Shutterbug's Blog

Living with Multiple Myeloma in Hyderabad , India . Random musings .


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Amla Rice , Usirikaya Pulihora , Vanabhojanaalu and Health !!

Amla is Indian Gooseberry. This fruit is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. This Vitamin increases immunity in the body, thereby protecting the body from infections. There are several medicinal properties of Amla.

I always knew this fact but didn’t know how to incorporate fresh/raw Amla in my diet.

The only knew that people usually ate Amla is in the form of Amla pickle and Amla candy. These two recipes ensure that Amla can be preserved and hence can be relished throughout the year. Amla is a major ingredient in Chyawanprash.

The trees bear fruits during  October, November and December months in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India. Most vegetable stores would be selling them during these three months. I always came across these but never gave them a second look.

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Amla pickle is usually made at home or can also be bought at Indian grocery stores . I don’t prefer eating Amla pickle as it has a lot of oil and salt . I like Amla Candy and always keep a stock . But I was bored of eating the candy .

One day at the Organic grocery store , that I visit regularly, I saw these fresh , round , light green Amla’s.  I was tempted to  buy . I wanted to make my own candy but was not confident about the recipe. I thought lemme try eating them raw. But a raw berry has a typical taste and not very appealing. It  is soury – astringent with a sweet aftertaste .

I picked a few in my hand and asked the store keeper ‘what can I do with these ?’ and she immediately answered ‘Usirikaya pulihora ‘ (Amla rice ) . I asked her for the recipe and she immediately recited the recipe.

I was like wowww and felt so happy :)) . I usually make lemon, tamarind and mango rice but this was news to me… I was so excited that I tried it the next morning and it was yummilicious.

Since then I have made this dish  several times. I now buy these whenever I see them. I have seen these recently and learnt that they are brought from Tamil Nadu where they yield fruit during February/March.

The Gooseberry tree is revered by Hindus. There was a time , long ago, when I found it silly that my mom was worshipping  a branch of this tree during ‘vanabhojanaalu’ in the park adjacent to Gandipet lake.

‘Vanabhojanalu’ is a get together/community lunch held under the trees/park/forest along with some fun activities.

It was much later that I learnt about the potency of this fruit and then realised why the tree is worshipped.

During the month of Karthika (Telugu calendar) , people meet for Vanabhojanaalu. This is a popular event in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. ‘Vana’ is forest and ‘Bhojanalu’ is lunch.  Karthika usually occurs in the months of Oct-Nov . This tree begins to bear fruit during these months. Vanabhojanalu is associated with this tree , when people form groups , cook and have lunch in a farm/nursery/forest where a Gooseberry tree is usually found. If there is no Gooseberry tree in the vicinity , a small branch of this tree is placed nearby and worshipped , followed by lunch.This is an event for get togethers along with some fun. The branches of this tree are sold in markets during Kaarthika month .

Most of the customs and traditions of Hindus are in some way connected to health , hygiene , discipline and also have a philosophical touch . They are not superstitions as they are made out to be.

The ignorant may not be able to appreciate the benefits of this fruit and hence these customs were incorporated.

Here is the recipe for Amla Rice !!

Ingredients (for 3 servings) –

Mustard seeds – half tsp

Jeera – half tsp

Urad Dal – 1 tbsp

Chana dal – 1tbsp

Cashews – 3tbsp

Asafoetida – one pinch



Curry leaves -2 sprigs

Coriander leaves – 2 sprigs

One cup raw rice . Boil the rice and keep it aside. Make sure it is not mushy. Spead the cooked rice in a wide pan so it cools and it would be easier to mix all the ingredients.

 

Ground nut oil – 3tbsp

turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

salt – as per your taste


Amla – 5

Green chillies -3

Juice of one Lemon

 

Prepare Amla for the recipe by cutting them into pieces (throw away the seed) and grind it coarsely.

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For Tadka :

 

Add oil in a pan . Add mustard, jeera and wait till they splutter. Add urad dal, chana dal , groundnuts and cashew nuts . 


Stir till they turn golden brown and then add turmeric 

Add  the slit green chillies, curry leaves and Amla paste and stir for a minute.

 

Add the above mixture to the boiled rice and mix all the ingredients slowly and thoroughly..Add the salt too.

