Saliva – A Very Important Secretion

Saliva is an important secretion from the body, whose presence and the role in multiplicity of functions is rarely appreciated in normal circumstances but more felt so in absentia.

Patients may present with a range of signs and symptoms, the severity of which depending upon the causative factors.

The functions of saliva include:

  • Lubricating the oral tissue thereby assisting in the swallowing process and speech.
  • Assisting the special sense of taste, by acting as a solvent for ions (from food, drinks etc.), and through proteins such as gustin.
  • Maintaining the health of the oral mucosa, through growth factors which promote wound healing, and cystatins, (which inhibit destructive enzymes such as cysteine & proteases).
  • Assisting in digestion, through amylase and lipase (the process beginning from the oral cavity itself).
  • Dilution and clearing of material from the oral cavity.
  • Buffering acids from dental plaque and from consumed foods and drinks, and preventing erosion caused by episodes of prolonged exposure to weak acids (e.g. Wines and black cola soft drinks) or short-term exposure to strong acids (e.g. Reflux and Vomiting).
  • Salivary stimulation elicited reflexively by taste and mastication leads to an increase in the pH and buffering capacity (due primarily to elevated levels of bicarbonate), as well as super-saturation of saliva with calcium and phosphate.
  • Serving as a reservoir for ions (Calcium, Phosphorus, and Fluoride) for re-mineralization.
  • Controlling the oral micro-flora, through immunological (IgA), enzymatic, peptide and chemical mediators.

While deficits in the production of saliva at rest can easily pass unnoticed, reduction in saliva production during eating is much more apparent in terms of symptoms, and generally comes early to the notice of the patients.

The correlation of stimulated salivary flow and the prevention of dental caries and the dental erosion have been explained by improved clearance of substrate due to more rapid movement of the salivary film, while the prevention of dental caries, has been linked to the greater activity of salivary antimicrobial mechanisms.

  • Edgar WM, Higham SM, Manning RH. Saliva stimulation and caries prevention. Adv Dent Res 8(2): 239-45, 1994.
  • Brostek AM, Bochenek AJ, Walsh LJ. Minimally invasivedentistry: A review and update. Shanghai J Stomatol 2006;15(3):225-249.
  • Laurence J. Walsh, School of Dentistry, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Story Of A Brave Heart And A Cancer Survivor: An Interview With Varshaa Jain Part-2

Zuvius: Did you make any new friends during your Cancer treatment? Can you talk about anyone special?

Varshaa: A couple of special mentions, firstly a 65 year old lady who had visited my hospital room and had shared her story about being operated twice for her ovarian cancer and her gruelling post operation treatment that didn’t end her life. I don’t recall her name but she was a CPAA volunteer sharing her experience so that I could be motivated to see the fact that life doesn’t ends with cancer. I guess I never feared death, so that staying alive aspect didn’t create a big impact on me, what inspired me was her zest for life at that age of 65years which was nearly two and a half times my age back then. Here was this lady, well dressed with an elegant pearl string for an accessory and a great diction to impress. She could have utilized her time, energy and resources to do anything for herself but here she was, taking the pains to come all the way from Colaba to share her experiences with an unknown cancer patient hospitalized in Bandra. I guess this experience lingers on my subconscious mind, more so because I too am like her who would love to take out time for healing and nurturing others. I too support two cancer support groups and spend time with hospitalized cancer patients as and when it’s possible for me.

