2nd Cycle of Chemotherapy

29th April, 2019

It’s ‘Election Day’ in Mumbai and the allotment of the room at Hinduja Hospital gets a bit delayed. By 2.00 pm I am in the room and soon after the chemotherapy nurse comes by to insert the needle into my port to begin injecting the various preparation medicines, which will be followed by the actual chemo drugs.

The nurse gets the needle in fairly quickly, but while she is flushing (cleaning) the port she realizes that though the medicines are going in well (although I feel some pain which was not there earlier), there is no reverse flow. This is like a breather or overflow pipe, and if the inlet pipe gets jammed or has slow flow for some reason, then the fluids come out of the reverse flow tube. Though the nurse tries putting the needle in once again, she does not get the reverse flow.

 So Dr. Atul (Dr. Asha Kapadia’s assistant), decides that I should go to the DSA (Digital Subtraction Angiography) OT room where the port had been implanted 3 weeks back to have it checked out. There Dr. Kulkarni very expertly slips in another new needle and injects through it a contrast liquid and immediately starts tracking its progress on the screen. He informs me that some fibers had grown and accumulated around the port tubes and this is a normal reaction of the body to deal with foreign bodies.

 In less than five minutes it’s all cleared up and the good doctor sends me back to my room for the chemotherapy to start, saying now even the back flow is working. This is the second time I have been to the DSA, and am truly impressed by the efficiency of the doctors there.

After I get to the room the pre-therapy preparations start and I am back to the treatment regimen and practices described on 9th April 2019 on the 1st Chemo Cycle page.

Changed and connected again with the drug infusion pump and station
Illustration of the Huber-Point needle, catheter line, clip and connector that need to be installed in the port before the chemotherapy can start
Needle and connectors installed in port ready to receive the drugs

30th April, 2019

This time I have been admitted to a different room on another floor. But it’s an equally nice room and has a sea view too. This being my second chemo cycle, I have settled in faster.  In the morning the barber also comes by and I ask him shave-off my hair and moustache.Yes, choosing to get rid of the hair on my own, feels so much better than seeing it drop off due to the side effects of chemotherapy.

But the thing that I am not all relishing at all is the hospital food. For some reason I find it a lot more unpalatable this time and have to force myself to eat it. I decide to speak to the dietitians and doctors, and try and find some solution.

I am sure I am not the only patient disappointed with the food. And when you are in a hospital for treatment, you obviously need to eat as much nutritious food as you can.

Many illnesses and medicines result in loss of appetite too. So in my opinion any good hospital like Hinduja, needs to focus more on making their food inviting and delicious to even those who have a loss of appetite. 

Yes, I know it’s easier said than done. But I am also sure it can be done. We in India now have many celebrity chefs and creative cooks, hundreds of food shows and events, and all these ‘food people’ should be approached and asked to come up with the best ‘Hospital Meals’. I think I will forward this suggestion to the senior management of Hinduja Hospital with a request to please do something to improve the food.

Think shaving it off is far better than watching it go because of the chemo.
Barber begins his job. I rather remove the hair, than watch it fall every day.
This guy is happy that I am getting my hair shaved, out of choice.
Going, going, gone.
There goes my moustache. Goodbye, until we meet again.
All new clean shaven chemo look.

1st May, 2019

I have quickly settled into the chemo routine. But being in hospital is getting a bit boring. Actually when this treatment to cure my cancer started on 8th April, everything went by so quickly that I was fully occupied with what was happening and the reactions to medicines, etc.

But now boredom is catching up and I am beginning to feel kind of confined too and can’t wait to start moving out again like before. An outdoors person like me, staying indoors for so long, is something I still have to adjust to, and doubt if I ever will.

Think I shall go into a bit of flashback mode again.

Some friends and family have been asking why I did not share in October 2018 itself, that I was having a surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. Honestly I do not have a good enough explanation. Actually it all happened so fast and so suddenly initially, that one did not even have time to formulate thoughts properly or do any sort of deep thinking.

And when the doctors were so confident that the cancer would in all likelihood not return after the surgery, I felt it was best to just keep quiet about the whole thing. Of course people got to know about the surgery and I also did share that I was undergoing an operation, without exactly providing details what it was for.

