In Search of Gold

Nitin Mongia – Mumbai, October 2006


I was diagnosed with ITP in 1998 when I was on a diet, given to me by Anjali Mukherjee. I was trying to lose weight for the Asian Games selection trials to be held in Bangkok. I weighed 100 kgs and the aim was to knock of 10 kgs by the selection trials as the boat I was sailing in required me to be on the lighter side. I had become really fit. I was running 45-60 minutes a day, five times a week and sailing almost everyday till I got ITP in the ninth week of my diet. Till date I don't know whether it was the diet or something else that caused this condition. (Probably that's why it's called ITP -IDIOPATHIC THROMBOCYTOPENIA PURPURA)

Moving on…

I sailed the trials much against my family and my doctor's (Dr. Sunil Parikh) wishes. And I wore a helmet to avoid any injury to the head. I finished second and didn't qualify for the Games. It was probably the most disappointing time in my life and for the first time I actually considered quitting competitive sailing as I had failed to qualify previously in 1990 and 1994.I was given steroids intravenously for five days. The platelet count came up but went down again after stopping. I was then put on a decreasing dose of oral steroids for about 3-4 months which resulted in my muscles deteriorating so rapidly that I could barely climb the flight of steps up to my house without panting. I actually had to take the lift up to the first floor, something I vowed I would never do once I got better and I have kept my word till date. I started to get better and decided I would sail one last time at the Nationals which were being held in Hyderabad and if I didn't win there, then I would quit sailing. I finally won the Nationals after a grueling 7 race series against the same person who had beaten me in the selection trials earlier that year and that made me make up my mind to campaign for the next Asian Games in 2002 to be held in Bussan South Korea. I trained regularly after that and had to go for regular blood tests to monitor my platelet count. In 2001 I went to South Korea for the Asian Sailing

Championships and finished second behind the Korean sailor who appeared to be the most competitive competitor for the Asian games Gold the following year. I came back to India and trained really hard for one year, won the selection trials and earned the right to represent my country at the Asian Games. I arrived in Bussan confident that I could win the Gold as I had trained enough and whilst practicing I knew I was sailing distinctly better than the Korean who was quite rattled by me as he had walked away with the Gold quite comfortably the previous year. I won the first two races and the Korean started looking at ways to bend the rules to win. He asked for an equipment change which was not permitted by the rules. However, the measurer was a Korean and he got away with it. He won the third race and I won the fourth and after seven races I was ahead by a point. Then we had a collision and as per the rules he was supposed to do a penalty but didn't. Eventually, I had to lodge a protest against him and even though I was right I got disqualified as there were two members in the jury who were Korean and even though it was an Asian games event with representation from other countries, there was nothing anyone could do. Disappointed, I had to settle for the silver, which also was a big achievement as I was the only person in the history of sailing to have won a silver medal at Asian games that were held outside the country and that too in a single hander class. I was awarded the Arjuna award in 2003 for my silver medal. Happy but not quite satisfied with my performance I
set my sights on next year's World Championships 2003.

The World championships in 2003 were a dream come true.

If there was ever a week that everything went right, then it was the week of the Worlds. It was as if the week belonged to me. I won the Gold at the World Championships and just the joy of standing at the podium listening to our National Anthem being played brought tears to my eyes. I think I was in a state of shock for the next two weeks after I came home. After getting back to reality I decided to campaign for the Olympics. We didn't qualify for the Athens Olympics but are currently training for China-Beijing 2008.In July this year I got the shock of my life when a routine blood test revealed abnormally high platelet and WBC counts. I went back to Dr. Parikh who after many tests diagnosed me with CML.On going through my reports of the last five years he has ascertained that I have probably had CML since 2001, as I was only checking my platelet count values in the reports and nothing else. I have been on Glivec since August and haveresponded well to it. My recent bone marrow test shows a 75% improvement. Though my fitness has gone  down tremendously and I have put on a lot of weight I still push myself to work out and on days when I feel lazy, I am helped by my ever supportive wife and family.

I have begun to think the whole thing is in the mind.

I had CML since 2001, but still it never stopped me from leading a normal life. It plays a lot on my mind now, probably because I know that I have CML. There are times when one tries to push it at the back of the mind and carry on but it's just not possible. The fatigue doesn't let the body do it even though the mind is willing. Iam training more regularly now than before. After I have come to terms with it and accepted it as part of my life, I decided that I have to get back to my winning ways-

GOLD at the Olympics in 2008 is the aim.