Lead Story

Indomitable Spirit

Six survivors, most of them diagnosed with advanced cancer, show their determination to live life to the fullest as they pursue their passions and, in the process, inspire others like them

Photo: Karun Kumar

Ravi Prakash, a journalist, vividly recalls the day when doctors confirmed his advanced stage lung cancer. It was January 30, 2021. The news turned the 47-year-old’s life upside down, but he soon gathered himself. “I realised that I would have to live with cancer for the rest of my life, so I chose to befriend it rather than surrender to it,” he says.

Hailing from Ranchi in Jharkhand, Prakash is required to travel to Mumbai for treatment, He clicked vivid photographs of nature during these trips and later organised an exhibition in Ranchi, titled Cancer Wala Camera. Often, he combines these visits with family trips to other places. Prakash believes that longevity has nothing to do with a person’s greatness. “Birsa Munda left this world at the age of 25, Khudiram Bose at 20 and Swami Vivekananda at the age of less than 40, but they all achieved great things in their lives. There are hundreds of such examples to motivate us,” he says. He has now set out to write a book on cancer.

According to Gunjesh Kumar Singh, an oncologist, positive thoughts and a zest for life have a significant impact on a cancer patient’s overall well-being. “When we have a positive attitude full of self-confidence, the hormones that our body releases help a lot in healing. It is also said that you have to fight cancer and not fear it,” he says.

Finding Emotional Catharsis

Diagnosis of stage four cancer can sound like a death sentence, but Rajnish Singh decided to face it with his chin up. The diagnosis happened in July 2021, and Singh, the owner of a human resources company in Delhi, underwent surgery in August. After that, he started travelling regularly. He has visited Bhopal, Hyderabad and many other places and participated in TV debates and radio shows. He has travelled to Cambodia and Thailand with his family and colleagues, where he even enjoyed scuba diving. He has written two books about his cancer.

Himkar Shyam, a 50-year-old writer from Jharkhand, got scared when he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2002. “I had terrible back pain, and the MRI report showed that there was a tumour in my spinal cord. As soon as I reached AIIMS in Delhi, my legs became paralysed. In January 2003, the doctors removed the tumour after a 14-hour operation,” he recalls. After some time, he again suffered unbearable pain, and subsequent examinations revealed that the tumour had affected his lungs. “I had to give up my job, but I was determined to fight back,” he says.

While undergoing treatment, he began writing articles for several newspapers and magazines as well as two blogs. His portfolio of published works includes an anthology of poems Yudhrat Hoon Main, a collection of ghazals, Dil Banjara, a poetry book titled Zindagi @ Lockdown and a ghazal series Baad-e-Saba.

Kumari Chhaya, a Jamshedpur-based teacher, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2020. Sometime later, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer as well. During this time, her husband lost his job. She had to sell her ancestral land and house for her treatment. “I started writing poetry to ease my pain and despair. Since then, four of my poetry books have been published,” she says.

Kumar Manish Arvind, chief conservator of forests of Jharkhand, was diagnosed with third stage colon cancer in early 2013. Already an author, he pursued his passion for writing even more aggressively after the diagnosis. He has published a dozen books in the last 10 years. His Maithili poetry collection, Jingeek Oriyaan Karait, published in 2017, won him the Sahitya Akademi Award.

In June 2018, the AIIMS doctors informed 62-year-old Arun Mishra, an educationist from Koderma, that he was suffering from advanced prostate cancer. He decided to fight back instead of surrendering to cancer. Mishra has been working as a motivational speaker among students since 2016 and also counsels cancer patients. He has already published a book titled Thank You Cancer, in which he shares his experiences about his illness and his will to live and help cancer patients.

The Healing

Prakash points out that cancer patients have two choices: either to resign to their fate or fight back. The determination to not give up has helped people like Prakash, Singh, Shyam, Chhaya, Arvind and Mishra not just keep going themselves but also inspire others to look beyond the disease and live life to the fullest.