Add lemon juice at the end and stir well.

Amla Rice is ready to be served !!

 

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I started googling for other Amla recipes and found recipes for chutneys , sweet , rasam and juices.

Everyone should incorporate Amla in their diet , in whatever form they prefer , for a healthier body.

Thank you Mother Nature !!


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Use of Turmeric / Curcumin in Indian Customs and Traditions , Health and Healing , Beauty treatments

Turmeric Vs Curcumin :

Turmeric is a root/rhizome, a golden-colored spice that belongs to the ginger family . Widely used in India for different purposes. The words Turmeric and Curcumin are usually used interchangeably but Curcumin is an extract from Turmeric root, which gives the yellow color to the spice and has several healing properties. Different methods are used to extract Curcumin from Turmeric. Turmeric contains various ”curcuminoids” and Curcumin is one of them. Curcumin is a whole Pharmacy in itself and is used to treat several health conditions. Extensive research is being carried out on Curcumin in the western world for its healing properties..

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This spice has always been revered in India since thousands of years. But ,it is very unfortunate that the healing properties are unknown to majority of the current generation and the knowledge is slowly getting lost. Hopefully the research that is being carried out in the western world will bring to light the potency of Turmeric and thereby heal the world.

Here is an attempt to describe how Turmeric has been in use since centuries in Indian Customs and traditions.

Hindu Customs and Traditions :

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A few drops of water is added to Turmeric powder which is then shaped into a small solid cone . During Hindu festivals this form is worshiped as ”Lord Ganesha” , the remover of all obstacles. It is a fact that none of us  wish to face any obstacles in whatever activity we do/take up. This is a method of reinforcing our will power and also to invoke the blessings of the almighty.

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During Fridays, festivals and other auspicious events, Turmeric paste is applied on the threshold of the main entry door of the house and all other doors that lead outside the house. This ensures that insects and ants do not enter the house. Now a days this is done away with by using paints. Beautiful designs of flowers and leaves are drawn using colourful paints.

A married woman gives Turmeric root/powder along with ‘kumkum’ to other married women  (neighbors, relatives , friends etc), during festivals after inviting them into their homes. This is done as a blessing and good wishes for the long life of the woman and her husband .

Turmeric during weddings :

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Wedding preparations start with the making of Turmeric powder at home. An auspicious day and time is chosen for the event. A few women (relatives, friends neighbors) gather and use a mortar and thistle to crush the dry Turmeric root and symbolically prepare Turmeric powder.

A lot of Turmeric powder is used during Hindu weddings. There are a minimum of  5 rituals, spread over a few days , which require the use of Turmeric powder.

Haldi Ceremony is a very important part of a Hindu wedding. The bride and groom are smeared with a paste made by mixing Turmeric powder , sandalwood paste and rose-water, in their respective homes , couple of days before the wedding. Relatives friends and neighbors gather and make it a fun event.The Bride and Groom get a beautiful glow on their skin 🙂 . . This is repeated three times on three consecutive days. A natural beauty treatment instead of going to a beauty parlour or a Spa.

The bride and groom wear clothes that have been dipped in water that is mixed with turmeric powder . The cloth then gets dyed with a light yellow color.

Turmeric powder is mixed with rice which is then called ‘Akshintalu / Akshatalu ‘. These Akshintalu are used during puja and also used to bless others by sprinkling a little on top of the head of the one taking blessings who bows down and touches the elders feet.

In South Indian weddings , this rice is taken with cupped  hands by the bride and groom and  is poured on top of each others head during the wedding ceremony.

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A long thread is smeared with Turmeric paste and a Turmeric root is tied at the center of this thread. During the wedding ceremony the groom ties this thread around the neck of the bride with three knots.

 

 

Health and Healing :

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An Indian kitchen is incomplete without Turmeric powder in its spice box. Almost all Indian recipes contain Turmeric powder.Thus ensuring that turmeric is taken everyday in our diet. Turmeric also enhances the color of the dish. The anti bacterial properties of turmeric prevents food from decaying quickly.

 

Turmeric powder is Mixed in milk and consumed in order to treat coughs and colds.

Turmeric is supposed to be good for the Liver and digestion.

Turmeric is applied to bruises as it is an antiseptic.