Second mention is about a well-established painter Mr. Madhusudan Kumar whom I had contacted as my mom wanted to get my late father’s portrait painted. He agreed to paint within our budget despite being a very expensive artist and he himself couldn’t figure out what got him to agree at that price. Probably it was karmic coz associating with him had a two way effect. One was on my mom since she landed up reconnecting to her inherent skill as a painter when she gave some magical touches to his painting which was lifeless. Even the painter was surprised to see how effortlessly she brought in the soul in my father’s eyes and face in that portrait. The painter wasn’t aware that I was struggling with cancer and had assumed that I was wearing the bandana as a style statement. The impact of this on my life was that I realized that only you know your issues so don’t assume that the whole world knows and understands your state of mind and circumstances. Secondly you can make your weaknesses your greatest strengths provided you do so with confidence and courage. In a couple of years, time and destiny held my hand and led me from this life of an underdog and victim of cancer into the world of film writing after I joined a script writing course just for the heck of learning something new. At this time in life I received a call from Madhusudanji that he was curating some art show and his most famous life size portrait was something that he was trying to get from the owners so that he could display that at the art show and he since he had recalled how he had messed up my father’s portrait and my mom had magically fixed it up with a couple of quick effortless strokes he had called to invite mom and me for his art show. Since I was back to my home I conveyed that I would call up mom and pass on his invite to her. He was confused since he had assumed that I was unmarried and living with my mom. When I told him about the cancer treatment episode he was shocked coz he had assumed that the bandana was my style statement. That’s when even I realized the power of my positivity and have been trying to fathom it since then. Gradually I got into the film and glamor industry and he was one of the initial people who were instrumental in my peep into this new world of glamor, literati and a made up world from close quarters. I guess I have always been the person making new friends due to my extrovert and outgoing nature but this illness made me contrary to the above as I internalized and connected to my real inner self, my inherent inner strengths as well as rediscovered my lost self-confidence due to my struggles prior to being detected.

LIFE LESSON 7:People you come across your life closely or in the fleeting are not here co-incidentally, they are here for a purpose to add to your life in one way for the other and it’s entirely on you to decipher the indications and figure out their relevance. Secondly for inner peace one must be their own best friend for which they have to train their minds to accept their shortfalls and improve on those shortfalls. Simultaneously one must identify their inner strengths and strengthen their self-confidence to use this strength to the best of their potentials and move forward in life adding value to your own life as well as that of others around you.

Also read: A Little Story Of Hope

Zuvius: What did you learn about your friends and family during this difficult period of fighting the disease?

Varshaa: I realized firstly that no one can care so selflessly and tirelessly for you like your mother can irrespective of the magnanimity of her own trauma. Secondly I realized that my husband did value my presence in his life contrary to what I used to feel prior to falling ill. Thirdly I realized that good deeds i.e. your karma do add to your advantage in crazy times like these. Fourthly I realized that old friends can be your greatest and truest pillars of strength during traumatic times like these providing you with the right dose of moral boost and nostalgia. Fifthly I realized that your good relations with neighbours can be a boon at such times. Family and friends play a huge role at least for cancer patients because their love, affection, care and attention plays a prime factor of rejuvenation and reassurance that Life is Good.

LIFE LESSON 8:As you sow, so shall you reap whether it’s close family or friends. Relationships are all about giving and instead of expecting others to give, you have to give first without any expectation of the gesture being returned. If you have selflessly done things for people, trust me the goodness comes back to you manifolds from the most unexpected quarters.

Zuvius: What is the first thing you decided to do after you were declared ‘Cancer free’?

Varshaa: I don’t really remember what was the first thing because for me cancer free didn’t come as a single day result, it was a gruesome twelve months followed by several years of follow ups and painful blood tests and restrictions to consume raw food. I say painful because the chemo therapy sessions had burnt out the veins in my right hand and left hand couldn’t be pricked due to the threat of infection because all my infection fighting lymph node in the left arm pit had been removed. But yes my subsequent years were eventful because I diverted all my attention and energy in doing things that gave me happiness. I joined a course in film writing to explore my discovery of the creative me, I pledged my support to two cancer support groups i.e. CPAA & VCare, I started to reconnect with old friends whom I had lost touch with, I stopped feeling guilty for doing things that gave me happiness and last but not the least I started living life by choice instead of by compulsion. Cancer has been a turning point in my life and by God’s grace I stayed determined to use it as my strength rather than my weakness. From that year in 2002 when I was living the life of an under dog, today in 2016 I am spiritually evolved philanthropist and writer who has created a space in this universe. I am trying my best to add value to the lives of my loved ones and am trying equally hard to make my little difference to society and life at large by being the change I wish to see.

