By Life Positive
Readers and others share learnings from their tryst with disease
The Power of Breath
Barely 25, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system, in December 1998. I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe that I was a cancer patient!
Soon, the initial shock of discovery turned into anger. “Why me? Why did I get cancer? What wrong have I done? Why has God done this to me?” I brooded.
As the months passed by, my position further worsened with each chemotherapy. I had lost about 10 kg in a few months. I was left with only a few clumps of hair on my head. My eyebrows had also got thinner. I was consumed by dejection and regret.
My treatment lasted for about six months. I was limping back to normalcy when I saw a swelling on my neck, which seemed to have spread over the upper part of my chest. My parents and I returned to the oncologist. After examining me, he suggested having a Gallium scan.
The scan showed a relapse of cancer, this time in a much more aggressive form. It had spread all over my neck, chest and abdomen. The doctor seemed to be quite helpless. After going through the reports, he said, “Your present situation seems quite grim. I don’t see much chance of a complete recovery. The only way out is to go to the United States for a bone marrow transplant.”
Strangely, now that I knew the worst, I found strength surging up from within. My past battle with cancer had made me tough without my realising it. I was now ready for a change of attitude. I determined to fight the disease, and with God’s help, win over it. To bolster my resources, I did a course in yoga before going to the United States.
Once there, my aunt drove us to the University of California Irvine Medical Center, which is in the Orange county. The doctor examined me for a while and later made a schedule for my treatment.
All through my stay in the United States, I was regular with my practice of pranayama. My daily session consisted of deep breathing exercises, followed by full yogic breath and anuloma-viloma (alternate nostril breathing). I used to finally conclude with 20 minutes of meditation. Pranayama helped greatly in bringing down the stress level and anxiety. Moreover, it also helped to reduce the excessive pain of the treatment.
I was given two cycles of high-dosage chemotherapy before they did the bone marrow transplant. The treatment was later consolidated with radiotherapy.
I had a very positive approach all through my treatment in the United States, and now feel I am definitely on the path to recovery.
Finally, life is all about challenges. And I have made up my mind to face it to the best of my ability. I am making the most of my life, conducting workshops on breathing and pranayama, to share with others the power of this simple and effective technique. I constantly repeat to myself, “I believe in victory.” For, ultimately, faith in God and faith in oneself is the key to victory.
Ramneek Wig Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Healing Journey
In the fag end of August 1975, I returned back from my in-laws’ place in Agra to Delhi by Taj Express train, carrying my newborn daughter with me, in perfect health.
next morning I got up with a terrible pain in my left wrist. It was hurting as if I had broken a bone. I went to the doctor and was given a painkiller and multivitamins. I tried a massage with balm, etc. Nothing gave any relief.
In this condition, I rejoined my office after three months of maternity leave. The pain had spread to almost all joints, even jaws and shoulders. The worst affected were the wrist, knees, ankles and fingers of both hands and feet. These joints had became swollen and deformed. I was diagnosed to be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
When all else failed, my doctor prescribed a medicine containing steroids, stressing that it was for only 15 days. It worked like magic. Unaware of the side-effects, I started buying it myself from chemists with that prescription or without it. When I began to put on weight and consulted a doctor, I was admonished on the ill-effects of steroids. The doctor told me to reduce it gradually with a double dose of diagene with each tablet of prednisolon (the steroid-containing medicine), and prescribed exercises to reduce the effect of the rheumatoid arthritis.
between, I was advised to try ayurvedic and homoeopathic medicines, but every time I started them, my pains used to aggravate. Even allopathic painkillers used to give me relief only for an hour or so. Despite the pain, I continued my busy life, coping with office, home, children.
the daily chores were very difficult to do. I could not sit. Combing, wearing clothes, kneading dough, making chapattis, cutting vegetables, getting into the bus, prolonged standing, walking, even writing and children’s work, all these were hard. I could not pick up my children with my own hands.
