My Life: A Miracle

Usha Kant Shah – Ahmedabad, October 2006

I was born on the 22nd of May 1944, and my rebirth took place when I received my blood report in my hands with “Acute Leukemia suspected” glaring at me.

On 24th June 2003, I was in Mumbai with my family for the engagement of my niece. During the wedding ceremony I experienced an uneasy pain in my back. I ignored it thinking that it is the result of the partying I
did whole night long.

On 25th June we came back to Ahmedabad where.I visited my family doctor who advised me to take a routine blood test. The results were devastating. Our family physician Dr. Gaurang Dalal guessed the seriousness of my ailment and was careful not to alarm us. He suggested for a further test.

I underwent two bone narrow tests which gave conflicting results. Meanwhile, my family contacted Dr. Prabodh Shah, an oncologist and a family friend in Chicago, who spoke to his friend Dr. Sushil Shah in Mumbai and referred me to him. The very next day I was on the flight to Mumbai with my wife Tina.

I underwent one more Bone Marrow test. Dr. Sushil Shah took my bone marrow samples from my chest. My close friend Mukesh was leaving for Chicago next morning. Dr. Sushil Shah made extra samples and slides for Dr. Prabodh Shah in Chicago.

Dr. Sushil Shah diagnosed me with CML. Further tests at Jaslok and Hinduja Hospitals confirmed the diagnosis. Dr. Prabhodh Shah also confirmed CML and both agreed on my Protocol treatment. It was decided that I would be treated in Ahmedabad under Dr. Shailesh Talathi and his team. He put me on 300mg GLIVEC, a life saving drug.

On 12th August, which was a Rakshabandhan day, I entered the hospital where my 1st chemo was administered and thus began the journey of my rebirth.

During this time my son Tanmay was constantly on the internet helping me and family learn about the disease. I was worrying about the emotional and financial burden on my family. But my family never complained. My wife and daughter were stood by my side all the time.

I inquired about Glivec and my doctor told me that it is a magic drug. But he also said that after 8 cycles of chemo I will have to continue the drug until I get fully recovered. This may take 3 to 8 years.

This news sent shivers down my spine. It was going to be impossible for me to sustain the cost. I quietly inquired with my doctors if there is any possibility of legal death by consent?

My faith in god was shaken for the first time in my life. My children were just starting their life. My life would ruin my family.

But these thoughts were temporary. My deep rooted faith in God kept me from being further depressed. I decided that I will fight and live. I will take one step at a time. I will live one day at a time. I will live for today and let god worry about my tomorrow. My life had taught me that living was seeing and expecting the best no matter how grim life may appear. It was seeing the positive that matters and finding joy and beauty where the world seems ugly.

With every cycle of chemo, I was getting weaker and ultimately after my 6th chemo and 18 days of hospitalization, my doctor decided that I would not be able to take it any more, I barely survived the netrophenie of the 6th cycle.

Now what? Was this the end? What was going to be my future? Was I lucky? Had God decided to look upon me? A guardian angel was on his way to help me, his name was Max. Though while on earth he did not survive the same cancer that I had, but he left behind a legacy so that hundreds and thousand like me could survive and live a fruitful and normal life. Glivec the wonder drug was not discovered while max suffered CML. Today his family with the help of Novartis has kept him alive through the Max Foundation by giving hope and new life to CML patients.

I am one of the beneficiaries who owe this life to Max. If not for GIPAP I would have been dead by now.

Today I survive on 800 mg Glivec daily and thank god for every moment of my life. I wear his “Maximize Life” blue band everyday. Many of my friends innocently make fun of me saying, “Hey! Old man, you are wearing a friendship band at this age. Who is this special friend?” And I thus get the opportunity to narrate the story of Max Foundation, his family and Novartis and how they are responsible for my survival today.

How could I thank Max and his family for this new life? One day as I was meditating, I got the answer. I must somehow do what best I can so that my guardian angel smiles at me every time I remember him.

And so in October 2004, Karuna Care Foundation was born. Karuna means compassion. I don't think there's any better way to thank god and Max than to serve the fellow sufferers of cancer. Thanks to Glivec, which keeps me healthy enough to work 8 to 10 hours a day both at the cancer hospital and at the KKF office.

Special thanks to all my wonderful doctors, my near and dear ones, my friends and all those who stood by me in the hour of need. Last but not the least special thanks to dear Viji and her loving team who serve with dedicated zeal at all times. Love to all and God bless you.