A Blessing in Disguise

R R Venkatesh – Chennai , 2009
I am R.R. Venkatesh, from Chennai. I was diagnosed with CML in December 2004. I worked for a short time in the Military service. Then I had been working for an Automobile Giant in the Middle East (Dubai) as a Service Manager. My wife Anuradha, and child Nikhil, were also with me in Dubai.  Things had been going very normally and smoothly for over three years in Dubai until that Sunday when I developed a pain in my right abdomen region. It was so severe that I was unable to even carry a bucket of water. On seeking a medical opinion, the doctors in Dubai confirmed Inguinal Hernia and recommended a surgery. I strongly felt that India was the best place for all medical procedures and hence I rushed to SRM Chennai.  Prior to the surgery I took a mandatory blood test. The blood report confirmed a blood disorder in my body.  I happened to read the note written on a piece of paper attached to the blood report which said “suspected leukemia”. As it turned out I was the first to know that I had CML. The doctor who kept the blood report file on my bed was probably absent minded.  The funniest part was that he came after ten minutes and asked me if I had opened the file.  I pretended as though I hadn’t.  But internally I was in a state of shock.  The impact was more than an earthquake that measured 8 plus on the Ritcher scale.

The ensuing dialogue:

The Chief Doctor (who was very close to my sister’s family), called my wife, sisters and in-laws and informed them about my CML.  I knew the drama would start now.

Scene No.1

Wife enters and says: Don’t worry.  Doctor says you are perfectly alright.

Myself:   Yes I know.

Wife says:  You are a strong man.

Myself:  Yes I know.

Wife:  Army life has literally made you stronger. You can withstand any jolt.

Myself:  Yes I know. My first jolt was my marriage.  After that no major jolts in my life.

Wife:    Good joke.  I have heard this several times.  Are you feeling weak or breathless?

Myself: Why should I?  I am strong; I am an Ex-Army man.

Wife:  Yes you are strong.  Nothing can come near you.

Myself:  Yes I know.  Nothing can come near me except my wife.

She laughed for a few seconds and later tears rolled out of her eyes.  It was probably the first time I had seen my wife in tears, except – while peeling onions (which she did rarely). Even at home I would be the one in tears most of the time since I peeled the onions!  Anyhow, we had a chat for nearly an hour or so and I finally managed to bring her to normalcy.  I even requested her to call up my sisters and other near and dear ones and not to panic.  Things would become normal in due course.  So the drama ended with scene 1 itself.

Bollywood movies in the 1980 have shown heroes dying of leukemia.

However, it’s a different story now.  Nobody would dare make such a movie. Moviemakers beware- Novartis and The Max Foundation is there.  I saw a movie by the name “Vazhve Mayam” in the 80’s starring Kamal Hassan. His character dies a painful death after failing to combat CML.   Being a crazy fan of Kamal Hassan the movie scenes used to run in front of my eyes after I knew that I had CML. Then I learnt of a Foundation that God sent my way- The Max Foundation.  Until then Kamal Hassan’s movie repeatedly ran in my mind-all shows 24 hours x 7 days. You could imagine my plight. I did not know what to do as I lay in the SRM Hospital bed for 7 days and helplessly waited for someone to rescue me from this ordeal.  Also the Doctor in SRM Hospital did not have any idea of any pill or immediate medication and insisted on a BMT in their ill equipped oncology department.

Novartis and Max Foundation, The Savior.

My wife finally got to know that the Cancer Institute in Adayar was the ultimate destination for this illness. We met Dr. Sridharan, who at the first instance gave us hope by telling us that I was lucky to have got CML since there was a cure for it through the magic bullet called GLIVEC. It was offered free through the GIPAP program.  Dr. Sridharan recommended my case to The Max Foundation. At that time I didn’t even know who was offering me what. It was done instantly in order to save my life. The funniest part was that I was okay in a week’s time.  Vijima called me to find out how I was, gave me lots of support and asked me to be in touch with my friends at Chennai. I got a few addresses and contact numbers.  She made me feel so comfortable that I forgot that I had CML.  I request Vijima to always talk to all the freshly diagnosed CML patients and to let it be a lengthy chat. This chat will bring a great change in them and give them the strength they require to fight. Without exaggeration, I felt really comfortable when Vijima spoke to me. In my treatment, 50% of the cure was Vijima and the rest 50% was the medicine. Even doctors said that moral support gave more strength to the patient than the medicine.  I am sorry I can’t call myself a patient anymore because I am stronger than a normal average man of my age.

Post Glivec consumption.

 I got to normalcy in just seven days. After a gap of thirty days I underwent the surgery on inguinal hernia at the same SRM Hospital where I had been diagnosed with CML.  The doctors asked me how the blood count came to normal in such a short period.  I narrated the whole story that took place at CIA Adayar. I started to feel good in two to three months but for a few cramps here and there. Few of my friends asked how I had become so fair all of a sudden and I used to crack a standard joke- “When was I unfair?”

I have been blessed in so many ways:

Firstly, I got to know lots of meaningful friends through Max Foundation and our support group Friends of Max

Secondly, I learnt to be stronger and stronger as each and every day passed.

Thirdly, I learnt how to deal with a crisis by sharing and learning through positive interaction.

Fourthly, I realized the meaning of life– how precious it is and how to lead this life qualitatively.

Fifthly, I learnt to be service minded from Vijima.

Sixthly, I learnt the joy of living more for others than for myself.

Seventhly, I had a positive attitude, to be confident and hopeful that there was always light at the end of a tunnel.

Eighthly, I learnt to be grateful that I have a family. One cannot fight anything alone, since God has not intended for one to be left alone.

Finally, my fairness, which was still a puzzle. My ‘girlfriends’ kept asking me the secret behind this change.

Today, I have started my own business:

I’m on the outskirts of Chennai. I make enough profit to support a small family, one child and one wife, of course! I’m also engaged in a few charities which help, in a small way, in the upliftment of the needy.  Max Foundation is an ocean that serves thousands and thousands of deserving ones like me so why can’t I do a bit of good work, albeit to my own capacity. I owe thanks to Novartis , Max, Pat, Vijima, Ayesha, Beena, CIA Adayar, Friends of Max and all those who are serving outside India and belong to the Max Foundation .Also, a big thanks to SRM Hospital- without their diagnosis I wouldn’t have entered this beautiful world called the Max Foundation.  Thanks – Max Foundation.  Jaihind.