Small balls are made with wet Turmeric powder. A few of these are consumed in order to reduce menstrual cramps .

Turmeric is a blood thinner and reduces cholesterol. Helps in controlling Blood Pressure.

It is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the major reason for most of the chronic diseases including Diabetes , Cardiovascular diseases , Arthritis , Cancer etc.

Curcumin induces apoptosis in tumours . It induces cell death in cancerous cells thereby stopping the multiplication of these cells.  A lot of research is being carried out and there is sufficient proof that this property of Curcumin can treat almost all types of Cancers.

Beauty Treatments :

Many South Indian women apply turmeric paste to their feet every Friday and during festivals and other religious events. Being an antiseptic it protects the feet from infections and cracked feet.

Turmeric paste mixed with other items like milk, chickpea flour etc is applied as a face mask to get rid of acne, pimples and other skin problems . It is also an excellent exfoliant and gives a glow to the skin.

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No wonder Turmeric has always been given a lot of importance in Hindu customs, traditions and rituals since a long time and is treated with piety and respect.

It is highly recommended that everyone include more Turmeric in their diet. It is also advised to prepare your own Turmeric powder instead of using the store-bought powder which is usually adulterated.

I have been using Curcumin every day since Jan 2014 , to fight Multiple Myeloma. Currently not using any other drug. Hope to manage my condition as long as I can.

~Yad Bhaavam Tad Bhavathi  : You become what you think ~


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Go Goa !

Time to get some Vitamin Sea :))

Been to Goa a few days ago , from 1 Apr to 4 Apr 2017.

This is not the right time of the year to visit Goa. Summer has just begun . However , I didn’t find it too humid. Loved the weather , except for some discomfort during midday.

We drove through this small residential area called Fontainhas, which has some of the most beautiful Goan houses ….or rather Portuguese styled houses…very colourful and well maintained .. Felt as though we were transported to Portugal itself 🙂

Mum’s Kitchen is one of the best Goan Restaurants. Went there for lunch one day. Great food !!.Tasted ‘Goan Port wine’ for the first time. Supposed to be a short form of ‘Portugese wine’ as it has Portugese influence. I don’t drink but I wanted to taste this one. It is a Red wine and was very sweet. I think I liked it :). My Ayurvedic doctor says I can have little bit of Red wine once or twice a week.

Visited St Francis church.

Also went to see Aguada fort.

I love Goan food . Been there once before. Nothing like fresh seafood … something that I yearn for, while I am in Hyderabad. Goan flavours are too good ..the combination of  coconut and Kokum in fish and prawn curries is yummm 🙂

‘Saturday Night Market in Arpora’ is an exciting experience.

Lots of stalls selling Junk Jewellery, casual clothes and local handicrafts. There’s a live band playing in the center of the market , surrounded by food stalls. Bought some junk stuff too …too tempting not to buy 🙂

Went to Calangute beach one evening, for water sports. Took the Scooter ride. My first such ride. The guy was too fast .It is a 30 second ride . The waves were rough. Each time I tell myself that I will not do any more rides but I invariably end up doing a new one each time 🙂

Had lunch at Brittos , one of the best Beach Shacks in Goa. This one is on Baga Beach.Food was tooo good.

We also had dinner at one of the less crowded shacks…at Mama Cecilias Shack on Candolim beach…

We were staying in Candolim and hence preferred to walk  down to the beach…which is 500m away…in fact ,there were very few folks here….unlike the beaches at calangute or Baga which are too crowded because of  water sports…spent a lot of time on this beach … watched the Sun set ….  watched the moon rise …. had dinner at the shack . It is a different experience altogether.  The laziest time I have ever spent…. feels as though you own the beach…almost like a private beach with just the sand ,the sea …Watching the sun set and then the stars …Feeling the breeze… Having dinner with the sounds from the sea as background music… loved the experience.

Something about the sea makes you live in the present moment…And time stands still

 


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What to expect during and after a BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant) or Stem Cell Transplant

I get to talk/chat with caregivers/patients with Multiple Myeloma . Each one of them has a different set of queries.

One such patient, who was advised to go for a BMT by my Oncologist , was preparing to get admitted to the hospital and called me a few days ago.

I  first met him when he was just diagnosed and wanted to know about my condition in general.He was not ready to go for the BMT then. My Oncologist had suggested he speak to me and gave him my phone number.

