.

 But as I have been very fortunate to get a second chance, I think I owe it to my wife Madhu and my family, and all my near and dear ones, that I look after my health. While this is something I shall start doing, I have never lived like a patient (not even when I was sick), and it’s something that will not change even now. Because what is life- if you don’t live it up and do the things you like. 

Finally on this “World Cancer Day”, I wish everyone good health and happiness. But even if you are unfortunate to get this disease, let me tell you from personal experience, that it’s best to fight and not give in. Because with the right attitude, correct treatment, good wishes and prayers of your loved ones, and some luck, “Cancer Can Be Beaten”. So come on, “Don’t Give Up, Rise Up to the Challenge of Cancer”.

Recently met His Excellency, The Governor of Punjab, V.P Singh Badnore at an event in Chandigarh
Also met General Ved Malik, Former Chief of Army Staff, who ably led us during the Kargil War
With Lt. General A.N.Kaul and Lt.Gen Jaswal - the true heroes of our nation

23rd March, 2020

It’s been a while since I posted anything here and now that everyone is ‘Social Distancing’ by being even more active on ‘Social Media’, I thought it might be the right time to share a few thoughts.

This corona that has everyone running for cover, is said to be particularly perilous for senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems, including cancer patients in treatment.

Last year in April, I began undergoing chemotherapy which severely affected my immune system, because chemo kills all the bad and good cells in your body. My chemo ended in June and since then my immune system and white blood cell count has improved, but is unlikely to ever be like what it was before.

And I was just reading somewhere that many hospitals including the Tata Memorial have postponed the chemotherapy of many patients to protect them from getting into a battle with the corona virus, when their immune system will be at its weakest. While this may be a prudent step, I wonder how long they can keep the chemo-therapies on hold, especially of those that are already in between cycles.

What a strange world we live in. Last year I was cursing my luck because I had to undergo chemo, and now I am blessing my stars that my chemo did not happen at the same time as this corona shit!

While my best wishes are with everybody at this time of crisis, my strongest prayers are for those with compromised immune systems and everyone battling cancer. I wish them all strength and urge them to fight courageously. I am confident if we stay strong and fight ferociously, we can crush this corona. It really is a time to put “Mind Over Matter” and prove that the mind has the power to control and influence what happens in our bodies.

Would also like to tell you that ever since I was declared cancer free, I have been going into the wilderness at every given opportunity. Over the next few days, I will share some photos from my various “jungle jaunts”. Stay safe and isolated.

27th March, 2020

This corona thing is scary. Last few days I have been closely following the havoc it’s creating in places like Italy, Spain, the U.K, U.S and other parts of the world. Some of the photos and videos of what misery people are going through have honestly, scared the shit out of me.

Last April I started my chemotherapy and at that time some people hinted or even said, “If the cancer doesn’t get you, the chemo will”. Fortunately I survived both. And just as I was beginning to believe that the worst is behind me and I can again start planning for the future, appears this bloody corona.

All through the cancer treatment, I was never fearful of death. I knew things could go bad, but was also aware that if I fought hard, I may survive. But with this corona – what fight? With the cancer one could seek medical advice and plan the course of treatment. It was like drawing up a battle plan. But so far, nobody knows how to battle and cure corona. You are at its mercy. It will get into your body, sooner or later. And then it will fight with your immune system. And the victor?? Only time can tell.

I am fully aware that after the chemo, I have a somewhat compromised immune system. But I am still trying hard to let go of the fear, and live as well as one can in this lockdown. When I see reports of how our poor and homeless, and migrant workers are suffering, I realize how fortunate I am to be comfortable in my home and able to even sip some whisky every evening. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. I promise if I come out of this corona crisis, I will certainly celebrate, but will also try and live a different life. A life in which I will hopefully also do some good for our people and society. Enough of this materialistic world and living for self. It’s time to change that is if corona gives you a chance.

