Dreams put on hold

Mohd.Hanif Ambedkar – Sangameshwar, 2008


21st December 2000: I was working in Medina in Saudi Arabia. I am originally from Ambed Khurdh in Sangameshwar , district of Ratnagiri and .I had been living in Medina since early 1997.I was working as a receptionist in a 5 star hotel of Al Ansar Group.All my colleagues were Indians and Pakistanis and also many were by now my good friends. Life was going on fine and I was getting ready for my leave in March 2001.I was in touch with my parents constantly over the phone. My parents wished that I settle down and I agreed to it. They sent me the photographs of four to five girls. We mutually settled down for a girl from my village itself. The engagement was finalized and my elder brother Ibrahim who was in a senior post in the same hotel and in Medina for the last sixteen years, and myself were very excited to come to India for my marriage.

But I had no inclination that my happiness was to be short-lived. In October/November of 2000, I was bedridden for five days due to high fever, cold and cough. I got treated by a Pakistani doctor who was known to me. I recovered, but felt extremely weak and I realized that the left side of my stomach was feeling very hard. At first I ignored it, but when the weakness increased and I was not able to do any day to day jobs, I consulted my Pakistani roommate, Hafiz Shabbir Ahmed who advised me to see a specialist doctor immediately. Since I was busy I could not do so, but my elder brother who had come to know about my weakness insisted and I went with Hafiz to consult the same doctor. The doctor advised CBC and Sonography of abdomen which showed high WBC and enlarged spleen. The doctor explained to my friend but I was kept in dark about the findings.

I was advised to seek opinion of another specialist. I went and met Dr Jamil who was a Pathologist in King Fahad Hospital and also known to my brother. I was made to repeat my CBC and referred to Dr Ali Akbar who was from Hyderabad. At that point of time, my WBC was beyond a lakh and I was feeling very weak. I also underwent a Bone Marrow test which finally confirmed that I had CML. WBC, RBC, PLT, CML, Bone Marrow all of this was unheard of by me and my brother saw to it that I never found out that my  CML was a kind of blood cancer .Once I felt better he wanted me to live a carefree life.

My doctor advised after some months that I go to Bombay for further treatment and my brother started making the necessary arrangements. I resumed duty and I could see all my friends, brother all concerned about me. I reached Bombay on 13th January 2001.Back home too there was a pall of gloom as they probably were aware of my health problem. They were wondering how I could have any health problem as I did not indulge in smoking, tobacco or alcohol.  But I was of the opinion that only God can save us. My parents and my brother, Latif whom I was very close to met me in Bombay. My mother looked very upset but I was still unaware that I had Cancer. After consulting the elders in my family, my brother got me to meet Dr Saikia at Tata Memorial Hospital with all reports and slides of tests done at Medina had already started taking Hydrea 500mg from Medina itself.

Dr Saikia advised a Bone Marrow Transplant and also gave an estimate of ten to twelve Lakhs. All my family members got down to raising funds and my sisters Sameera, Sadiqa, Sabita and brother Ebrahim’s blood group was matched as I was O negative. My younger sister Sabita’s blood group, we found, matched with mine. We sought a month’s time and returned to our native place Ambed Khurdh.. On one side we got to raising twelve lakhs and on the other our hands went up in prayer. When I was in Bombay, my cousin Mukhtar accompanied me and also spoke at length to Dr Saikia who confirmed that I had cancer. My family members came to a conclusion not to go in for BMT as they were not sure it would be successful. Then I continued Hydrea 500 mg I also had to come to Bombay every fortnight for follow up.

Three years passed in this manner and during this period, I moved around freely and also played cricket which I was passionately fond of. In 2003, it dawned on me that I should not be a burden on my family even though they never made me feel so. I also found myself worrying endlessly which affected my health too. I was also advised by my doctor to keep busy and not give in to mental pressure .I shared this feeling with my brother .Latif and cousin Khalil and began to make plans. I relocated to Miraj as I liked the climate. Along with my friend, I opened a general store on Sangli Road Miraj.

In 2004, I discontinued treatment at Tata Hospital and first met Dr Tuljapur privately and then on his advise, started seeing him every two months  at Sidhivinayak Cancer Hospital. After some initial ups and downs my health stabilized and I started enjoying what I was doing. At that point of time, five girls from Shirala taluka came to stay where I was a tenant. They were Swati, Deepa, Lata, Sakhu, and Ratna and they were studying for their DMLT course. We all got along so well that it never occurred to me that I had cancer. They not only helped me in running my shop but also helped my mother with the cooking.

A year later, Swati’s sister passed her SSC and came to Miraj for further studies. She was very beautiful and kind hearted too. We became very good friends. I was so happy that words cannot express my feelings. After doing her 12th, Manali went to Kolhapur to study Food Technology. A year later all the rest also left Miraj and I became very lonely again but I will be always indebted to them for all that they did for me. I missed Manali the most as I shared a special bonding with her. In 2007, my shop was seized during some riots and I started a shop at another place but it did not work as due to continued tensions.

My health started failing again and my WBC count went up and my spleen too was enlarged. My friends Michael and Pitya were helping me to cope with everything but nothing seemed to ease my tensions. I was banking on my doctor to cure me in spite of my WBC going beyond a lakh and spleen being enlarged. I could not comprehend what was going on. I was consulting Dr Takle privately. Once during routine check up at Sidhivinayak Hospital, I had a long chat with my doctor and expressed fears about my failing health he assured me that everything will be fine.

But I was not at all happy with the condition I was in and always a lurking thought that I may not live long. My health deteriorated further and I spent more and more time in prayer that a miracle might happen. God has his own ways and I got a saviour in Dr Takle who referred me to Dr  M B Agarwal of Bombay .I went and met doctor who asked me to get some documents ready as he wanted to enroll me in GIPAP through which I could get Glivec free of cost. My life changed drastically after that. Within eight  days I was asked to approach Max Foundation with my file .I was very apprehensive of what was in store for me. T he first person I met at Max Foundation was Madam Viji Venkatesh who made everything so easy for me. I was very happy after meeting her. Her way of talking and explaining is so good that I wish  there is someone like her in every department which is involved in patient care. I pray for Viji madam and her entire staff and feel that asking for a boon that they live for a thousand years is less. I thank Viji madam and her entire staff and pray that they keep the great work going and continue to help us. When I started Glivec, my WBC was 117000,HB 8 and weight was 52 kgs. Even though I was given Glivec for 3 months, the doctor called me for follow up after a month. Within a month on Glivec, my WBC was 6000,HB 11 and weight was 53 kgs and my spleen had shrunk to its normal size. Novartis, Max Foundation and Glivec gave a new lease to my life.  Now I have set a fixed time table. I take Glivec, pray, do pranayams and yoga. It is more than a year that I am on Glivec and I am living an absolute normal life, all my counts are normal, I weigh 70 kgs now.

I wish to acknowledge my gratitude as well, on behalf of thousands who are on Glivec. I also wish and hope that they continue doing so and motivate us in the future too. I am unmarried at the moment but I can get married whenever I wish and also can work sixteen hours a day. Glivec has been a boon to all of us, I am living an absolute normal life. I wish to share with all patients is to pray to God and then take medicine, continue your daily routine, do a bit of pranayam and you can live a normal  good life. Stop negative thinking and face CML bravely. Never give up! We have to motivate the younger generation and keep our spirits and pray that that we always have persons like Viji Venkatesh and her wonderful team in our lives.