Some knew it was surgery to remove a lump in the groin and others were given to understand that it was a hernia of some sorts. Only my wife and few persons extremely close to me knew the exact nature of the surgery.

I know this has upset some family members, who feel I was wrong in not confiding in them. And I wish to apologize and say a big ‘Sorry’ to all of them. While I do not want to justify my decision in anyway, I must say that I was discreet about it, as I did not want anybody to get too concerned unnecessarily.

And yes, more importantly, at that point in time I did not have the ‘courage to confront this cancer head-on’. And like so many others decided to keep quiet about it and hoped it would just go away. But not anymore. I know and understand now, that this is a disease I must not hide, but instead fight.

And once again I will sign off with the words I wrote a few days’ back, “Hamein mita sakai, yeh cancer mein dum nahin, cancer hum mein hai, cancer me hum nahi”. 

Or “The cancer does not have the power to destroy me, the cancer is inside me, I am not inside the cancer”.

2nd May, 2019

Chemo is on, and life goes on. No major complaints and I am grateful for that. Both Dr. Srinivas and Dr. Asha Kapadia came and met me today. According to them the treatment is proceeding well and their calm confidence is very reassuring.

Having such great doctors who are always willing to dialogue and share their views, is just as vital as the medicines and treatment. I am learning a lot about doctor and patient relations and can see that Dr. Kapadia’s consultants and assistant doctors like Dr. Suparna, Dr. Atul and Dr. Priyal are also hugely benefiting and gaining from her poise and the self-assured manner in which she carries herself.

I shall take the liberty of saying that Dr. Srinivas is now more of a friend, and we talk lot more informally about a variety of things. I am delighted to hear he has just finished writing his second book and is looking for a good publisher cum distributor. Hope to be able to help him find a good one. If you know anyone wanting to publish this top surgeons book, please do let me know.

3rd May, 2019 

As mentioned on 30th April, 2019, I shaved my moustache and head to avoid seeing my hair falling off due to the chemotherapy. And it actually felt good doing it out of choice.

But now I am noticing some new things. My moustache or even beard is not growing and I have no need to shave. No other hair is growing either. There is a slight growth which you see in an adolescent, and this feels so strange, because just like back then, I am once again wondering when I will fee a full growth of facial hair? And I am being told it will be quite a few months (or maybe more) till any real growth starts.

This is because chemotherapy drugs are powerful medications that attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, these drugs also attack other rapidly growing cells in your body — including those in your hair roots.

Later in the day I am informed the infusion of chemo drugs today will be the last of this second cycle (four in all) and I shall be discharged tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

4th May, 2019

Was discharged this morning and delighted to be going home. Two down, two to go.

Back at home get lots of calls from family and friends, and also many messages, especially from friends who are not in the same city or those that I have not been in touch with for a while. All are a huge source of strength and a great support system. This entire cancer thing has taught me, or reinforced something one has been hearing for long, “It’s during testing times that you learn who really cares for you”.

Now onwards, even if I may not wish someone on their birthdays, or at other such joyous times, I will certainly try and at least get a message to them when they are going through any difficulties. I know from personal experience, that it makes a big difference.

5th May, 2019

I started throwing up quite severely last night. And it continued more or less through the day. The doctors have prescribed some medicines and asked me to stay hydrated. But keeping anything down is difficult. Maybe I spoke to soon when I said some days earlier, “That chemo is not as bad as it’s made out to be”. Today has been possibly the worst day of this entire cancer thing. 

6h May, 2019

Had a very uncomfortable night. Am getting weak and can hardly sit-up or get out bed. Don’t feel like eating or drinking anything. The doctors advise my wife to get some tests done. The Metropolis Lab guys are very helpful and not only rush someone home at short notice to get my blood, but also give the reports in just two hours. Very efficient.

My electrolytes have fallen dangerously low. The doctors ask I be brought to the Hinduja Hospital emergency ward. We reach hospital by about 5.30 pm, but all beds in emergency are occupied. There are just too many people who need help. Doctor Asha Kapadia’s assistant, Dr. Priyal, examines me while I am sitting there and decides to admit me. I am very weak and barely able to walk, or even talk properly.

