If life can be kind to those who are cruel, then can’t it also be cruel to those who are kind?

Ratika Tandon – Hyderabad, June 2005

“ Cancer…. she is diagnosed with cancer? Oh my God. Such a bad thing happened to her. I think God is not happy with her and that's why he cursed her with this disease.” This is the first and foremost thought that comes to one's mind. I am not talking about ill literates; well-educated people usually make this statement. God help them!

My life as it was….

Well, I am Ratika Tandon, a physiotherapist, from Delhi. But my story doesn't begin from here. For that we need to move down south…to a small, neat, close-knit place called Mangalore in Karnataka. After completing my schooling I moved to Mangalore to pursue my studies in Physiotherapy. I was very happy there with my friends around me. I was quite popular because of my voice…. I used to sing a lot, especially ghazals. I was the student co-ordinator for the Physiotherapy conferences held at the state level and all India level. I was the Master of Ceremony for all the functions and conferences. I used to dance too. In short I used to enjoy the work I was given. Imagine…I was in the limelight throughout.

I enjoyed the company of many friends there. Even my lecturers were quite friendly. All the people I've met have a special place in my life. But in Mangalore I met the one person who became my greatest asset—  my lecturer and pal, Dr.Ifthikar. He has been with me through thick and thin. He is the main source of inspiration in my life and is responsible for what I am today. I just pray to God that I am blessed with his friendship in my coming lives too.

The signs of an altered existence…

In Mangalore, I used to fall sick with fever and experience breathlessness quite often, which used to worry my friends. They used to take care of me in the hostel as well as in the hospital. All was going well with me till May 2003. I returned home from Mangalore for my summer holidays and a fever caught hold of me that went up to 102 degree Celsius. My doctor asked me to go for a blood test. My WBC count went up to 67,000 on the first day. After two days it went up to 69,000. Then I got my test done at AIIMS, IRCH, where the count blew up to 1,89,000. It was a shock for me because; being a medical student I knew the possible causes for this condition. I also knew that if I were to tell mom and dad, they would become tense. Then, within two days I went through a bone marrow test.

One phone call changed my life….

My family and I were waiting eagerly for my doctor's call. We were all praying for a positive report. When the phone rang; my dad picked up the call and hung up without uttering a word. Then, few moments later he burst out crying…. the report confirmed that I was suffering from BLOOD CANCER. Everybody at home was crying but I did not break down, because I knew that I would be fine and that there was nothing to worry about. I wiped my dad's tears, told mom not to cry and to save those precious gems for
my marriage.AIIMS became a regular place for me to visit. I used to see so many people crying, tense and worried about their relatives. It made me wonder why people don't take things easily and lightly? Then I thought that it's just the way you think about a problem, your attitude towards life, which matters more than anything else.

Anyway, after my diagnosis I had to stay back home in Delhi for three months for my treatment as my doctor and my parents were very worried about me. (Only I know how boring those three months were, without my friends around!!!! But whom to tell, my dear readers, no one could help it!) Though my younger brother Abhaas was always there beside me and I could speak my heart out to him. He used to act, dance, make me laugh and keep me happy always. After my diagnosis we developed a stronger
bond of love and care between us.

Not the end, but a new beginning…

Somehow, three months passed. I had called up my Sir and explained the situation before. He was and still is like my Godfather. My Sir has a special place in my life. I must have done some very good deeds in my past life that I met him. He has helped me in every way he could. Most often he had to go out of his way and get a task done for me. He used to call me up so many times to enquire about my health. Whenever he met me, he evaded looking into my eyes because he knew I would read his eyes and catch him crying behind his pleasant smile. Words cannot explain what he means to me.

My friends and my lecturers used to call me up in Delhi and talk to me. They knew what I was suffering from but they didn't show it at all. Hats off to them. I wanted to talk about it freely to them because I knew what they were going through but the situation was not in my favour.

Finally in September 2003 I went back to Mangalore. I was in the final year at that time. I couldn't believe the warm welcome I got with bouquets, cards, and hugs. My parents were worried about me back home. But my Sir and my best friend extended their supportive shoulders. My friends used to recite the Hanuman Chaalisa at 9:00pm every night, in my friend's room for my well-being. They used to leave their work and attend to me even if I just sneezed once! I am not joking, it's true. My seniors and my juniors used to come to me and talk about everything under the sun, but never about my problem. They used to say just one thing… “Troubles and obstacles only come in one's way to make one stronger and test their ability to overcome them… and Ratika, we know you will get through this phase very very soon.” Those words are still helping
me cross the path of my life, smoothly.

A small story with a big impact….

I heard this story once in school when I was in the sixth standard. There was an old man, nearing sixty years of life, walking down the seashore. He had had quite a troublesome life with many ups and downs. As he walked along the shore he started talking to God, discussing his life. He asked him. “ Oh! Almighty, as I look back on my journey through life I can see four footsteps. Two are mine, but what about the other two?” God replied, “ The other two are mine. I was walking along with you my child.” The old man looked back again, at the footsteps. He was very upset to see only one pair of footsteps when he faced trouble in his life. He again enquired, this time with anger and anxiousness in his tone, “ Oh dear God, you were always there with me when I was happy and content, but why did you leave me alone when I needed you the most?” God smiled and replied, “ My dear child, those are my footsteps. In times of trouble I was the one carrying you in my arms.” So don't be upset my friends, be happy, we are in Almighty's protective arms.

A blessing in disguise….

All my batch mates had differences with each other but my incident got them back together. And with God's grace, last July I was appointed as the Gen.Secretary for NSUI (National Students Union of India), Delhi State. This in turn has made me stronger and confident. I'm still suffering from the disease…but believe me, it's only according to my doctors and medical reports… I don't care at all. I am the kind of person who lives every moment to the fullest and takes life as it comes. What has to happen will happen… you can't change it. What you can do is, make use of the situation, good or bad, pamper yourself and be happy. Now you tell me if I was not a CML patient and not a member of the GIPAP family, who would have taken interest in my life and have motivated me to write my autobiography??? So tell me, dear reader should I consider CANCER, a Curse or a Blessing?