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So Far So Good

Sriram Ranganathan – Chennai, October 2007

I work for a Software Company and am 28 years old. It all started like this … (and please don't worry…my story starts with a "not-so-good" mood, but as it progresses it will get better).

As soon as I had completed a year of service in my company, I was asked to go to the US. I had my medical tests done (to be covered by the US Insurance), completed my shopping and got my tickets and travellers cheque too. The day, on which I was supposed to leave, I was asked to collect my medical report from the doctor. I went to the clinic and that's when the doctor asked if I had high temperature while taking my medical test. I said I had been fine. He asked me if I had some illness before. The answer to this one was “No” too. That's when he said that my WBC was high and so he wanted me to postpone my trip. I was a bit shocked… not because I would not be going, but because it would disappoint my parents, who thought that it was good for me to travel overseas and live independently as I had always been a pampered child and an introvert. Anyway, I cancelled my trip and went in for a series of tests including the painful bone marrow biopsy. All these years I had known nothing about physical or mental pain. But the biopsy was painful and when I learnt that I had CML, it felt worse. It took a lot of time to sink into me… (Well, honestly speaking it still hasn't!). I had no symptoms at that time (still do not have any symptoms) and felt absolutely fine.

 

How on Earth could I have got this!!” was my first reaction.

In 1999 the Doctor prescribed Hydrea. Though the count was under control, due to my nail discoloration, the Doctor said, that this was not a cure. My parents wanted to try all possible ways that would cure my "socalled" illness. I tried Ayurvedic medicines, went to temples (not that I was an atheist earlier, but now I needed my private time with God), and tried some precious stones, taveez and what not. At that point of time, bone marrow transplant was the only treatment suggested and I did not have a matched donor. Neither my parents nor sister, or my close relatives were matches so I registered myself on the International Marrow registry. However, the doctors said it would all be way too expensive. Then, I approached my Company. The Doctors recommended by my company suggested I go in for Interferon. I was initially on 3 Million Units and later on 4.5 Million Units. I continued this way for 1.5 years. The symptoms grew worse. I had flu like symptoms every other day making it difficult for me to work. I did cry sometimes during the night, "Why Me, Why me at this age!!" Here I must admit that I had a very stupid notion towards death. I felt people died only when they became old. I was still young (23 years at that point of time and hence the question I kept asking myself repeatedly was that how could I be dying? At the same point of time my outlook towards life changed. I became a more open person. I did not shy away from talking to people aboutmy medical condition. And yet, in a way I was trying to hide my personal crisis with my professional accomplishments.

I was doing very well at work but there was this emptiness inside me about what was happening to me.

Then came STI 571. Once again I approached my company for help. They said it was far too expensive andthey wanted me to continue with Interferon. However I made a decision to start on Glivec and got it imported from Germany. It cost around 1.1 lakh at that point of time and in a year we had spent 13-14 lakhs.Ok, we were not bankrupt but this was big money. All my family's savings went into this and we started borrowing from relatives. That's when my haematologist gave us some photocopies that had details about the Max Foundation. I was a bit sceptical, thinking why on earth someone would want to give so much financial aid. But all my apprehensions were put to rest when I spoke to Viji from the Max Foundation India and she told me about Novartis' donation programme. I started getting my medicines, took periodic tests, and the BCR ABL came back to control. My BCR ABL toggles between 0.004-0.1. I could see real happiness in my parents' faces, but there is no end to one's desires, because now, they wanted me to get married. Again I must say here, that I have a stupid notion towards marriage… that only old and mature people get married. And I felt I was not mature enough for marriage. I kept procrastinating things but could not resist for long.Consequently, I was asked to meet this girl. As usual, I was not keen, but in order to please my parents I agreed to meet her alone. I kept thinking about how I could frighten this girl and keep myself away from such matters. But when I met her, Cupid struck. I explained my situation to her. She was quite fine with whatever I told her and so were her parents. We kept in touch over a period of time and soon thought "Why not"? So I got married on 4 Nov 2005. It made me very happy to see a section of the GIPAP India family at my  wedding and even happier to have someone for myself. I do believe in fairy tales and want to lead my life happily ever after. Touch Wood.

So far so good!

I keep telling myself often that I'm certainly a better person than I was 6 years back, thanks to my family, Glivec, GIPAP family, Max Foundation, Novartis and last but not the least, the pain that I had to bear during my initial years. And I will end this narrative with a line from an Abhishek Bachchan film since I am his ardent fan. He says "Kahani ke anth me sab kuch theek ho jata hai, agar theek nahi hua to phir kahani khatam hi nahi hui". So true, isn't it?

"Happiness does not lie in what happens to you in life, but in how you perceive what happens to you".

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