Getting a room at short notice is never easy, but a couple of hours later I am in one and then in a bit of a while the port in my chest is connected to the drug infusion machine and all the medical fluids start flowing in. Gradually I start feeling better. This has been another tough day in the battle against cancer. I must reluctantly admit, these last two days, it’s got the better of me. But I am not giving in. The fight is on and the next round shall be mine.

7th May, 2019

Start feeling much better and am sitting up, and even moving about a bit. The infusion of all those medical fluids has helped. The blood tests confirm that things are on the upswing. The storm has been weathered. But the doctors don’t want me to go home yet. They rather keep me under observation in the hospital for another day. I am asked to take as much food and liquid orally as I can.

But the unappetizing hospital food does not do anything to stimulate my already weak appetite. I think if there is one thing about this entire treatment process I shall have nightmares about later, it will be the insipid hospital food.

The good thing is I am allowed ice-creams and tetra pack juices, and these are the only things I enjoy having while in hospital.

8th May, 2019

It’s been a far more comfortable night and I am feeling much better. The lab collection guy comes at 6.30 am and takes my blood for the various tests. Around 9.30 am, Dr. Suparna visits and says the reports are far better and when Dr. Kapadia comes in later in the morning, she shall take a call on sending me home.

Soon after, Dr. Priyal is there to examine me and she says the same thing after checking me and the reports. At 11.00 am the news comes, Dr. Asha Kapadia has decided I am fit to go back home.

In just 3 days, I have lost over 5 kgs! Normally I would be thrilled at losing weight, but not in this manner and not at this stage of my treatment. So I have been advised to eat small meals every few hours, and yes, the ice-creams are to continue. Bring it on.

9th May, 2019

Woke up feeling better than I have in many days. Given that the energy levels are back, I decide to finish some important pending work like medical insurance claims, etc, that has piled up. One of these days I must write about the benefits of having a proper and good medical insurance cover from a reputed company like Bajaj Allianz. I will also share my experiences and suggestions about this soon.

Most of the day goes in sorting bills and receipts, doctor’s reports and hospital discharge summaries, etc, and then preparing a proper folder to send them to my most efficient and professional insurance agent, Deepak Nichani, who I have known for over 30 years now.

10th May, 2019

Some have asked how come I have such a positive attitude towards this treatment. Well positive or not, I do not know. But one thing I can say is I am realistic about this cancer thing.

 Most of my life I have loved going away to unspoilt areas and spending time amongst nature and its immense beauty. What I have become aware of is it that in the last few decades, we have completely plundered our planet.

Running blindly behind this thing called ‘development’, we in India have almost entirely decimated our natural wealth and done incalculable damage to our environment. Our waters, soil, air, food, everything is polluted and getting increasingly toxic with each passing day.

To me, development is equal to improving the quality of life of the citizens of your country. To our government, authorities, and even many Indians, development is construction of massive factories, malls, and concrete jungles at the cost of forests and environment. All this has led to a massive spurt in diseases like cancer.

If the very air you breathe and water and food you consume does you harm, who is safe from such diseases. While I am distressed and disappointed with this state of affairs in our country, I am also realistic enough to understand that it’s the fallout of all this destruction of our natural environment that has bitten me in the form of this cancer.

But I am determined to fight it, and once I beat it, I intend to spend lots more time away from our cities and in the unspoilt areas. Who knows how long before we destroy even the bit of what is left.

11th May, 2019

I am to take the last white blood cell booster shot of this chemo cycle today. Every day, for the last week, I have been taking two booster shots to stimulate the growth of WBC’s or white blood cells. While I have become quite adept at giving myself these shots in my tummy, it will be a relief to take a break as they do cause some body ache and pain in the joints.

And since I am generally feeling lot better, it’s also off most other medications for now. Just having freshly cooked food and trying to eat healthy and build back the strength. But those ice-creams continue. The wife got me a mango duet stick, something I had not had since my HR College days. Really enjoyed it.

12th May, 2019

Some family members and friends have been dropping in each day to meet and I am so happy nobody goes into depressing things like asking how and when I got the cancer, or how the chemo is progressing.