LIFE LESSON 9:The only constant is ‘Change’ so no matter what your worries, troubles and challenges they can all be overcome provided you have the fire and determination to overcome them. Over and above that we must have the wisdom and alertness to learn from not just your own past mistakes and experiences but those of others too.

Zuvius: Did having Cancer change your perspective on life, people and things around you? What is the most important lesson that this ailment taught you?

Varshaa: I guess I have always loved life and had a positive and optimistic spirit but this illness helped me connect with my inner strengths and optimism in its true sense.

In terms of the lessons, well I wasn’t expecting this question coming as a separate entity so as I can along be answering each of the above questions I have mentioned what lesson each aspect of life and people have taught me. I will continue to add the Life lessons to balance questions too.

LIFE LESSON 10:Life is a compilation of our perception of situations, words and emotions added with our actions on those perceptions added with our abilities to observe, interpret, apply, adapt and convert circumstances and situations.

Zuvius: Did it affect the lives of people around you? If so, how?

Varshaa: My husband couldn’t accept that he was about to lose his wife and my two-year-old son was confused why his mother went to hospital and then went to nani’s house instead of returning home and why he too couldn’t live with his mother at nani’s house. My mother was completely shattered because she knew exactly what hell her daughter was facing since she too had gone through this hell ten years ago but she was trying to stay tough in front me and nurse me. My mother in law was trying to cope up with a little two-year-old kid who was confused and I was missing my son but he wasn’t allowed to come and live with me at my mom’s place.  So basically each of us had to suffer in our own individual ways.

LIFE LESSON 11:Take good care of yourself and take all possible measures to prevent physical and emotional ailment because it’s not just you yourself who will suffer the consequences of your carelessness towards yourself but you nearest most and dearest most will suffer much more than you because while you get busy fighting your illness, you family feels totally helpless and drained of all resources tangible as well as in tangible. So be responsible for yourself first then only will you be in a position to take up the responsibility of others.

A Little Story Of Hope

We had started our Cancer Awareness Campaign in association with ZuviusLifesciences and  YouWeCan. We were enjoying this journey of taking wakefulness and knowledge across college students and interacting with them while killing the myths about cancer.  During this campaign we often came across stories of survivors and quite a lot of people falling prey to this dreadful disease.

Last December, I was on my way back to Kochi after a couple of my client meetings in Mumbai and Delhi. I was seated next to this elderly couple. They looked chirpy and zealous despite their age and fragile bodies. The lady was thin, fair and seated next to the window. She was all excited about the take off. The gentleman seemed equally enthusiastic and kept holding her hand while leaning on her shoulder. I was witnessing an ancient scene of Public Display of Affection in modern times and I couldn’t stop smiling!

The flight took off and it was a long journey. It must have been about 20 odd minutes when I realised that the elderly woman was enjoying her forty winks. The flight attendant arrived and served what we had pre-booked. During the service, the man initiated a conversation with a hello. Mr. Agarwal was travelling to Kochi to spend the winters by the sea and to enjoy the exquisite beauty of the backwaters. We spoke about what I do and where I come from. Minutes later, we spoke about the Cancer Awareness Campaign we were dealing with. It was unusual to see a face cheerfully lit up on hearing cancer. His expressions had ignited a curious spark in my mind and I had to ask him the reason for the same.

Also read: Story Of A Brave Heart And A Cancer Survivor: An Interview With Varshaa Jain

The delightful story that followed is what I wanted to share.

Mr. Agarwal, apart from being a chronic bachelor and enjoying his life at 50, was busy with his business of importing fibre and plastic goods from China. He would often travel a lot and his busy work schedule would enervate him. It was not unusual for him to have back pains. It was on one such trip back from China that he felt a dull ache in his abdomen and groin along with the persistent back pain. He reached Delhi and fixed an appointment with his doctor. His doctor suggested a few routine tests and at the same time asked him to meet one of his colleagues. A couple of tests, meeting with the doctors and was diagnosed testicular cancer. The sense of fear and hopelessness engulfed him, his mind kept asking him the same question over and again, why him? He had abstained from alcohol and tobacco all his life, he was living a healthy lifestyle, he had been independent and hardworking, so why him? He, eventually, decided to go with the flow and fight this serious ailment with all the nerves he had.

