A New Life

Cedric Mathew – Kolkata, 2008


After having read most of the Friends of Max group sharing their traumatic experience and the pain and fear that accompanies any disaster, I wish to present mine as well. Honestly, mine was no different as we all love our lives, our near and dear ones and any sudden news of accident, illness or crisis shatters our dreams.

Let me begin by telling you about my family; that wonderful support system without whom we would all be lost. In my family, we are five brothers, all born and brought up at Asansol, about 230 kms from Kolkata. All of us studied in St. Vincent’s School till Class X and thereafter completed our College from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and stayed at St. Xavier’s College Hostel. Life at the Hostel was one of the best I ever experienced. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the authorities at St. Vincent’s and St. Xavier’s College for all the guidance and financial assistance extended which helped us complete our education.

Soon after completing my post graduation, I was very fortunate to be associated with one of the leading Shipping Line Companies, MAERSK and joined same in the month of December, 2004 as Executive, Customer Service and thereafter took the responsibility of looking after Sales & Marketing from 2006. The relationship and bonding which we had built ever since then lasts till date though all the team members have progressed in life and are stationed in different parts of the country and abroad. The then Branch Manager, Mr. Bernard Devaraj, now in Australia, under whose leadership I had joined is still in touch with all the team members. He always has been a source of guidance and strength and news of my falling ill with CML left him and his family shattered. My initial stay at Kolkata during the course of work was very difficult as I stayed at Park Circus as paying guest without facility to cook or get food. It was a close family friend who took care of my meals at Elliot Lane, Kolkata subsequently.

With regard to the illness, my earliest symptom was that of weight loss. I had started losing weight since November, 2006 onwards and with no indication of anything serious coming.  It was during mid January, 2007 when I was forced to go for a blood test, just as a precautionary measure, that we came to learn about an alarming rise in my WBC. It was the 12th of January, 2007 and late in the evening that all the family members and relatives joined together to take a call and decide the next course of action. The news was not good. During the night there were frantic calls made to family members who were either doctors or had some contacts in the medical field and located at various places to seek their views as this situation was completely new to most of us and certainly myself.

The decision was made to undergo treatment at Mumbai and necessary arrangements were made instantly.

The next day, 13th January 2007, was a Saturday, and it was our office picnic day. We were supposed to report near the Dum Dum Airport in Kolkata to board the bus arranged for the staff by 6.45 am. It was about 7.00 am I received a call from my HR Manager, Mr. Joydeb Dhar enquiring about the delay in my reporting for the picnic. I had to share the news with them and considering that I stayed very close to the Airport, he was at our place within about 10 minutes after informing our Regional Director, Mr. Deep Gupta. I was in no position to take their call as I was emotionally shattered and was assisted by my family members to do all the talking.

We were assured that all necessary assistance from my office would be mine in this regard. The only feeling that played on my mind was about our precious daughter, Tina, who was just four plus then. Tina has been a wonderful child from her early age and we definitely felt blessed to have her and we wanted only the very best for her.

The test reports were initially reviewed by a doctor assisting Dr Advani at Jaslok Hospital and I was assured that there should not be a problem with the illness and ALL I need to take a was one “Single “ medicine each day which can take care of me. It was a long wait till Dr .Advani arrived at 4.30 pm.
After the bone marrow test at Jaslok, Mumbai the diagnosis of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia was confirmed – CML, something which we had not heard of.

It was a shock to the family and to all staff at our work place once they were informed from Jaslok itself regarding the expenses involved in the treatment. We received all assurances from Dr Advani who consoled us and luckily during that visit to Mumbai itself we were informed about the donation programme by Novartis and The Max Foundation. We met Ayeshah and Amma with our request and were assured of all possible assistance regarding approval. We could not believe it when we were informed the very next day itself that the approval has been granted and we can proceed with collection of Glivec.

It was a relief to all back at Kolkata and the Head Master of St. Xavier’s School even held a Prayer Meet for my speedy recovery. We did receive many calls from the teachers at St. Xavier’s enquiring about the progress and them and their prayers we shall always be grateful.

I would like to thank all in the family, relatives, and well wishers and most importantly all at TMF for the support and assistance given. It certainly was a beginning of a new life and after receiving Glivec, there was no looking back. The attitude towards life has changed after meeting all coping with CML during various Friends of Max meets. Holding each others’ hand during this hour of crisis provides a lot of strength and positive feelings with which to face challenges.  We are a very fortunate group of people who receive Glivec, at no cost. How many people can be lucky enough to be part of an assistance programme like this?

I am leading a normal life now and the latest Bone Marrow test report from Jaslok taken during end May, 2008 confirms major improvement. Dr. S H Advani, who has always been very comforting since Day One is very pleased with the progress but of course the medicine will have to be continued to be taken , he says.

Now, since we have received a new lease of live through Novartis and TMF, we would all like to give back as much possible to the unfortunate few in the Society and Pray for them.

Once again a big Thank You to all at Novartis, TMF, Dr S H Advani, Senior Management at Office and well wishers for their Best Wishes and Prayers.