And Miles To Go..

Kerul Patel – Mumbai, November 2007

My name is Kerul Patel and I'm fighting leukaemia since September 2003.

Brief back ground:

After completing my MBA and MSc in finance from the USA, I returned home to help improve my family business in 1997. I've been married to my lovely wife Charita for over eight years now and have a son named Pratish who is over 5 years old. Fitness was always as important to me as studies or work. Martial art was the preferred hobby during my college years. Thereafter, I took to running. I especially enjoy running along the Marine Drive coastline and hit the gymnasium 3-4 days a week for overall fitness.

Rewind to September, 2003: The diagnosis

I was 32 then and married with a son who was just one and a half years old. Work was pretty hectic. I was quite fit for a 32 year old, clocking 4km in 20 minutes. It was during a routine construction site visit at a suburban location for work, that I was bitten all over by mosquitoes. Within 2 days, on 25th Sep '03 I was running a fever above 103F. I was convinced by the symptoms that I might have contracted a virus from the mosquitoes and hence got a blood test done on the same day. The tests confirmed that I had contracted the (now notoriously infamous) dengue virus. But there was more to come . My White Blood Counts were way above the desired levels and I was immediately referred to a Haematologist. By 27th Sep '03, I was in bad shape, running high fever and by now tossing up blood. I was admitted to Bhatia General Hospital. Soon a biopsy and bone marrow test revealed that I was in the chronic phase of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia.

My reaction

Personally, I was badly beaten down by dengue. So I was too weak and disillusioned to react to the leukaemia news the doctor had broken to me. My family and friends were rock solid behind me. My parents were in Gujarat at that time. As soon as they heard the news, they flew to Mumbai. Although I didn't see them react, I'm certain the news was shattering to them. As soon as I was hydrated through an intravenous line and had platelets pumped into me; I started to feel better. As I lay in the ICU at the Bhatia Hospital, I started to talk to myself. I decided that I was not going to give in without a good fight. After over four years of marriage, I discovered how tough my wife had been on
hearing the news. I had to set an example.

I set 3 goals for myself:-

First was to get out of the ICU as soon as possible (it was a rather boring place!).
Secondly, I was going to get back to doing the things that I loved running.
Thirdly, I was going to see my son blow out 21 candles from his birthday cake.
I achieved the first goal within 3 days.

News that brought hope.

Thereafter, during subsequent doctor's visits, I was absolutely thrilled to hear that there was a drug in the market called Glivec. It was distributed free by Novartis the manufacturing Pharma company via the Max Foundation in India due to the high cost. Nevertheless, I knew the fight was going to be a long one. Glivec was the frontline treatment option for CML management and not a cure. To hear that there was Glivec; which not only managed CML but also enabled one to lead a near normal life was a huge relief. I did go through the usual side effects of the drug but overall, I tolerated it well. By March 2004, I was back in the gymnasium. Slow and steady, I started to take hold of my life. I figured that the bigger fight was in my own head and I was going to win by staying positive.

The years since diagnosis

The years since then have been a rollercoaster ride. I'm on a maximum dose of 800mg since mid 2005. I'm back to running, although not the same distance. I can manage 3km in 20 minutes. I achieved the second goal within 2 years of diagnosis. I never felt sorry for myself. On the contrary, I was glad that during my interaction with the Max Foundation, I met some great people. Today, some of them are dear to me and are close friends of mine. There's a silver lining to everything. I am what I am and it's because of the support of my family, close relatives, friends, my doctor, Novartis and the Max Foundation. With wonderful people around me, I know I'll achieve my third goal too.

“Sometimes, life throws lemons at you. You can either:-
1) Duck
2) Make lemonade
3) Or bring out a bottle of tequila and some salt.
I chose the last option!