The treatment prefaced and came the Satan of physical weakness! He lost his mental strength too in the concourse. He wanted it to end; he just wanted to bring an end to this uncertainty! His friends suggested to take up some hobby and indulge himself to keep his mind away. He took their advice seriously. As a child he enjoyed painting and sketching, so he decided to find some hobby classes near his hospital so that he can visit and be engaged whenever he could.

It was during his hobby classes that he met Manorama. She was a couple of years elder to him. Endowed with mirth, Manorama was a very friendly human being. He never spoke about his on-going fight with cancer because he hated the idea of people being sympathetic to him. He continued with his treatment while visiting the hobby classes whenever he could. During this period, he had found a sense of comfort and a friend in Manorama. She was a widow, who once used to work with an automobile group and had been living with her son and his wife. They would spend hours talking about life, philosophy, art, their past but never did he speak about his malady.

It was after a brain-numbing session of treatment, he felt very lonely and he decided to call Manorama to meet up for a conversation. He wanted to open up and he did. All the while when he spoke about his fight with cancer; Manorma held his hand and had a comforting smile on her face. She didn’t utter a word but patiently listened to him. After his full stop, she told him one thing, “You are a good human being and nothing bad will happen to you again if you defeat this one. Also, you are not alone, I am with you in this one.” He felt relieved having opened up and all the more because he found an ideal companion in her. He thanked her for being there and that is when she said- “When I said I am with you, I also meant that we are on the same boat. I just got done with my tussle against breast cancer 8 months ago and am cancer free now. I am confident that you can beat this one.”

He didn’t know what to say, he had not only found a friend but also an inspiring story. He was sitting in front of a survivor who had gone through what he was going through.

It has been four years now, today they spend more time together. They travel together, paint and explore the unexplored. She often helps him with his business and his home.

I couldn’t stop smiling listening to his story. “So apart from the sorrows, Cancer also brought some hope and companionship?” I asked him.

He smiled and replied, “Cancer is just like any other problem in our lives, just that it has a lot more stigma and fear attached to it. We often give up, I almost did and if it was not for her own story and the successful strive against cancer, I would have given up too!”

In Conversation With Dr. Harish Kulkarni: The Odyssey Of Pioneering Cancer Treatment In Central India

Zuvius: What inspired you to opt for medical sciences? Why and what made you chose oncology as your specialization?

Dr. Kulkarni: As a doctor’s son, I was exposed to the motto of rendering service to the less fortunate. I used to accompany my father whenever he visited patients. It left a deep impression on me. The other fact which made me decide about medical profession was the grieving illness of my mother. I saw her sinking day by day for over a year. She had developed a liver malady and the ascites ended her life. I watched helplessly as no curative treatment was available then. She probably had cancer. Hence, I made up my mind to pursue this noble profession.

Zuvius: Enlighten us with the experiences and milestones in your journey so far.

Dr. Kulkarni: It was not easy as there were very few seats available in the Government Medical Colleges that time. After inter-science I tried for admission to MCH but was not successful and was kept on waiting list. I decided to do BSc and then try my luck again. By that time the number of seats increased with new pattern of admission where in credit was given to NCC and Degree and Personal Interview. I was 22nd in the list of selected candidates. The long journey of fulfilling the dream had begun!

After MBBS, I went to Mumbai for post graduation. It was combined course of diagnosis and therapy. The students mostly concentrated on radio diagnosis as there were very few centres for treating cancer at that time. Moreover, very little exposure for cancer treatment was available at Tata Hospital in academics. I went back to Nagpur and joined my father’s X-Ray clinic. I had applied for MPSC and was selected for Radiology Lecturer job at Govt.  Medical College, Nagpur.

Also read: Story Of A Brave Heart And A Cancer Survivor: An Interview With Varshaa Jain Part-2

Zuvius: Share with us an incident which has changed your life.

