By Life Positive January 2007 Readers and others share learnings from their tryst with disease The Power of BreathBarely 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 JourneyIn 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. Suman Sharma Healing HolisticallyI 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
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