Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Running for a Cause..

It was an electric morning on 18th of January 2015. Set against South Mumbai's rich background, a huge crowd gathered for the flag off of arguably the most awaited event of the city this year. Over 40,000 people gathered to participate in the 18th Standard Chartered Marathon.

Each and every participant symbolized determination, strength, self-competition and endurance. This is what, many opine, makes the Marathon such a significant event. It is a level platform across countries, ethnicities, genders or even physical capabilities. So when a child pushed a differently abled gentlemen on a wheelchair across the finishing line, the crowd cheered and applauded as if the victory was their own.

It is this community feeling that defines Yoddhas' existence and aspirations. It was founded by Rahul Yadav, who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of Blood Cancer, at age 28. Yoddhas aims at forging a community where cancer fighters in India can share stories, information, experiences and draw strength from one another.
Indians Fighting Against Cancer

 So it was only natural that Yoddha's Mumbai members made an appearance in the marathon.In the early hours of the chilly sunday morning, the team met at the iconic C.S.T station, full of excitement.  The team was ready to revel in the positive energy surrounding the event and cheer on our very own Yoddhas participating in the marathon.

 Amongst them was Sidharth Ghosh. Sidharth was diagnosed with cancer in February 2014, a month after he ran the 17th Standard Chartered Marathon. Throughout the roller coaster journey from then on he has been an inspirational fighter, and he made Yoddhas so incredibly proud by completing the full marathon less than a year after his diagnosis finishing the 42 km run within a respectable time of two hours and thirty minutes.

Yoddhas was also humbled to have Maj. Gen. Devendra Kapur run in its support. He showed everyone that age is merely a number, winning Second place in the half marathon, 55-65 age category, with an enviable time of 1 hour 43 minutes. 

For Sachin Garg, a resident of Gurgaon, Haryana, the marathon held special meaning. Having lost his father to cancer, he has been actively trying to help other fighters overcome this disease. In his words, the marathon was an awesome  yet humbling experience.

We at Yoddhas have always strongly endorsed healthy living, by eating smart and exercising consistently. Our members have found that the right fitness regime makes a quantifiable difference in the battle against cancer. 

Driving home this point was Manik Dhodi. He once lived life on the heavier side, but after making a conscious decision to change his lifestyle, he is now a fitness enthusiast who has run numerous marathons and is an inspiration for many.

Even Solonie Singh, with her dazzling smile, believes that the quickest route to prevention or recovery, is a healthy balanced lifestyle. She now also motivates her friends to take up a healthy lifestyle.

It is events such as these that inspire us and make us question our complacency and occasional ungratefulness. Team Yoddha was inspired and touched by the stories of numerous participants that it got the opportunity to interact with. Together we can make the difference in the lives of people who are battling a massive battle and all they ask is a little support.

And again a big thanks to all the participants, volunteers, supporter and others who supported us in making this Awareness Drive a huge success..

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

What you should know about someone fighting Cancer.

What you should know about someone fighting Cancer!!

Well if you know anyone fighting Cancer. Just keep these points in mind. 
Let the animations load. It would take a few seconds..

1. People detected with Cancer are not suddenly transformed into Super-Heros. 

We fight a disease that terrifies everyone but we dont turn into (and dont expect us to immediately) turn into Super Heros.

 2. We are strong because sometimes there is no other option.
At times our fight is simply a willingness to go through treatment because, frankly, there's no alternative. We endure pain and sickness for the chance to feel normal down the road.  

3. Just call sometimes, Don’t wait on me to call you if I need anything.  
Please call me every once in a while and do come over. I know you told me to call if I ever needed anything, but it’s weird asking others to spend time with me.

4. We can have real emotions too. 
We do experience real emotions too. Even though cancer and its treatments can sometimes influence my outlook, I still have normal moods and feelings in response to life events. If I’m angry or upset, accept that something made me mad and don’t write it off as the disease. 

5. Be Normal  - Not "How are you feeling now" 
Let’s talk about life and what’s been happening rather than just focusing on my illness.

6. Forgive me.  
There will be times when the illness and its treatment (Chemos, Drugs, Steroids)  make me “weird.” I may be forgetful, abrupt or hurtful. None of this is deliberate. Please don’t take it personally, and please forgive me.

7.Just listen.

I’m doing my very best to be brave and strong, but I have moments when I need to fall apart. Just listen and don’t offer solutions. A good cry releases a lot of stress and pressure for me. 

6. Ask if you want to take pictures of us. 
We all have our own ways of handling thing. Some dont want to remember this time and some dont mind. So better ask. 

7. We do need a little time alone sometimes. 
 A few points ago I was talking about how much I need to spend time with you, and now I’m telling you to go away. I love you, but sometimes I need a little solitude. It gives me the chance to take off the brave face I’ve been wearing too long, and the silence can be soothing. Sometimes I do cry in the bathroom.