Dr. Kulkarni: I went radiology department of TB hospital but was told that there is no vacancy. I was disappointed and was walking through the corridor. Out of nowhere, near the porch, I was approached by Dr. Bhiwapurkar, the Secretary of CRS. He told me that the management has decided to send me to BARC for training in Radiation Protection for four weeks and depute for further training in Radiotherapy to UK. In addition to this, I would be appointed as cancer specialist at the proposed RST Cancer Hospital at Nagpur. In a jiffy, the whole scenario changed and I was on my way to a new carrier as an Oncologist. My happiness knew no bounds. My dream came true. It was surreal!

I always desired to be actively involved in treating patients rather than doing Radio diagnosis. In due course of time, I went to UK and after completing my post graduation in diagnosis and therapy from London University returned back to India and joined as Director of RST Cancer hospital in 1974. Thus that unexpected meet with secretary of CRS changed my life and gave me a chance to serve the humanity.

Zuvius: What were the challenges you faced in the pioneering process of cancer treatment in Central India?

Dr. Kulkarni: There were very few centres in India for the Cancer treatment. In Central India, only Nagpur had an old deep X-ray machine. Patients had to visit Mumbai for treatment. Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj suffered from cancer. He felt the ‘need’ for Cancer Hospital in the province. He donated a few lakhs and CRS decided to construct a hospital.

When I joined there was no staff but just a security guard! I was the only technical staff – literally one-man army. Right from opening the front door of the hospital, cleaning my own desk, registering the patients and making patient files, collecting fees, giving receipt examining patients and planning treatment, calculating doses, setting the patient on couch and giving treatment, I did it all. I had to deposit the day’s collection in the bank too. A completely opposite scenario to what UK had.

There was scarcity of technicians so I introduced teaching programme for therapy technicians. There was an issue of shortage of funds, CRS being a charitable trust. Moreover, major chunk of the donations collected was going for the purchase of the therapy machines. The machines which were imported and were very expensive. As the number of cases increased, we had to construct rooms for additional machines and other supporting department like pathology, radiology, operation theatres, blood banks and construction of indoor wards and OPD rooms for examination of patients by the HON specialists. Specialists in ENT, gynaecology, medicine, ansesthologist and other supporting staff were appointed initially for the 60 bedded hospital. My goal had been achieved. Now patients were treated here, in Nagpur yonder.

After so many years of struggle and hard work we have a fully developed cancer centre with 100 beds and many latest treatment machines in eluding brachytherapy. Over 200 patients are treated daily with highly qualified, experienced medical and technical staff. The hospital is recognised as the Regional Cancer Centre by Govt of India. This is second best centre in Maharashtra after Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.

Zuvius: Put in the picture how cancer treatment has evolved and what all are the future prospects

Dr. Kulkarni: Initially there was only surgical treatment available for cancer patients. And it had limitations as curative treating was possible only when the disease was localised. In most of developing countries including India the patients reported in late stages of disease and hence radiotherapy had major role in treating patients. Also chemotherapy has developed rapidly. Medical technology is evolving at a faster velocity. After deep X Ray machines, new HV machines have the advantage of deep penetration. Larger radiation dose is delivered to deep seated tumours too. Treatment can be given to superficial lesions without damaging deeper tissue. Computer aided treatment planning helps in sparing normal tissue while larger dose could be given to target volumes. Thus, we can achieve good response and the chances of local recurrences are minimal. eg: IMRT.

Zuvius: Cancer incidence is expected to rise fivefold by 2025 in India. What advice you’d give to the countrymen?

Dr. Kulkarni: Incidence of cancer is increasing due to various factors. It usually a disease of advanced age and people are falling in that range as our life expectancy has increased. Increasing urbanisation, change in lifestyle, high consumption of processed food, industrial and environmental pollution, adulteration, chemicals, cosmetics and stress are some of the responsible factors. Obesity, lack of exercise, consumption of junk food, smoking and alcohol can be added to the list. All these amplify the cancer burden on the country. To treat such large number of cases requires resources, machines and staff to cater for all these rising numbers. We are falling short in every aspect.

