Not just another New Year

Mrs Srinivasan –Chennai , 2009

It was New Year’s Day, 01 January 2002 and celebrations were in full swing. But a week later we received a letter that not only shook us but also changed our lives forever.

My husband, Mr. Srinivasan had been suffering from severe neck pain for several months and was getting treated by our family physician. Since the treatment wasn’t much effective, the doctor advised him to approach a bone specialist. As part of the orthopedic treatment, he underwent periodic blood tests. It was around December 2001 that we received a letter from the doctor stating that the blood test results were abberent and that his White blood cells count was very high. Consequent to this, the ortho doctor advised us to visit oncologist Dr.Jose Easow, suspecting blood cancer.

We went to meet Dr. Jose. After a bone marrow test, the doctor confirmed the diagnosis as CML. At once, he gave Hydrea capsules to bring down the count of WBC. And the gruesome side effects of Hydrea are the same for all – well known!

Dr. Jose called me and my son to outline the various treatments available for CML. Those were:
1. Hydrea – These medicines won’t have any effect after a certain period.
2. Interferon injections.
3. Bone Marrow Transparent – This is advisable for people below 45 years. Not suitable for my husband.
4. Glivec tablets – Imported from the U.S. The cost was a whopping 1 Lakh per month. We couldn’t even dream about this!

Being a middle class family, we agreed to the 2nd type of treatment. The predicament that he underwent day after day due to the injections was pathetic. Fatigue, lack of appetite, mouth ulcers, inability to even consume water, fever… It was so difficult to see him undergo all these, suppress my feelings and still give him confidence. Those were the gruesome nights when I used to cry to myself without the knowledge of anyone, lest my depression would spread. The very thought of those days leaves me with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes even today!

Someone has rightly said, “Not all doors are closed at the same time by God; He does open a new door for us!” My son’s research proved fruitful when he came to know about Novartis and The Max Foundation. As GIPAP hadn’t arrived to India as yet, we got ourselves registered over the internet and waited for a reply from them. We were praying and hoping for a positive response from them. In the interim, my husband’s brother Kalyan, who was in the USA then shelled out much of his earnings to send Glivec to us for few months. Finally, we did get the email from TMF during the last week of April. Yes! – My husband became one of the first few members of the GIPAP programme. Novartis was providing the Glivec at no cost. Thanks Max! My husband has been receiving the tablets for every 3 months without fail since May 2002 until today!

When my son got an opportunity to go to the US for an official visit, my very first request for him was to visit THE MAX FOUNDATION and convey our heart filled gratitude to them, no matter what it takes! He did visit them accordingly, spent an eventful day along with them and sent us some of the photographs taken there.

During the summer of 2008, my husband and I visited the US to spend time with our son. During that time, a meeting was conducted by the Rotary Club for creating awareness about CML, highlighting the service provided by The Max Foundation and sharing the experiences of CML patients. When my son told us about the chance that he got to talk about his father’s experiences in the same meeting, I was overwhelmed with joy. We also took part in that meeting and it took me some time to realize “This can’t happen even in my dreams, but is now a reality!” It won’t suffice if I say that, amongst all the places we visited in U.S. this was the most beautiful place that filled my heart with happiness and utmost satisfaction.

“It is better to light a candle than to blame the darkness” – this quote won’t fit better as well to anyone as it does to Novartis and TMF. Max – thanks for becoming the panacea to all our pains. Thanks for providing us a rebirth of sorts. Thanks for filling our world with wonderful people. Thanks for all the confidence that you imparted into our veins. After all, ‘thanks’ is such a simple word, isn’t it?

Translated from Tamil by Venki FOM Chennai