My friends and colleagues from Overdrive, Amit and Bert, were in fact asking when will I return to work and get down to testing cars again. There are a lot of new car launches lined up soon.

This is the attitude and approach that inspires me too, and I am eagerly looking forward to getting back. Yes, I have been writing some stories for the magazine and website as and when I can, but there is just nothing like being fully involved and in the thick of things.

13th May, 2019

The fact that I am restricted to being at home is getting boring, especially now that I am feeling so much better. I can step out if I want to, but the doctors have strongly advised against visiting crowded places and coming in contact with too many people at any one time.

The wife also prefers that I avoid going out, so home it is. But one of these days I will certainly go for a drive. Anyways, the date of my next chemo cycle is also fast approaching, and time is really going by fast. This in the given situation is surely welcome.

14th May, 2019

A friend, who just learnt of my cancer, said she was horrified because it’s becoming as common as a ‘common cold’ and many of her friends have it.

Being in hospital has also made me aware of how many people are suffering from this disease, especially children. The doctors and nurses, all confirm that cancer cases are on the rise. I have also learnt that India has one of the fastest growing rates of cancer.

But unfortunately not many are aware of this and our authorities refuse to acknowledge, or do anything significant to combat cancer. In the ongoing election campaign, one has barely heard of cancer being an issue. Some individual contestants have raised it, but the media has completely ignored this.

I hope some awareness does happen and significant steps are taken at the national level, to find out what is causing this increase in cancer and how it can be stopped.

15th May, 2019

Today is the wife’s birthday. Sadly, we are not able to celebrate the way I had planned. We were to go away on an ‘African Safari’ and all bookings and arrangements had been made. But unfortunately, we had to cancel due to my cancer treatment.

 Hopefully we shall embark on that ‘African Safari’ soon. I must mention here that all the airlines and travel agents have been most understanding and helpful. On learning the reason for cancelling the holiday, all have refunded the booking amounts, etc, and not levied any cancellation charges. These are truly praiseworthy and humane business practices.

16th May, 2019

One strange side effect of the chemo that I have been experiencing is a ‘tinny’ sound in my ears. Everything sounds metallic and the noise of even something like the falling of a spoon, sound harsh and hurts my ears.

I went and saw the ENT specialist at Hinduja Hospital. She put me through a proper audiometry test and said my hearing was fine. About the ‘tinny’ sound she was not very forthcoming or assuring. I have been prescribed some pills and asked to take them for 15 days and see if they are of any help.

17th May, 2019

I get admitted to hospital again on May 20th for cycle three of the chemo. Obviously it’s not something I am looking forward to, but the reality is, it has to be done and gotten over with.

And though time has been going fast since I started the treatment, wish there was some way of accelerating its progress further. I am eagerly waiting for this treatment to finish and looking forward to resuming normal life again.

18th May, 2019

Every few days I get suggested some new food or drink that I should have or not consume, to fight the cancer. While I am all for naturopathy and any alternate cures, and am fully open to trying them, it’s actually quite confusing what one should, or should not do.

And while there are many online videos too, none really describes in detail how to source the ingredients or the exact recipes to make whatever is being suggested. For example, ‘neem’. It’s said to be very beneficial against cancer. But do you use fresh or dried leaves, do you powder them, I have not been able to find any such kinds of details.

A friend recently forwarded me a WhatsApp message recommending ‘hot coconut water’ which is said to release an anti-cancer substance and is a proven remedy for all types of cancer. And then this morning’s Times of India newspaper had a story saying doctors from India’s leading cancer care hospital, the Tata Memorial Centre, have refuted this and said there is no scientific data to suggest hot coconut water could cure cancer. This only makes it more confusing.

Times of India -‘Hot Coconut Water’ not a cure for cancer

19th May, 2019

Earlier one looked forward to a Sunday and planned how to make the best use of this holiday. But now since I am largely at home resting and recuperating, it really is no big deal. But today is still a little special as I am scheduled to get admitted to the hospital tomorrow. So I make the best of it by starting to read a new book, watch a couple of films and eat some delicious food made by my wife. It’s these little pleasures of home that one misses in hospital.