Government alone can’t do all of this and we on our part can take some responsibility. A squirrel’s part, may be?

I appreciate you guys, doing a really good job!

Scrap Book questions:

Zuvius: What do you love to do in your free time? Your hobbies and interests?

Dr. Kulkarni: I have many hobbies like reading, gardening, travelling, taking part in Marathi dramas, playing bridge and chess, listening to classical, light music, Natya Sangeet, etc. Watching Discovery Channel, listening old movie songs and selected radio programmes are my favourite ones these days. On Sundays, I love to visit relatives and friends whenever there are no IMA meetings.

Zuvius: We would love to know about your favourite movie and your favourite book.

Dr. Kulkarni: My favourite English movies are Alfred Hitchkochs, Sherlock Homes and old classics like War and Peace, An Affair to Remember, etc.

In Bollywood, subtle comedies and movies like Anand, Parineeta and Devdas.

Lakhchi Gosta and Pedgaon are the Marathi movies I adore.

My favourite book is “The Emperor of All Maladies” by Dr. Siddartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician & Asst. Professor in medicine at Colombia University. The Book is the winner of Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction, 2011.

Zuvius: What are the three things always on your davenport/desk?

Dr. Kulkarni: Three things on my desk are: A photograph of Swami Vivekananda, a list of things to do for

the day and my beloved computer!

Zuvius: Where is the most exciting place you have ever been?

Dr. Kulkarni: Disney World in Orlando is the craziest place I have ever been!

Zuvius: What is your personal secret to happiness?

Dr. Kulkarni: Not to give much importance to trifles and accept life as it is. Enjoy what you have today than cribbing about what you didn’t have yesterday.

Zuvius: If you wouldn’t have opted for medical education, where would you love to see yourself as?

Dr. Kulkarni: Medicine, and that too Oncology! I wish for the same. It’s never enough. Serving the masses would be my prime motto whatsoever!

Too Young For Cancer, Too Strong To Be Defeated: Prateek Speaks About How He Faced Cancer And Defeated It

Zuvius: What were the circumstances that made you decide to go for a check-up?

Prateek: April 20, 1998- It was my nineteenth birthday and I woke up with a slight pain in my left testicle. I have had this pain for the last few years since a ball had hit me there while playing cricket with my friends. The pain had not been consistent and never been intense. I had ignored it mostly. I never thought of mentioning it to anyone, either. In the evening, I went out and partied with my close friends. I had turned nineteen, was in perfect health with a good physique, for I had been religiously visiting a gym for the past year. I was enjoying my carefree college days. Life had been generally good to me.

April 21, 1998- The day started with an acute pain. I finally told my mom. My grandfather worked in the Military Hospital. I went to see him. He further referred me to another doctor immediately.

Zuvius: What was your immediate response on learning you had cancer.

Prateek: My mind went blank. I kind of switched to autopilot. I think the gravity of the situation didn’t sink in till my first chemotherapy which was done on the second day after my first surgery. I was operated upon for the first time on 23rd April, 1998. Everything had happened too quickly. Everything was a blur.

Zuvius: How did you decide which hospital/doctor you should go to for further treatment?

Prateek: After being operated upon and given the first chemotherapy at Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, New Delhi, I was referred to Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, Bombay for further treatment.

Also read: Manisha Koirala – A Warrior & An Inspiration

Zuvius: When you were diagnosed with cancer who was most devastated by the news?

Prateek: My father was on a business tour at that time. My mom was deeply affected with the news. She had heard only dreadful things about cancer and she was gravely worried about her teenage son.

Zuvius: Can you tell us what kind of cancer you had and what was the procedure of treatment prescribed?

Prateek: It was diagnosed as Malignant Testicular Teratoma. Surgeries, to remove the nodules, and chemotherapies were prescribed. I underwent two surgeries (one to remove the left testicle and another to remove a node from the right lung), and 2 VIP regime chemotherapies and 4 cycles of regular chemotherapies.

Zuvius: What were the physical changes seen in yourself, in your daily life and how did you cope with those.