Except for a brief period during my second pregnancy, I was never free of the pain, but two months after my son was born, it resumed. I restarted steroids but this time with caution. From three tablets a day along with disprins (from 1976) I came to half a tablet a day in eight years. Afterwards, I gradually stopped prednisolon but was having aspirins daily. By this time, my deformed fingers and thumbs became all right, except two fingers of the left foot and left wrist. Then, in the early ‘90s, I was prescribed 16 disprins a day (four in the morning, four at noon, four in the evening, four at night) by a known rheumatologist. It helped a little. Gradually, I reduced this dose too. I have reached a stage where I do not have a painkiller daily.
I have lived so far 31 years with RA. In this long journey, I do not think the medicine helped reduce the sufferings and pain. What really worked are a number of realisations, which I experienced from time to time. These are as follows
• Keep going, no matter what. If you have assignments to finish at home or at work, concentrate on those, not on your pains, even if severe. Send your kids to school, take the bus to work, shop, cook, whatever. Do it anyhow, even if you do it slowly and with great difficulty, and even if others mock you. Don’t expect any pity or compassion from anybody. Your aim should be to accomplish your task of being wife/husband, mother/father, employee, daughter/son, etc. Once, rejoining work after a long leave of four months, walking with great difficulty because of the severe pain in my ankles, I met my boss in the corridor. He shouted at me then and there for having taken leave. I was shocked at his manner. After he left, I continued to my room but I did not feel pain till I sat on my chair. The distance from that place to my room could have been 15-20 yards. I realised that my whole concentration was on my boss’s scolding, therefore I had not felt pain. This taught me that if the focus is elsewhere, the pain is not registered. If we keep moving despite the pain, not only will the movement help the joints, but it will help in reducing the feeling of pain.
• Another realisation occurred while bathing in hot water. When I put my aching fingers and wrist in hot water, my pain ceased and I could move my fingers and wrist with ease. I decided I needed warmth or energy. Wearing warm clothes helped. Later, it occurred to me that this energy had to come through my brain and thoughts, and I started doing reiki, pranayama and Art of living’s Sudarshan Kriya . All these helped a lot.
• Positive thinking makes your brain generate energy, which help in reducing pains. I started seeing my pain as God-given. It helped me in feeling that these pains would definitely end.
• While doing pranayama, our concentration is on breathing, so pains are less felt.
• Wearing comfortable clothes and shoes also help.
• I tried dietary control also. It helped, though not fully. I left consuming sugar, sweets, cauliflower, cabbage, brinjals, urad dal, rajmah, rice and number of other things. This regimen did not long last. I started again with these things, but for many years I did not take rajmah. Nowadays, I have everything (vegetarian) but in moderation.
Believing in karmic theory and that whatever has been in my life is there for a purpose, keeps me happy, whether I have pains or not. I am at peace today.
I was driving back from a dance programme on an uneventful day, when I found I wasn’t able to apply brakes. I felt as if my feet didn’t exist. My feet and hands were feeling numb. I refrained from panic and made sure that the people in the car, my daughter and her friend’s family, did not know that anything was amiss. Fortunately, we reached home safely.
Next day, I quietly went to the doctor, a senior consultant with the Ganga Ram Hospital. At his private clinic, he did a few tests. He asked me to hold a sheet of paper in between my fingers. I couldn’t do it. When he asked me to stand with my feet together and close my eyes, I started spinning and felt I was going to fall. I couldn’t walk straight, I couldn’t hold a pencil…I couldn’t even sign!
Though shocked, I realised that all this had not happened suddenly. I had been ignoring many symptoms for quite a few months. A month before the ‘attack’, I had a sprain in my ankle, because I had wobbled and tripped. When I closed my eyes, while washing my face, for instance, I had felt that I was going to fall. I had often slept with my slippers on and gone outside without wearing them. All this while, I had thought it was preoccupation and carelessness and had even convinced my husband that it was just that.