1st April, 2020

Today it’s exactly one year since a PET scan showed I had active cancer in two lymph nodes. Three days later on 4th April 2019, I created my cancer chronicle page and put my first ever post on Facebook. On 8th April, 2019, I was admitted to hospital and a day later my first cycle of chemotherapy started. Fortunately I recovered and after being declared cancer free, resumed my normal life.

Looking back I find it so ironic that when I was discharged from hospital on 13th April, 2019, this is what I had posted, “Because of the chemotherapy my WBC (white blood cell) count and platelets will drop making me very vulnerable to infections. So I need to take a lot of care – like eating properly cooked and hygienic food, and having a protein rich diet with enough calories. I also need to stay away from crowded areas and meet as few people as possible”.

Yes, last year just around this time, I had to go into self-imposed isolation due to my cancer treatment. And once again this corona virus has curbed all movement. How strange is that???

9th April, 2020

Last April I was locked down due to chemotherapy to treat my cancer. And again this April I am in lock down along with most of the rest of the world, due to COVID-19.  Is it a co-incidence that both Cancer and Corona start with “C”.Whatever it is, I certainly don’t like April anymore.  Now where is that fast forward button, can we hit it please, and move forward. To a world where we have a cure for both Cancer and Corona. Come on all you smart researchers, doctors, scientists and innovators, and inventors – the world is counting on your brilliance.

30th April, 2020

Hearing about Rishi Kapoor, I was personally quite dismayed, because he was a cancer patient too. He went to the US for treatment just a few months before I got diagnosed with the disease. Compared to my treatment, he fought a relatively long and hard battle, and when he returned looking and feeling good, I also felt like I had been a part of his victory. Unfortunately though he appeared to have recovered, he is gone. Such is life.

I want to share a little anecdote. Several years back I was on a long international flight and Rishi Kapoor was sitting in the adjacent row. I went up to him and said I was a big fan and that I had got my nickname thanks to his film Bobby, which I watched so many times, that my friends and late elder brother started calling me “Bobby” too. On hearing this he had a good laugh.

A little later the drinks were served and when I was on my second or third whisky, Rishi Kapoor who was also drinking turned to me and said, “Since it looks like you enjoy your drink, let me tell you something about us Kapoor’s. We are known for our blue eyes and love for Johnnie Walker Black Label”.

That was the only time I met this fantastic actor, and today once again I would like to say “cheers” to him. RIP and keep enjoying that drink.

15th August, 2020

Today is our 74th Independence Day, and I wish for “Freedom from COVID-19”. I also wish we are soon free from the “Corona Confinement”.  Actually there are quite a few things I want. Freedom from bad and sad news. Freedom from false news and tall claims. Freedom from stress and worry.Freedom from fear. Freedom from not being able to meet near and dear ones. Freedom from not being able to go out to eat and drink. Freedom from not being able to travel. Freedom from working from home.

For the first time in my life I have actually realised how much I took for granted. Simple things like giving a hug, or sitting beside someone, is not possible now. Every cough or sniffle gets you worried. 

Yes, one virus has completely changed our lives. And I am not even sure if we will ever be able to return to our earlier ways of life. COVID-19 has also taught me some other important lessons, the most important being “Frugal Living”. For over 5 months I have not worn any formal or fancy clothes. It’s just shorts and T-shirts.

Given this, I have decided I shall no longer get any more expensive suits. Same for upmarket watches and other such branded stuff. In the lock-down, I finished all my stock of scotch, which surely contributed to retaining my sanity. Now Indian made whisky is perfectly fine. 

It is said change is inevitable. It is also said “All great changes are preceded by chaos”. But I don’t think the “COVID Change” is something any of us ever anticipated or wanted.

 Last year this time, I was happy to have finished my cancer treatment and was looking forward to going back to living a normal life. This year, I am waiting for Corona to cease, so I can go back to living a normal life. Two years in a row, I have dealt with the “Big C”. First Cancer, and now the fear and fallout’s of Corona. Can someone please find a way to “Crush these C’s”?