Prateek: I was a robust 19-year old teenager. The chemotherapy left me very weak physically. I lost all the hair on my body. I would feel nauseated all the time. I completely lost my appetite.

I kept myself busy. I would play video games and watch movies. My friends often visited me and spent time with me. All this kept my mind distracted.

Zuvius: Who and what kept your spirit up, gave you the strength and confidence to go through this difficult phase of treatment without losing hope.

Prateek: I had the complete support of my family and friends. Dr. Advani, Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, whom I was consulting, was very encouraging and inspiring. He made my cancer seem inconsequential. All that support and hope, coupled with my strong will-power and fighting spirit, kept me going.

Zuvius: Can you remember when you felt totally helpless during your cancer days?

Prateek: I am the eldest son. I have two younger brothers. During one of my chemotherapy days, my youngest brother got caught in a squabble and I couldn’t go out to help him, as I usually did, because I had become physically very weak and was greatly prone to infections as the immune system had taken a bad beating. I had felt very helpless, in those few moments, about my condition.

Zuvius: What did you learn about your friends and family during this difficult period of fighting cancer?

Prateek: While I was undergoing the treatment, my family worked like a team, especially my parents. My father is a businessman. He would go on his tours to collect money that his customers owed him, while my mom would take me for my surgeries and chemotherapies. I lived in Agra at that time. I had one of my surgeries and chemotherapies in Delhi. The second surgery was carried out in Bombay. Rest of the chemotherapies, I received at Gwalior.

Up until then, my mom had been “just a simple housewife”. In those days, she took me everywhere alone. She was initially deeply worried about the disease that had this life-threatening tag attached to it. But she found the fortitude that only a mother can for her child. She managed home. She managed her two other sons. She managed my medication, my therapies, and my surgeries, alone. My father could not be with us physically because he needed to make large sum of money available for my treatment. So, most of the times, he was on tour. Apart from my own strong will to survive, it was my parents’, my family’s determination that pulled me through.

Zuvius: What is the first thing you decided to do after you were declared cancer free?

Prateek: I was diagnosed with cancer on 21st April, 1998. I was declared cancer free on 28th October, 1998. Those six months are a blur now. I think I was blessed that it was all over in such a short span.

I simply went back to my life after it was all over.

Zuvius: Did having cancer change your perspective on life, things around you?

Prateek: Cancer made me realise my own inner strength. And the support and love, that I enjoyed, of my family and friends.

Zuvius: Did it affect the lives of people around you? If so how?

Prateek: It certainly affected my family. It was a harrowing experience for my mom to almost lose her 19-year old son. My brothers, 16-year old and 17-year old, got neglected in those months, at a crucial age. They went through the trauma of seeing their elder brother suffer. My father stayed on perpetual tours in those six months, to earn enough money for my treatment which was pretty expensive. But we pulled through.

Zuvius: What is the most important lesson that cancer taught you?

Prateek: If you have a strong will to survive, if you keep the faith, if you maintain hope, if you fight back, any obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, can be overcome. Any obstacle.

Zuvius: What were your conceptions about cancer before and after the treatment?

Prateek: Before I was diagnosed and subsequently cured of cancer, I had the same prevalent notion that cancer was one of the most severe life-threatening diseases. That people die of cancer, most likely because it is difficult to be cured. There were low chances of surviving cancer.

And I realised how grave a misconception it is. Cancer is perfectly curable. Not all kinds of cancer are a danger to life. What matters more is at what stage it is diagnosed in a person.  What matters is what kind of cancer it is. What matters is being careful about personal health and to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

What matters is to never lose hope, to keep fighting, to never give up.


 Zuvius: How important life is to you now that you’ve come out of this ordeal?

Prateek: I was fortunate that my ordeal lasted only six months. I value it more now. But life goes on, no matter what.

Zuvius: If asked to say something to motivate cancer victims what would you say?

Prateek: No matter what it takes, keep that faith and hope alive. Cultivate the inner strength. Interact with people in similar situations. Interact with people you think you can find courage from. Join Support groups. Reach out. Reach within. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Fight back with all the vigour you have inside you, and then some more. You live only once. Make it worth the while.