The second time , he called me and he was more specific and wanted to know what to expect during the BMT ,while he is in the sterile ward .During the BMT process the patient is in a sterile and isolated room for approximately 15 days. This is a must as the patients immunity would be at the lowest and hence prone to infections.

He was worried whether there would be unbearable pains in the body, severe burning sensation in the stomach , whether he would be able to walk and other details.

This post is specifically to provide details as to what actually happens during the two weeks in the sterile room and precautions to be taken after the patient is discharged.

After the Stem cells of the patient are harvested from the patient (for an autologous transplant), the patient is moved to the sterile room. A high dose of chemo is administered to the patient via the ‘Chemo port’. All parameters are monitored every morning, which includes blood tests. For a few days the patient feels very normal and is given normal food. Around 4th day they start experiencing tingling sensations in the legs. The feet feel heavy , numb and restless. These are the symptoms of ‘Neuropathy’ (The fine nerve endings in body are affected, a side effect of chemo ). The mouth begins to feel dry and there is a mild sore feeling in the mouth. The patient is unable to eat spicy food. The digestive system gets affected as the lining in the esophagus  ,stomach and intestines become sore due to the chemo dose. Medications are given to soothe the digestive system.

During the first week , the patient’s blood counts go on  reducing , the WBC count becomes zero. Meanwhile the patient is given platelets and blood transfusions as the body is not yet in a position to generate its own cells. The patients own harvested stem cells ( our very own fresh and healthy new babies ) are given back to the patient via the port. These cells reach the Bone marrow and divide to form all the various other blood cells like Red blood cells, White Blood cells,  Platelets , Neutrophills etc .

During this period the patient is unable to eat any solid food. Food is given in the form of Fluids. A dietician visits almost every day and based on the patients condition/feedback the diet is changed.

Around the 7th or 8th day the patient’s own WBC count begins to increase. This is an indication that the Stem cells have started doing their job.By the end of the second week , the counts of all other blood cells like platelets, RBC , Neutrophils etc increase and reach almost normal levels.

The patient will begin to experience loose watery stools, nausea and vomiting.

Not to worry much.Go with the flow :))

There were times when I would be frustrated and irritated with the nurses for no fault of theirs. When they took longer time to retrieve by blood samples or did not attend to me immediately when I give a buzz etc . At one point the Air Conditioning was faulty and I created a big scene and informed that I wanted to meet the Hospital Admin staff. But they kept calm and handled me well :))

Patient feels weak and may not be able to move around the room without the help of a nurse.

It is advised to get out of the bed and walk around the room as often as possible with the help of nursing staff.

At the end of two weeks , once all counts get back to normal the patient would be able to walk on their own without any help.

A day starts with blood samples being drawn. The patient is given a bath ,dried , moisturizing cream is applied to the body and dressed. Allow the nursing staff to do whatever they would like to do. Just hand over your body to them and cooperate.They treat you like a baby. Enjoy the pampering :))

Breakfast is served . Time for medication. All medications are given through the chemo port. Lunch is served. One can watch TV. The cleaning staff do their job. Time for a visit by the doctors . Depending on the patients condition, several doctors will visit and at times they might disturb your precious sleep :).  A dietician does a followup. Watch more TV. The patient may puke a few times and visits the washroom a few times 🙂 Watch all your favourite programs and channels during these days .

I would watch Travel shows, Discovery channel , National Geographic, Cookery shows on various channels ,Bhakti channels , NDTV Goodtimes. I was least interested in knowing what was happening around the world wrt current news. There will be short naps now and then. My Oncologist said that I could use my smartphone/tablet/laptop but I had no interest in being in touch with anyone. Most of the time an IV bottle is connected and hence difficult to move.

At times I would request the nurses to stay with me and we would chat and watch TV together.There were 6 nurses in shifts and we would share our stories. I frequently wanted my feet to be massaged and the nurses would gladly do it.

The skin colour becomes darker by a few shades due to the chemo. This is when we realize that being alive is more important than the colour of the skin or the appearance :))

There was a huuuge window in my room on the 3rd floor which overlooked the entrance to the hospital. The window covered  3/4th of the wall. I would watch people go by and wonder why the world is so complex when all that matters is to be alive. Being alive itself is a reason for celebration and happiness , and everything else is a bonus :)) .

