And We are Living Happily Ever After

Ashish Mahajan – Pune, October 2007

I appreciate this opportunity to share my experiences.
Those of us taking Glivec have some wonderful experiences to share. The readers would have been bored if it was just a sad story. I am Ashish Mahajan, 31 years old, born and brought up in Dombivali, Mumbai. I am a Software Engineer and live in Pune.

My life was smooth and happy until one day…
In Feb 2002, I was diagnosed with CML. One awful day in Dec 2001, I had some snacks that I couldn't digest properly. I had diarrhea, vomiting etc. For the entire month of January 02, my family doctor was wondering what was wrong with me as both my liver and spleen were enlarged. I may be guessing but I think the liver gets enlarged in jaundice and the spleen in malaria but I have not heard of both enlargements together. The CBC was showing odd numbers. The doctor immediately referred me to renowned Dr. Agarwal in Mumbai. We consulted him immediately and within a few days, the doctor shocked my family by informing them about my CML diagnosis. I was not informed for a few days. I became suspicious as my mother was looking sad. I thought she was going through some other problem. When I asked her she just said, “Nothing beta.” I thought that the illness was due to food poisoning. A few days passed by, then one day I saw my diagnosis on a paper which was kept hidden. It mentioned CML. At that time I was unaware of what Leukemia was so I searched for it on Google. I found thousands of references and after browsing for a while I came to know that it's a type of cancer. I was shocked. Life expectancy in the case of CML was 4-5 years so I felt as though nothing was left in my life. I told my parents and brothers that I had learned about my diagnosis. I felt quiterelaxed as if I had eased one of their burdens; they could see that even after knowing about my diagnosis I was looking cool.

Treatment started immediately.
My WBC count was 1.5 lakh at the time of diagnosis. So while starting Interferon (Glivec was not available in the market at that time) the WBC needed to be brought down. Once it was done, I started a daily dose of Interferon. It was a pain in the neck (although I feel like using a harsher word!) For few days a pain remained at the spot where I was given the injection so we had to change the spot daily. Slowly most of my body parts were in pain. Actually I was tolerant to Interferon, but I needed some other alternative. Adding to that, after few months, ARA-C was introduced. So now two injections were given to me daily. As I used to take ARA-C by insulin it was less painful. We are a middle class family, so the cost of the Interferon treatment was too unaffordable. Adding to the pain of the diagnosis was the problem of managing Rs.30, 000 per month for treatment. For few months we managed from our savings but eventually we ran out of our savings too. My parents compiled a list of social service organizations. They used to go to different such organizations to procure money. But my parents are in their fifties. My father cannot see from one eye. And yet, through rain or sunshine they used to go to different places in Dombivali as well as in Mumbai. My brothers and friends used to go to different places too, to seek donation after their working hours and on weekends. Though I was tolerant to Interferon, the results were not promising. At that time we hadn't heard about Glivec so there wasn't much hope. We decided to try alternative medicines along with Interferon. One of our relatives is an Acupressure doctor so he promised to do Acupressure treatment for me free of cost. I don't know how it worked on the CML but the Acupressure helped me relax. I started wheat grass therapy. Every Saturday I started taking cow urine therapy too. My brother used to go to one Gotha early every Saturday morning at 4 am to get cow urine. We were tired of all these and needed some alternative. My doctor Dr. Tapan Saikia was my greatest support. Even a visit to him used to make me feel as if I was almost cured. We couldn't imagine seeing another doctor. When he moved from the Tata Memorial to another hospital, we were very worried. We requested him if we could see him at Prince Aly Khan hospital and he agreed. We told him that we would see him even if we went abroad.

Then Glivec came into my life and everything changed.
The doctor gave us an idea about how wonderful and magical Glivec was. And how the equation of CML treatment all over the world was changing due to Glivec. He gave us a website address to register. We did the same and within a few days our dear Viji ji contacted us. Viji ji was very kind and approved me right away. It was unimaginable that we would be getting such a costly life saving drug free of cost. I can't begin to describe the wonders of Glivec. As you all know, within few months it starts showing its magic. After a year and half I was in remission. I got my life back! My happiness knew no bounds!! Enrolling in the GIPAP program gave me a valuable gift: friends and family. All the GIPAP coordinators are so wonderful and kind, Viji ji, Ganeshan, Ayesha, Sharon, and more. Friends of Max (FOM) are friendly and wonderful. It's a big family. We are grateful to the GIPAP co-coordinator for forming groups like FOM, arranging get-togethers besides arranging for our timely pills and more. I wish all my friends and family a very happy, healthy, prosperous and enjoyable long life!!

Today I have forgotten that I have CML.
Sometimes I even forget to take the pills (I agree. There is no excuse). But I am back to my routine life. My perception about life has changed and I am living a more meaningful life. Whatever and however I am today is because of my family and friends. They gave me tremendous support. Hats off to them!! My strength is my wife Anagha and my sweet baby Amisha. They mean everything to me. I just want to say a few things to the CML warriors. Gone are the days of worrying about life after CML diagnosis. Glivec and many such powerful magic pills are in the pipeline. Now a CML warrior can live a normal life just like any other healthy person. Even warrior is not the right word as there is no struggle, no fight now but for want of a better word I used it. I hate to be called a patient. Life is full of wonders so live it large. I just want to say one thing… Never Ever Give Up. You might recollect the sketch of a crane eating a frog, but even if its head is in the crane's mouth, it fights back by trying to grab the crane's throat. Edison's quote says it all: Most of life's failures are the people who didn't realize how close to success they were when they gave up. I also get inspiration from legendary people like Helen Keller and Sir Stephen Hawkins.

A word of thanks
I want to thank my parents and friends, relatives, my wife Anagha and my baby Amisha for their love, care and support. Without them even Glivec wouldn't work. Thank you Novartis for inventing and donating such a miraculous life saving drug. Thank you Dr. Saikia, for your invaluable consultation. Thank you Max Foundation for making these magic pills available to all the needy people. Thank you Viji ji, Ayesha, Sharon, Ganeshan and all you Max Foundation guys for your support, alertness, promptness in making sure that everybody gets their pills well in time. Your work and support are beyond words and appreciation. Thank you my FOM friends for your love, care and support.