The gift of life

Balbir Singh – Amritsar, October 2007

Human Life is nature's beautiful gift. It is very easy to say that life is a struggle but only when one faces the struggle does one realize the actual aim of life.

I am like any other person. I belong to an economically low income family. I wanted to earn a prestigious place in society through education. I got an education after much struggle and then acquired a respectable job. A short period of prosperity followed in the family, but it was really a short period. Nature suddenly turned the wheels of my good fortune.

My dreams were smashed and I was compelled to fight between life and death.
I suffered from a mild fever on 22nd Feb 2000. Dr. R.K.Kumra asked me to take some blood tests and I was stunned to know that on the basis of the results, the doctor told me that I was a blood cancer patient. My wife was with me at that time. It was very difficult for me to control her after she heard the news. I was prepared but stunned. It seemed as if the earth was not under my feet. With a strong will, I asked one question to the doctor. Was it a curable disease? The doctor's reply was positive. After knowing this I consoled myself and assured my wife that this disease could be cured with medicine. But only God knew how far we would succeed. When the family learned about my illness they were deeply shocked. Nobody ate their meals that day. My friend's circle, and all those near and dear reached my home to give me their sympathy but nobody could solve this problem. On one hand my family was economically poor and on the other a huge amount of money was required. The question was where would this amount come from? It was a big question for my family and me, but with the encouragement of friends and relatives and with strong
will power, I made up my mind to fight this disease. On 22 Feb, 2000 my friends and relatives collected Rs.90, 000/- for me and asked me to consult a specialist.

One of my friends suggested that I should go to an Ayurvedic Cancer Research Center in Faridkot. My family and I were confused, so on 23 Feb, 2000 when we reached Faridkot, the doctor could not satisfy us. We asked some relevant questions but he could not give us a satisfactory answer. We took the medicine but did not start it. One of my friends advised me to start Allopathic treatment from Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai because some patient he knew had got treatment from there and was cured. After the advice of my doctors and relatives we decided to go to the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. We reached Mumbai on 28th Feb, 2000 along with my faithful friends. None of my family members were with me because I thought that my friend circle could support me. We met Dr. S.H.Advani on 29th Feb, 2000. In the evening after examining me the doctor said," I am sure this young man will be ok." So the treatment was started under Dr. Advani's supervision.

In the initial stage the medicines were very strong and my body was strongly affected by the side effects of these medicines. I could not have my meals properly for 3 months. I subsisted on rice and fruits. In March 2000, Cap. Hydera & Inj. Interafron 3 ml. were given to me every alternate day. On our next visit the doctor advised us to do B.M.T because it was a permanent solution to this problem. But unluckily the H.L.A typing test was not compatible with any member of my family. So the injection was given daily.

I was depressed and started thinking negatively.

On 9-5-2001 the C.N.N. Channel made an announcement about S.T.I 571 medicine at midnight after stopping all the regular programs. I read in the newspaper (The Tribune) that this medicine S.T.I 571 was a life saver for a cancer patient. This medicine works miracles for a cancer patient because of minimum side effects. Due to financial reasons I was not in a position to think about this treatment because it was very costly. Initially the price of this medicine was Rs.1, 26,000/- p.m. It was available only in three countries Germany, England, & U.S.A.During this time my mother was very worried about my disease and she was aware that the treatment was very costly and that I was not in a position to avail of this treatment. There was an illusion in society that cancer patients can't survive for a long period and she could not bear this shock. She expired on 27-11-2001. It was another big blow to me.

The costly medicine S.T.I 571 was out of reach for me. But my friends and relatives encouraged me and promised to do everything they could to help me. The Sufi singers "Wadali Brothers " gave a charitable show at Guru Nanak Bhawan Amritsar on 29-12-2001 and donated the money for me to get the costly treatment. After this show I could start my medicine S.T.I 571 Glevic in Feb, 2002. The cost was Rs.1, 26,000/-. It was imported from the U.S.A. and the import procedure was long and complicated. The main difficulties for me came after purchasing the medicine for one month. The arrangement of money for the next month's medication became a problem. Along with my friends I went door to door to create awareness among the people about my disease and asked them to donate money. It was a very difficult job for me but I was helpless. Once I became pessimistic and told my friend “I can't pull on… perhaps I am defeated by this disease." But he told me “If you lose heart all our efforts will go in vain.” They asked me to be strong because a strong will could move mountains. This conversation had a positive effect on me and once
again I felt positive. I was inspired, and decided to fight against this disease bravely. After that neither my friends nor I ever looked behind.

At this point my wife played a great role in boosting my diet. At the same time she performed her duties towards family and society. In this way my struggle for this medicine continued. We had to contact some religious and social organizations but sadly none of them supported me. I was very depressed to see their attitude. Even the department in which I was serving did not help me in any way. In spite of these problems we continued our effort. My younger brother and nephew who were students in Ludhiana discussed my dilemma with other students and their response was very positive and encouraging. With the effort and help of the local people it was made possible to purchase the medicine for 2 months. The cost was Rs.2, 22,000/-. Then I approached Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar from where I had passed my M.A. I spoke to my teachers. They said," We will not let you die for the dearth of a costly medicine." They helped me in a big way. The teachers, students and non teaching staff of this University arranged the medicine for two months. One of my friends whose brother was in Canada helped me. He told his brother
about my disease and the cost of the medicine. He was inspired and he arranged medicine for one month. One of my friends has gone for a Ph.D to U.S.A. He discussed this problem with his colleagues and they arranged for one month's supply. Soon every Channel had been exhausted.

In spite of these ups and downs in my life, I never get fed up of God, and God has always shown me a new way out of my problem. Prayer lifted my spirit to a higher power.

I took loans from different banks to mortgage my house in order to continue my medication. But for how long was this possible? I was losing my will power. Then a ray of hope came my way. I discussed this matter with Dr. Chetan Deshmukh in a friendly chat. He was the doctor in Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai. He gave me a positive response and said," I will solve your problem." He discussed this matter with his senior Dr. T.K.Saikia. They came to the conclusion that if I fulfilled some formalities then my problem could be solved though the MAX Foundation. I completed my documents and reached MAX Foundation. Madam Viji Venkatesh met me in March, 2003. She promised, not only to help me through the donation programme of Novartis who made the magic medicine Glivec but to help me in every aspect. She dealt with me psychologically and gave me encouragement.

In April, 2003 I was provided medicine by Novartis and MAX Foundation. MAX Foundation not only provided medicine but had a friendly attitude towards their patients. MAX Foundation arranged a conference where doctors and patients met together and shared their feelings and problems. It was done by them not in India only but throughout the world. MAX Foundation serves humanity by looking after their patients sincerely.

“I consider MAX Foundation as my mother… who gave me life and then taught me how to live." Now I am able to perform my duties and responsibilities normally. As a result in April, 2003 I was able to clear many hurdles and achieve success on the professional front too. I feel that Novartis and MAX Foundation are the destiny makers of all the cancer patients on this planet. I am deeply thankful and obliged to Novartis and MAX Foundation for having given me a new life.