And Life Goes On…..

K Sailaja – Hyderabad, 2011

My life had been pretty much idyllic. I had a wonderful husband, two kids and a comfortable home. Life was going pretty smoothly for us, when on a summer afternoon of April 2003 I complained of some heaviness and discomfort around the abdomen (that was my enlarged spleen). Since I had also been having mild fevers off and on for the past two weeks, my husband took me for a blood test and an ultrasound. That evening as my husband accompanied me to the hospital, I went to the appointment feeling pretty good telling myself ‘it couldn’t be anything serious’. Next as we sat in Dr Prasad’s consultation room, nothing had prepared me for the rude shock I was going to receive. After going through the reports and some brief queries, as the doctor started explaining to me about my CML diagnosis, I was shocked and said to myself ‘this couldn’t be happening to me; surely there must be some mistake’. Unfortunately there was no mistake. I realized that I had been ignoring all the warning signals – tiredness, weakness, loss of weight and such.

Cancer was supposed to happen to others, how come I got it? I spent the following couple of days sobbing and thinking about life and how much I had taken for granted. I thought I had a whole life ahead of me and now perhaps I would never see my kids grow. I sobbed most of that time. What’s more, the main treatment drug Glivec is costing a fortune – Rs.1.5 lakhs for a month’s treatment! Our first concern was how on earth were we going to pay for my treatment? However, thanks to Dr.Prasad I got enrolled into the GIPAP programme run by Novartis.

For the whole first year, I think I was very fragile emotionally and physically. I was depressed, tears would suddenly come to my eyes, and I would feel sorry for myself. I must offer thanks to support groups on the internet which saved my sanity and my life, and gave me the motivation to move on. Being diagnosed with cancer changed my world and my life- I feel blessed and lucky everyday. I was never a spiritually oriented person, but now I have started believing in the power of prayers. Over time, life started getting back to normal and CML now takes a back seat for the most part. My kids are growing and we are going about life as normally as any family would. Nobody knows how long they have to live, but I feel that I have been given a second chance by God. I see it as a gift.

Glivec is truly a miracle drug, as it brought me back to normalcy within a couple of months! The fact that I am here today and leading a near normal life – all credit goes to Glivec, Novartis and the Max Foundation for creating this wonderful program called GIPAP. It was unfortunate that I got this disease, but I consider myself very blessed to be associated with TMF and Friends of Max. God had indeed been very kind! All those who are newly diagnosed, please know that in spite of CML, it is possible to live a “normal” happy life. Diagnosis time is very traumatic and then comes the time to pick up the pieces and rebuild life with adjusted dreams and hopes. Time is a great healer. No doubt there will be many ups and downs which we may have to face along the road. But what I do believe is the saying “what does not kill you, makes you stronger”.

My advice to everyone is: Please take your medicines daily without fail, get your tests done regularly and always follow your doctors’ instructions. Bottom-line – DONT BE COMPLACENT ABOUT YOUR TREATMENT AND YOUR LIFE.