That was me – always trying to be a super woman. I had quit my highly paid job, wanting to be there for my daughter. Of course, I had enjoyed every moment with her, driving her everywhere and being with her all the time.
All this seemed an impossible dream now.
The doctor was not amused with our carelessness, and asked me to report the next day for tests. Seeing the reports, I hit the panic button. I was admitted. All the tests available in the hospital were done, including nerve biopsy. It was confirmed that I had Chronic Inflammatory Demylaneting Polyneuropathy(CIDP), an immunity breakdown disease. I was given IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobin), a very costly treatment. After a month, on my insistence that I would take the medicines (steroids) prescribed, I was discharged. My days were spent on the Internet looking for more information on CIDP. Realising that most people were facing problems with steroids, I decided to take just two doses. I switched to homoeopathy. For eight months I was fine, but suddenly, at the onset of winter, my condition deteriorated. I tried reiki too, but that too didn’t work for me. Within a couple of months, I had become immobile and was totally dependent on others.
In this desperate state, I approached Swami Nirmalanandagiri Maharaj in Kerala for ayurvedic treatment. His treatment was mainly home-made concoctions such as tender coconut water,16 glasses of water boiled with dried herbs, and dietary guidance like avoiding red chillies, tamarind, curd and bakery items.
Around the same time, Swami Adhyathmananda, head, Chinmaya Mission, Calicut, also counselled me on throwing out past baggage and the anger that comes with it.
With introspection, I realised that I nursed a lot of negativity within, some consciously, much unconsciously. I made a conscious effort to change this.
Miraculously, I started walking again within seven months.
I have been back on my feet for the last three years. I am truly thankful to all the people who helped me recover and, above all, I am grateful to the Almighty for helping me develop a holistic approach to life through my ailment. I can honestly say, “Everything happens for a purpose.”
Menon Kapila (as told to Jamuna Rangachari)Contact: Swami Nimalanandagiri Maharaj Ph: 0466 2247144 E-mail: email@example.com
The Salt of Life
I am a regular reader of Life Positive and am glad to share my experiences of alternative therapy with you, for the special edition.
I was suffering from skin allergies and sleeplessness for quite some time. Normal treatment did not fully satisfy me. My friend, who suffered from asthma, got great relief using Himalayan rock salt treatment and suggested that I follow the same, using crystals from Naturo Healthplus, a Mumbai-based company.
I started using bath salt crystals, which the Naturo company claimed were of the best purity. In about four weeks, I got relief to the extent of 80 per cent and my skin started glowing.
on, I used Naturo’s Salt Lamps (which emit negative ions), which brought freshness in my room in the polluted city of Mumbai. This natural product reduces my stress levels without any side-effects and I enjoy excellent sleep, keeping me most active during my hectic work schedule. I am glad I came across this alternative therapy that worked miracles for me.
Touched by an Angel
When someone heals you of a condition you feel you are doomed to endure for the rest of your life and guides you back to glorious health, that person is nothing less than an angel.
Here’s my story. After a prolonged history of irregular and heavy periods, doctors determined through biopsies and sonography that I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a problem related to the progesterone my body was irregularly producing.I was told that I would have to learn to live with it as the only treatment was a medicine which could not be taken for long periods as it had many side-effects. On and off, when my periods were prolonged or too heavy, the medicine did help but it was always emphasised that I should not be too dependent on it. True enough, the side-effects were many… I would have mood swings, began putting on weight, my skin began to discolour, hair began to grow on my face and due to the heavy bleeding, my haemoglobin count was constantly low.
