(1/2) “One night I woke up to excruciating pain in my abdomen. I went to get it checked in the morning and the doctors immediately referred me to Kolkata. There, after a thorough examination, they diagnosed it to be Crohn’s disease which is a type of bowel inflammation. But upon dissatisfaction of a senior doctor, I underwent more tests. After the additional tests, he sat me down in his office and told me that he had both good news and bad news for me. I asked him to tell me the bad news first. He said it was colon cancer. The good news? – it was not Crohn’s disease. I asked, “What’s good about that?” He replied that the latter has no known cure.

I started having symptomatic backaches which then became chronic. I had lost a lot of weight, struggled to breathe, and my hemoglobin dipped abnormally. I tried to be strong and showed a lot of enthusiasm for the treatment and surgery. My doctor found it odd. He said that patients dreaded and sometimes even ran away before the surgery. But I knew I couldn’t allow myself to die before cancer killed me.

My wife too hid her distress and helped me prepare for what was to come. They did a few pre-surgery tests and it turned out I didn’t have the required protein in my body to go through with the surgery. I took oral supplements for days, but they were useless. I then had to take expensive protein injections. When I finally could have the surgery, they removed a 0.5 kg tumor. An opening was left on my abdomen to expel excreta using a colostomy bag. The bag was of poor quality and it often leaked, causing me embarrassment. One time, on my way to India for a check-up, the bag started leaking on the bus I was on. Everyone started reacting to the foul smell and the rest of the journey was a nightmare. Another time, my wife and I were at a guest house in Siliguri, when I woke up at 4 am to an awful smell.
The bag had leaked again. The whole bed was soiled and I was so ashamed of myself. I woke my wife up and we spent the whole morning cleaning the room and washing the sheets.”

World Cancer Day is celebrated on 4th of February every year. This year the theme is, “I am and I will” to foster towards the betterment of the life of cancer patients and survivors. It is to spread awareness, inspire change and reduce the global impact of cancer.

(2/2) “On my first review after the surgery, they said I had made almost zero improvements. The months of rest had led to nothing. I felt like I was losing the battle. My only option now was 6 cycles of chemotherapy, in India and Thimphu. After the many cycles of chemo, I was worried I might need more. Thankfully, the doctors came to me with good news. The results were good. I took a breath of relief.

On my various visits to Kolkata, I‘d met many Bhutanese children undergoing treatment for leukemia. They were housed with their families at the guest house built by Her Majesty the Queen mother and Tashi group of companies. Many of them were poor. They had to stay there for extended periods to do their treatments. I saw how bad their condition was. With the stipend of Nu.100 a day that they received, they could only buy drinking water for a hot Kolkata day. Any help would make a difference for these people, so I started looking for donations from my friends and family. I was able to raise around Nu.80,000, which was then divided among 4 kids.

In Bhutan, I became a volunteer with the Bhutan cancer society and counseled cancer patients who were low on morale. I wanted to be an example of someone who didn’t give up. I believe that the secret to fighting cancer is not only medication but also self-determination and the will to live. Although health services are free in Bhutan, it is the other costs that often leave the poor people worried. Families of cancer patients who accompany the patients to Thimphu from remote places in the country face a lot of difficulties surviving here. Without a proper place to stay and enough money to buy food, many lose the fight before it has even truly begun.

When I was sick, my 2 daughters were too young to understand what was happening to their father. My wife suffered alongside me, even more than I did, and still kept supporting me. This disease has put me through hell, but it also helped me appreciate life like never before. I used to donate blood before cancer, and I still do it. So far, my blood is good and I can donate. I do it because I won back my life, and I want to give what I can to those who need it.”

World Cancer Day is the one singular initiative under which the entire world can unite together in the fight against the global cancer epidemic. It takes place every year on 4 February. It aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.

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