Here is the success story of Dr Gayatri , who has beat Multiple Myeloma with grit and determination.She has been my mentor for almost two years and has inspired me and guided me to take on the fight with courage and hope.She counsels many patients and advises them about the hospitals and Doctors in the country for getting treatment for MM.
Hopefully , this story will inspire many more .
This write-up is by Dr Gayatri herself.
BOUQUET OF HOPE
(My fight against cancer, written in October2002)
There is a very special reason why I would like to share my story with all of you who would be reading this .The word Cancer still evokes a lot of fear and despair and people are still petrified of being identified with cancer. Even in today’s modern times, you will be surprised as to how ignorant most of us are about cancer. Most lay people associate cancer with death, a painful end. And it is for these and many others who would read this book that I as a cancer survivor would like to share my experience with.
In this era of modern medicine, there are so many who have bravely and courageously fought their personal battle with cancer and many have been successful at getting rid of it. There are those who continue to fight, never wanting to give up. Don’t you think their efforts need to be appreciated? Life is a wonderful gift to each one of us and many of us take it for granted. But when one is struck with a life threatening condition like cancer, every moment of life suddenly becomes so precious that you want to savour every moment spent with near and dear ones. There is a hidden strength in each one of us that may have not surfaced otherwise but when a calamity strikes, you will be surprised at your own display of courage and fortitude.
When I was first diagnosed as having cancer in November2001, I was surprised as to how little I as a doctor knew about my cancer. Being a paediatrician my medical school knowledge about cancer was limited and my husband and me had to do a lot of reading and Internet surfing to help us understand my cancer. Also I was fortunate that we had many friends who would bring us articles and any information they could gather about cancer. About few years ago, it was thought best not to let a cancer patient know much about his or her condition. But I feel, it is very important for each and every cancer patient to understand his cancer, the available modalities of treatment and try and avail the best that is available to you. If one decides to nothing is impossible. The idea is to never give up.
So here, I share my experience with cancer.
It all began in the autumn of 2001. There was no warning, for my life was to change forever.
I am a doctor by profession, married to an Air Force pilot for the last 12yrs. It was oct2001 and I was reflecting on the joys of life, thanking God for a loving husband and two beautiful daughters aged eight and six years. I had a career that I enjoyed. Life was good, quite fulfilling. I was so much at peace with myself. Little did I know that a while from now my life was going to change in a major way.
In the month of dec 2002 I was diagnosed as a case of Multifocal plasmacytomas, a variant of multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. In myeloma, a single defective plasma cell (myeloma cell) gives rise to the much larger number of myeloma cells which build up in the bone marrow .
Diagnoses was’nt easy, I had a surgery for a lytic bone lesion(initially diagnosed as osteoclastoma) on my left leg (tibia) on 8thNov 2001 and biopsy reported it as “Non Hodgkins Lymphoma” at Base hospital Delhi. A sample sent to Tata Memorial reported the tumour as Plasmacytoma. Further investigations confirmed diagnoses as Multiple Plasmacytomas. Over a period of 5 months I received 6 cycles of chemotherapy. I was immobile because after surgery my leg bone had not healed ( Non United Fracture). I was still not in remission after chemotherapy and so I went through an autologous bone marrow transplant on the 3rd of sept 2002 at Army Hospital( R&R),N- Delhi. I was admitted for a total of 20days and kept in isolation in a BMT centre. This transplant according to my doctors was a chance to buy time for me to fight this cancer, which has no cure. The key thing here is the marrow you get is your own so there is no problem of graft-versus-host disease. The experience of a transplant was very painful for me. I could’nt swallow, my throat hurt, I had no saliva and I was bone tired. I was nauseous and vomited every sip of water I tried to swallow. For about a week I totally gave up trying to even swallow liquids. I felt lousy and had no strength to talk. I used to watch a little bit of TV but used to tire easily. I felt I would never get out of that room. My husband kept telling me I was going to make it and kept encouraging me. My family, my parents and in-laws have been a source of immense strength to me, I could never have got through this ordeal without them.
Today 3 months after my transplant I am in remission and will have to go through another transplant,( mini allogenic transplant) very soon at CMCH Vellore, maybe in the next one month. This transplant will be my chance for a cure and I am going for it! It is so strange that there was a time when I was worried about how I would fair during one transplant and here I am going for another!
The last one year has been a real testing time for me and my family. I have been through series of misdiagnosis and long period of immobility. We have gone through so much. I say “we” because I believe, as much as I have suffered, my family has endured much more. It is true, love can endure all things, that marriage and commitment go beyond the good days of youth and good health. It is love alone which has helped me to understand that the vows of marriage, promising to stand by each other “in sickness, in health, in good times and in bad”, is for keeps. My sickness also showed me the spiritual path and I gathered a lot of strength and courage in meditation and in the readings of Sri Sri Paramahans Yogananda. His teachings gave me an inner calmness and the belief that I was going to survive. Come what may, I was going to fight this cancer till the very end. From the day that I knew I had cancer, a strange calm came over me. Of course I was very distressed in the beginning but not once have I ever questioned God as to why me?
I believe, God knew I could take this pain and I was brave enough to go through this ordeal, and also I had a very caring family, which is why he gave this to me. I have no complaints, if I was destined to suffer this pain then so be it! God knew I was strong and wanted to show great things through me. And I know He has many more great things in store for me, so I like to look positively at that.
( The following extract is a summary of the period post my allogenic BMT at CMC vellore in Jan 2003 , till 2010)
There have been setbacks after setback, relapses which never seemed to leave me. I had an allogenic transplant soon after my autologous, at CMC Vellore under one of the best doctors in the country. But I relapsed six mnths later and a DLI was done( donor lymphocyte infusion). Thereafter I developed acute GVHD and was followed few mnths later by chronic GVHD, in the form of scleroderma and hypothyroidism. Scleroderma was another testing time, that landed me with ILD(interstitial lung disease). Pranayam helped me along with Rajyoga, a healing meditation technique by the Brahmakumaris, to come out of the effects of scleroderma.It took three years to counter these effects, and in the midst of all this I also had osteomyelitis of left tibial lesion. I was advised above knee amputation but somehow I felt, my leg could be saved. So started another round of trips to TMH Mumbai and a series of surgeries after which the oncosurgeon told me he would do an amputation if i agreed. He gave me one last option of trying to get the bone united and clear it of osteomyelitis by using the illizarov technique.So Iwent for it and after two years of repeated surgeries for debridement I could save my leg, though with shortening. The period post my allogenic transplant till 2009, Oct , I used to walk with help of a walker.
After the DLI, I still did not go into remission and had a bad relapse in 2007. It was a near death experience for me then, but my trust in the Almighty saw me through this phase too , leaving behind peripheral neuropathy as a reminder.
My message to the many who will hopefully read this piece is, Cancer is something, which any of us can be afflicted with, but that is not the end of life. Today medical science is so advanced and a lot of research is on to find better modalities of treatment.
By strong will power we can overcome disease, but the will vibration must be stronger than the vibration of physical or mental disease. More severe the disease, more stronger should our will be to fight it. Remember, beyond every cloud there is a silver lining….I have finally reached mine….and so will you!
Dr Gayatri Bhat (MBBS, DCH)