You are permitted to talk to your near and dear ones on the phone. They may be allowed to visit once or twice.

On one of the days I was allowed to  see them through a small window in the nursing station once my counts began to increase.

My family would be waiting outside the Main door of the isolated ward most of the time during the day . They would be busy arranging blood donors from family , friends and colleagues and eagerly look forward to listen to what the doctors had to say on my progress.

Every day they would see my plate of food arriving and going back without being eaten. I would feel like eating different stuff but when it was brought I was unable to take even a few bites . There is no saliva in the mouth and it becomes very difficult to chew/swallow.

I would be worried that I was unable to eat. How would my cells multiple if I dont eat ??!!

But they do , so don’t worry about it :)) . Relax 🙂

There are no pains because of the Chemo nor any other burning sensation in any part of the body.

When you are ready to be moved out the sterile ward , you can actually walk out on your own but do sit down in the wheelchair and enjoy the ride to a normal ward . It is a great feeling to be finally out in the world  :).

You will be in the normal ward for a couple of days. These few days seem like ages :)). Every hour seems like eternity. Finally it is time to go home … the sweetest place on earth 🙂

The next one month is going to be difficult when it comes to eating food. The nausea and vomiting continues . You will be given medication to reduce nausea. Continue to take fluids and protein supplements prescribed by the dietician. Ensure you meet the dietician before you are discharged.

Have patience ..a lot of patience is expected from the patient as well as the caregivers.

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The patient feels very weak . The bones are very tender and some effort is required to even turn your body on the bed. But that’s okay . Things will improve . Do a few exercises while lying on the bed. A physiotherapist will guide you during your stay in the hospital.

Take all your medications without fail. Feel free to talk to your doctor as and when you experience any problem or have a doubt.

Drink lots of water.

Do not venture out of your house for a couple of months. Since the patients immunity is low they will be susceptible to infections. Need not worry even if there are any infections. Just go ahead and get the medications. Stomach , throat , eye , respiratory , skin infections are some of the common issues that one might face.

Have patience . This too shall pass !!

this too shall pass

In a few weeks you would want to eat all kinds of stuff , but go slow as the digestive system is not yet strong .

In a few months you will be back to normal and you can go back to doing whatever you were doing.

This is also the right time to look up for information on alternative therapies on the Internet. Do you own research and you will definitely find a way to stay healthy and beat the BIG C forever.

Best Wishes !!


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Jabali Theertham : Hanuman temple on Tirumala Hills

I recently had a wish to visit a Temple which is far from maddening crowds , one that has few visitors.

Meanwhile we wanted to visit Tirumala and made all the arrangements.

Before we actually went to Tirumala , I was casually looking at other sightseeing places in and around Tirumala, on the Internet. Places that we could visit in half a day.

Saw a list of places including Akasaganga, Paapanasam, Srivaari Paadalu, Natural Arch formation , Museum . I had visited all these places quite a few times during our previous visits. In the list I saw ‘Jabali/Japali Theertham’. I came across this place for the first time. The place is around 3km by road, from the main temple.It is said that a sage named Jabali meditated here and had the vision of Lord Hanuman.

We had half a day at our disposal and decided to go there.

Reached the entrance to the Temple in a car in less then 10min, driving through the winding road on the hills with the windows drawn and breathing in fresh cool air blowing through the trees all around. Our driver stopped at this arch .

 

We began walking up the stairs barefoot. Thankfully the steps were not steep :).  After some 50 long steps and no temple in sight , we asked a lady selling raw mangoes and cucumbers , ‘how far before we reach the temple ?’. She replied ‘around 100 steps up and 100 steps down’.

We took a deep breath and continued till we reached the top and were able to see the steps going down. The walkway is neat and clean and smooth. Very comfortable and enjoyable for those who are young and healthy. A bit difficult if you get tired easily.

We saw wild squirrels , wild hens , monkeys along the way. It was 4pm. Came across very old and tall trees as we got closer to the temple. It was a beautiful sight. We were actually in a valley .

The Golden coloured Temple is ensconced in a little valley , surrounded by lush greenery with a pond (Theertham) in front of it. This pond supposedly receives a continuous trickle of water.

