It is 15 months now since I started peacefully co-existing with my metastatic cancer of prostate origin which manifested itself on September 30,2009, in the form of blood in the urine.
It had started in the prostate five years earlier and then slowly spread to the urinary bladder, a nearby bone and a lymph node. Everyone in the family was depressed on seeing the PET scan report, which showed the extent of the spread of the cancer.
It showed that the cancer had affected about 15 per cent of the body. I cheered myself up from the fact that 85 per cent of my body still remained non-cancerous and healthy. I decided to motivate the healthy 85 per cent to fight the cancerous 15 .
That’s what I have been doing for the last 14 months---- through hormonal treatment which in crude language means chemical castration ( they call it total androgen blocade), undiminished mental activity, regular physical activity, but slightly reduced as compared to what I was doing before the cancer was detected, extensive reading and research on cancer in order to decide myself how to cope with it and so on.
My doctor gave me a humorous book on the prostate written by an American specialist. It said that post-mortems after traffic accidents showed that many people had been leading an active life without being aware that they had a cancer inside the body. His conclusion: Many people do not die of cancer, they die along with it without ever becoming aware that they had a cancerous growth inside.
Before I agreed to undergo the hormonal therapy, I asked a 70-year-old doctor from a well-known Chennai family of cancer specialists: Do I have the option of not undergoing any treatment?
“Yes, you have”, he said. “ I know cases where people decided not to undergo any treatment and managed to survive. No doctor or medical literature can explain how they managed to survive. But my own advice to you will be to undergo the treatment.”
I have been doing so since November 11,2009. A painless injection with no side-effects once a quarter and a tablet with some side effects every day to stop the production of the male sex hormone in the body.
My doctor said that the male sex hormone acts as a fertilizer for the cancer which has its origin in the prostate. Once you deny that fertilizer to the cancer, it stops growing and, if you are lucky, may even shrivel up.
My quarterly blood tests show a steep drop in the PSA level. My urine tests show the absence of cancerous cells in the urine.
My weight remains constant. So does my mental energy level, but my physical energy level is lower than what it was a year ago---due to cancer or my old age (74)? I do not know. Probably both.
I pick up advice on what to do---here, there and everywhere.
Take six to eight walnuts every day.
Drink a glass of anar juice every day.
Take a teaspoonful of turmeric powder in an empty stomach every morning.
Do acupressure exercises for 10 minutes thrice a day.
Be a social drinker drinking occasionally two large pegs of Scotch & soda, but avoid drinking daily.
Cut down the intake of sweets, which may provide nourishment to the cancerous cells.
No difficulty in following this advice.
Emulate Morarji Desai.
Sorry, that I can’t.
“ But, look how healthy he was till his 90s. He never even went to a dentist.”
Nothing doing. I am not Morarji.
For one month after the treatment started I suspended all my travels---domestic as well as foreign---for seminaring. I have gradually resumed my domestic travels----- four times to Hyderabad, thrice to New Delhi, six times to Bangalore, once to Manipal, twice to Mumbai, once to Kolkutta and once to Mhow.
My doctor has been encouraging me to resume my foreign travels too. I have not yet. I feel nervous at the thought of the pain----which has not yet started---starting when I am abroad.
That’s the awful thing about cancer. You do not necessarily have pain, but the fear of the pain starting one day affects you psychologically.
Every night before I go to sleep---I tell myself---thank God, there was no pain today. How many days more of painless existence? I do not know. I keep my fingers crossed.
There are many web sites of well-known hospitals which help cancer patients to cope with their cancer. I visit them regularly. One of them assesses what are your chances of survival on the basis of your medical reports.
In November 2009, after I had started the therapy I visited the website and typed my medical report readings. “ You can hope to live for a maximum of three years more”, it said.
I have already lived for 15 months since then.
Let me see who has the last laugh----me or my cancer?
In my intelligence profession, I was looked upon as the man who always had the last laugh.
Will I be able to keep up this reputation? (31-12-10)