Later, once married, I was warned that even if possible, it would be difficult to conceive. My husband and I had tremendous faith in God and the doctors, and in my late 20s, I began fertility treatment and was immediately blessed with a baby. I was determined to have another baby in order not to be obsessed with this one, though my doctor said that it was almost impossible and could be risky, especially since I was in my mid 30s. In fact, we were advised that I should start a new therapy which would balance my hormones but make me infertile.
a frightful day when I felt extremely low as my bleeding was at its worst, God led us to Ketan Shah. An acupressurist, he was able to help me in one sitting. At the end of half-hour, my bleeding had stopped like a tap shut! Over the next three months, I visited Ketanbhai regularly. I religiously pressed the prescribed acupressure points thrice a day, and incredibly, my periods regularised. One day, he asked me how I was and told me to visit my gynaecologist. Our joy knew no bounds when we discovered that I was pregnant (Ketanbhai knew it all along, I am convinced he is clairvoyant too). The doctor was surprised and said that it was a true miracle, as I was 35 years old, weighing over 80 kgs. Ketanbhai monitored my progress through the pregnancy, and soon we were ecstatic to have our cherished second baby. Angel? That’s what he is.
A Turning Point
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was shocked. However, I psyched myself to face it stoically. “I will be all right”, I kept repeating to myself and sure enough, I maintained this courage all through my surgery.
When the surgery was over, however, my courage just collapsed, like a house of cards. I just did not know how to face the world with no hair and with one breast gone. True, it was only the body, but it was ‘me’, the only identity I had as far as the world was concerned. The fact that my husband was a Corps Commander in Bhatinda, and that we had an active social life then, made it all the more difficult. I broke down and started sobbing copiously.
I had a wonderful surgeon and medical oncologist, both of them highly sensitive and empathetic. They understood and made sure that a breast cancer survivor from Cancer Sahyog, a support group for cancer patients, came to see me the very same day. A brave and hearty lady, she explained in a matter-of-fact way that this was just a minor setback and all that was required to face the world was a prosthesis with a ‘special bra’ – and that my hair would grow soon enough. Looking at someone who had faced the same situation I was in today, did more to boost my morale than any amount of counselling would have.
Soon, I got my act together. Learning to wear the bra was the first step towards accepting myself as I was. I wished to accelerate the healing process too and opportunities to do this came almost serendipitously. Reiki, which had done wonders for the injured jawans after the Kargil war, was given to me. My homoeopath recommended arnica for quicker recovery from surgery as it helps heal tissues faster. My allopathic doctor was supportive all through, encouraging me to do anything that helped me heal and recover, and sure enough, I healed rapidly. Little did I know then that each of my experiences had a larger purpose.
how unfortunate it would have been had I not realised so quickly how easy it was to deal with the after-effects of breast cancer, I suggested to the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), that they consider giving the silicon prosthesis and special bra (costing around Rs 7,000), to cancer patients in the army hospitals with some guidance on how to use it. They readily agreed. To my surprise, when this proposal was put up to the concerned general, he said, “Why should the AWWA do this?” Taken aback, I told him they were willing to do so. He reiterated that it was not required as the hospital itself should be doing this! True to his word, he made sure formalities were completed and today, all the patients at the army hospital who have lost a breast, get this.
Later, when I went to England, I visited the hospital there, and was astonished to see the number of complementary therapies, many of them of Indian origin, that were available to the patients there. Though the National Health Service does not pay for these therapies, many charities contribute to making these available to patients at a subsided rate.
I felt strongly inspired to do something similar here in India.From this thought came Prashanti, which Cancer Sahyog, myself, and some of my friends set up in Delhi in 2005. A centre for complementary therapies, it provides both group and individual yoga, meditation, pranayama, chants, laughter therapy, acupressure, reflexology, aromatherapy and many more to cancer patients under one roof.
It is still very early in the day, but we have succeeded in reaching out to many hospitals and patients. It is a challenge to keep it going as we have minimal funds, but I am certain that help will come and we shall be able to continue and may be, even extend the activities. My faith in the Almighty has only been strengthened due to my ailment.
Renuka Prasad (as told to Jamuna Rangachari)
Renuka Prasad is the President of Cancer Sahyog (Prashanti)
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