There were a few shops and hardly 20 people in and around the temple.

After Darshan of Lord Hanuman , we sat on the steps and that is when I realised that my wish had come true. To visit a Temple which is away from the crowds.

It was a strange feeling. How quickly my wish was fulfilled.

The place gives a glimpse of life in a jungle where Rishis and sadhus would have lived and meditated. The feeling is indescribable and ethereal.

We bought a few soveniers from the shops. It was 6pm and we started walking back. The sun was setting and there was a golden hue all around above the trees. We walked back with background music from chirping birds while eating raw mango and cucumber pieces dipped in salt and red chilli powder 🙂

Loved the whole experience .

As I close my eyes I see myself sitting on the stairs in front of the temple and can vividly visualize that I am surrounded by tall trees, the pond and the temple and chirping birds .

It is these places and experiences which get etched in our memories and make life beautiful.

A must visit when you are in Tirumala.
 

 

 

 


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Update on my Condition – Multiple Myeloma

It is 3 months since I had my Bone marrow test .My results were -ve , No M-spike was seen.However , my Oncologist wanted me to be back with my CBP , LFT and RPT reports after 3 months. I actually expected he would say  I can come back after one year 🙂 but he didn’t want to take any risk. So I complied. I remember him saying that after 5 years of having the Transplant (Bone marrow Transplant) , I will have to take the Bone Marrow Test once every year. For the past 5 years I have been doing the test every 6 months .

My Hb touched 11 for the first time in decades. The range for a healthy woman as per my report is 11-14. This is an achievement !! A record break !!

Yayyyy !!

My Globulin Serum too is 34 which is well within the range. A bigger achievement !!

He was very happy on seeing the reports 🙂  and exclaimed ‘you are off all medication isn’t it ?!!’.

I said “Yes Doctor, but I am continuing to take Curcumin and I am sure it is helping me “.

It is one year since I stopped chemo and taking only Ayurvedic medication.

He then asked me , “Do you think  people should go for a Bone Marrow Transplant”.

I was confused.

I immediately said “yes,  there is no other option “.

I then reminded him about the advise he gave me , after my Bone Marrow Transplant (in Jan 2011)  , about using “Tinaspora Cordifolia” , to improve my immunity. Later on , it was this advise that motivated me to look for alternative treatments and I finally found the way.

Having started using Curcumin 2 years ago ,followed by good results , I had been very eager to push Curcumin  and I wanted my Oncologist to prescribe Curcumin along with Tinaspora Cordifolia to all his other patients.In fact, I started using Curcumin, two years ago, just when I was advised to go for a second Bone marrow transplant .

The right time had arrived and I blurted out ” Doctor , you can also recommend Curcumin to other patients. I have read a lot on the Internet and it prevents and treats all types of cancers.My ayurvedic doctor gives me Tinaspora Cordifolia too ,along with Curcumin and some other herbs”

He nodded and  I felt relieved that I finally said what I wanted to say :))

It is a delicate situation wherein a patient suggests an Allopathic Doctor to prescribe Ayurvedic Medication to his other patients . I am so glad that my Oncologist is open to try out other forms of treatment and encourages his patients.

Hopefully more patients will benefit and will be encouraged to try ayurveda , the way I did.

My sincere thanks to Dr Kochar, Ayurveda and Dr Suresh , Oncologist.

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My Sketches !!

Sketching is one of my favorite hobbies.

I always loved drawing. The earliest memories of me drawing were from my high school days when I used to enjoy drawing during the science classes. I loved drawing physics and chemistry experiments and labeling various parts.I also enjoyed drawing microcellular organisms and various systems in the human body … Respiratory system, digestive system etc.

We also had a very good drawing teacher at school who sometimes took us to the garden in the school and made us draw trees and flowering plants by sitting in front of them.

After school and during college I didn’t have the time to do much sketching.

Once in a while, I have this urge do a  sketch. Here are some of my recent sketches.
Sketching is like Meditation. I never get up without completing the sketch. All the while my mind is focussed on the drawing and it feels as though time stands still and all that exists is me and my sketch. I usually like to redraw an existing sketch rather than draw from my imagination or from a real scene.

I am still a novice. A steady practice is required to be able to do a freehand drawing 🙂

 

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A woman from rural India

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