by Ramendra Kumar
I was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer in November 2021. Immediately after the verdict, I raved and ranted. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I’m healthy. I exercise regularly. So why me? I went through the entire spectrum of anger, frustration, angst, and yes, even a few tears.
I looked at my wife, Madhavi, and my children, Ankita and Aniket, and I found their faces crumpled. It was as if they were seeing my own death in my eyes. At that moment, I decided I couldn’t subject my family to the trauma I was going through.
Throughout my life, I had battled the toughest of odds. I was the product of a broken home, a suicide survivor at 15 years old, and was diagnosed with brittle diabetes and silent thyroiditis.
I had fought and battled all of these crises with my mantra of managing every tumor with humor. Being a writer, a storyteller, and an inspirational speaker, I decided to script a new reality with my mantra at its fulcrum.
Ankita and I created a dance video two days after my first round of radiation with an inspirational message on how to fight cancer. The video went viral and notched up 232,000 views on Instagram.
I participated in panel discussions and interviews and posted parodies and poems online. I filled social media with funny and quirky messages.
There were several occasions when I was struck by the tidal waves of depression. But I never allowed them to overwhelm me.
I battled three septic shocks, in addition to having undergone four major surgeries, five rounds of radiation, 10 chemo cycles, and 40 days in ICU. I was then declared cancer-free on November 23, 2022.
My support system
My greatest support system throughout this terrible ordeal has been my family. The lives of the terrific trio had become a relentless syndrome of visits to the hospital and meetings with doctors, spending a few hours at home and then back again – each moment alternating between dread and relief, despair and hope.
But in all this chaos, none of them pressed the panic button. They never lost hope or faith in the doctors. And they never gave me a glimpse of the Hades to which I had traveled quite a few times.
My foul weather friends also rallied around with messages and calls. Prayers in different places of worship, columns in newspapers, and posts on social media. I was simply amazed at the love, affection, concern, and blessings I was inundated with.
My family, my friends, and I managed to create an ecosystem of positivity – an universe, which helped me claw back, quite literally, from the jaws of death.
For me the most important takeaway from my cancer experience is that the worst of times often bring out the best in you.
How to cope with cancer
I have frequently been asked about the coping mechanisms I would advise to battle cancer or any other crisis. I would suggest the following:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try to see the ridiculous in the sublime.
- Pursue a passion. It can be music, painting, gardening, reading, cooking, etc. This will keep your mind occupied in a productive activity and will not allow negative thoughts and anxieties to invade your space.
- Build relationships. In the rodent race called life, we often forget to forge and strengthen relationships. You have likely heard of Anytime Money or an ATM card. I have created a new ATM card – Anytime Memory Card. The most precious gift you can give your family and friends is not money or things which money can buy. It is a bundle of memories – each a gossamer fabric of fun and togetherness. And this fabric is created with two four letter words – love and time. So go ahead and create memories and stock up your new ATM. And whenever there is a crisis, cash it in.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as living in the moment. I found my mindfulness in my writing. During the hours that I devote to my creativity every day, I am living life to the fullest.
- Be optimistic. This attitude will have a cascading effect. Those around you too will be caressed by hope, and they will respond in the same way. And together you will create an ecosystem of positivity which will offer you solace, succor, and strength.
Ramendra Kumar (Ramen) is a colon cancer survivor and award-winning writer having penned 49 books and lives in India. He is also a performance storyteller and inspirational speaker. To learn more about Ramendra’s story, visit Ramendra.in.