8. Our family needs their friends too. 
The life starts revolving around the patients. Well try to make it a point to meet our families too. They also need normalcy for some time.

9. We love your advice but dont give Gyaan. (Dont Preach)
I know you care but still don't preach what you feel is the right way to fight Cancer. Give me the options. But dont push it beyond a point. Let me decide whats my way of fighting this battle.

10. Why did this happen? Ans. Well I dont know.

I saved the best one for the last. Frankly except a few Cancers, most do not have a particular reason. Its sheer genetic mutation, Just BAD LUCK !! 

Written By:
Rahul Yadav

A 29 year old battling Multiple Myeloma - Blood Cancer since Aug 2013, who wants to make fighting cancer Cool. 

I have picked all the images from the internet and do not own any of them. Also I have taken inspirations from Kim Helminski Keller's blog. Feel free to contact me for suggestions or feedback. Would love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I survived!

Today I am going to tell you a story... A story about a young and cheerful girl.
A story about myself.
Life could not have been more beautiful. Well, it could have been but then who is not a little greedy.

I had returned from US after an onsite stint of one and a half years. I was absolutely elated to be with my family & friends and eating golgappas from my favorite roadside vendor made me taste heaven.

Just when you think life is going exactly as you had planned, God throws in a roadblock and smiles at you. I found myself standing outside an oncologist’s clinic.

YES! I had been diagnosed with cancer – Ewing’s Sarcoma to be specific. It is a type of childhood cancer but I was 25 when I was diagnosed. Being the big bollywood fan that I am, my mind transported to that scene from the movie “Anand”. Cancer equals Death! I thought what most of us would have thought in that situation.

But since I am also a software engineer, I did what all of us do when we face an issue – GOOGLE. I googled the name of my disease and within the first few clicks, learnt that it was curable. I went to the office next day and wrapped up my work.

I then went to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. I was intrigued by the sight in the hospital – new born babies, children, young and old; all battling cancer. And it made me wonder. “Does cancer spare anyone?”

I realized that I would have to be really strong to stand in those serpentine queues to meet the doctors and run from one doctor to the other carrying my case file. There was no time to feel sorry about myself. THE WAR HAD BEGUN!

The doctors suggested an intensive one year chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. But the treatment turned out to be more terrible than the disease itself. I lost my beautiful hair and my physical stamina. The treatment even threatened to sap my soul.
My thoughts swung between two extremes. “God, Why me? Why did I get this? What did I do to get this? I have never harmed any one, never cheated any one, never stolen.” And then I thought “Can it get worse than this?”

“Oh yes!” I was thankful to God that my treatment was showing good results; I wasn’t under a risk of amputation of one of my limbs like many other unlucky souls around me; and YES, I wasn’t dying!!

But many a times, I found myself alone on the seesaw with no pal to push me up when I was feeling so down. Most of my friends were busy in their normal lives and no one could empathize with me. But then I discovered a new planet inhabited by people just like me – Planet Cancer.

An online social community for young adults touched by cancer where they could share insights, explore their fears, laugh and even poke fun at cancer. The Crazy Sexy Cancer Book by Kris Carr, an actress gave me lots of tips on how to kick cancer’s ass and that too in style: “Don’t capitalize cancer.  Giving it so much importance is a big no-no. Infact spell it wrong: c-a-n-s-e-r. It gives you power over that stupid little two-syllable word.” Haha!
I found a lot of inspiration from other patients around me, some of whom were battling cancer the second or even the third time. My strong willpower, positivity, hope and courage helped me in the fight. It made me believe in the words: “When Cancer was looking around for a body to hang out in, it made a big mistake when it chose mine. Big mistake!”
The legendary words of Jim Valvano made a big impact on me. "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”

Having cancer does not mean you lose your sense of humor. Finding humor even in such a difficult situation helped me relax.

My parents, brother, cousins and my entire extended family became my support system during this journey. I became much closer to my parents after seeing their selfless love, care and support.

I came out victorious in the fight. But the journey had made a big impact on me. I also realized how we humans live in our own little bubble, fretting over small things oblivious to such realities until a tragedy hits us or someone close to us. I have started loving and respecting my life much more after coming close to losing it.

Each one of us, at some point face the “challenge of our life”. For me it was fighting cancer, for you it can be losing a job, being in a bad relationship or separating from a loved one. Let’s face it, life itself is a constant challenge. It’s full of unexpected detours that no one but you can navigate. It’s very easy to get bogged down by failures and challenges and give up. But what really matters is giving in whatever it takes to fight the challenge, coming out smiling and saying “I survived!”

By Gauri Singh

Gauri was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in October 2008. She graduated from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad in 2013. She is currently working for a pharmaceutical company in Hyderabad. She also actively volunteers for Yoddhas - The Warriors Indians Fighting Against Cancer, India's first online Cancer Support Community. 
She inspires patients with her story and helps them cope up with the mental trauma and social stigma associated with this disease. She also works to spread awareness about cancer in her social circle.