Friends of Max’s Patient Advocate of the Month for August 2021 is Bikram Debnath.
Bikram grew up in Raiganj – a small town in North Bengal. He attended a Convent school till the 5th grade and then moved to a government-run school till the 10th Grade. In the year 2009, he finally made a shift to a private school to complete his higher secondary education. Unfortunately, this was also the year he was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). Bikram remembers this period as a dark phase in his life as it forced him to take a gap year from school.
However, he had very supportive family members who pushed him to get better. He says, “My parents, uncle and aunt helped me a lot to go to Mumbai and begin my treatment. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able to do anything with my life”.
In Mumbai, he started receiving treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital under Dr Hari Menon. It was Dr Menon’s team that guided Bikram towards The Max Foundation. Here, after the initial screening, he was soon approved to receive free supply of the drug Glivec.
He remembers meeting Viji Venkatesh (Region Head- South Asia, The Max Foundation) as a special moment in his life – “Viji Amma is a heavenly figure for me. The way she treats everyone as her equal and the way she lifts the spirits of cancer patients like me is indescribable.” He also remembers being inspired by FOM Kolkata City Chapter Leader Bharat Kaul’s photograph in Viji’s office. “I had always admired Bharat ji as a Bengali film artist and asked Amma how she knew him. She informed me that Bharat ji has been a long time CML survivor and FOM member. This gave me a lot of inspiration to do something with my life and not let this condition stop me.”
Bikram has been unable to personally attend Friends of Max’s Patient Support Group Meetings in Kolkata because of the distance involved, but his sister Tanushree has attended these meetings, as a caregiver, in his stead. He has also harnessed communication platforms such as Facebook to stay in touch with patient leaders like Nitesh Verma and Vikram Agarwal amongst others. Bikram fondly remembers how Vikram, who is also a fitness coach, had inspired and supported him morally and emotionally, in the initial days after being diagnosed.
Today, Bikram runs a start-up called “FixOn – Fix anything…On-the-spot”. The company provides plumbing, carpentry and electrical services in his hometown of Raiganj and nearby towns like Malda. But there is another side to it. Through his start-up, he also does a lot of charitable and environmental works such as clearing plastic waste, fixing leakages in public taps and organizing blood drives.
Bikram leads a happy and healthy life today. He is very happy to state that he got married two years ago. He takes the little orange pill every day and claims that the minor side effects are a small price to pay. He aspires to make a mark for himself through his start-up.
Bikram has a simple, yet inspiring message for all his fellow CMLers – “Take life easily. Tension and fear are useless emotions. Life would be incomplete if it didn’t throw hurdles at you – just face them with confidence and everything will be okay. Perseverance and consistent effort are the keys to overcoming all obstacles in life.”