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Cancer Beaters Inspire Lives

Times of India
5 February 2010
By Prithvijit Mitra & Sumati Yengkhom
Pune, India

TOI brings you miracle stories of those who triumphed over the killer disease through sheer willpower and are inspiring others to fight on

Subhendu Halder
“I thought I had wasted enough time (with cancer). I was itching to get back to normal life, go out on weekend trips and catch movies. I was determined not to let life pass me by Subhendu Halder
“Going through the chemo and radiotherapy was so painful that I wanted to die to escape all that pain. But gradually, I gathered courage. Looking back, I feel happy that I did not quit Rekha Das
Rekha Das

Twenty–three–year–old Arun Banerjee clatters away on the keyboard at his office desk, occasionally shifting his gaze from the computer screen to have a glass of water. In between registering accounting entries, he takes calls on his cellphone, chats with his colleagues and shares a joke with them. There is nothing to suggest that just last year, he had been given a few months to live.

Last July, Banerjee, then an MCom final year student, was rushed to a cancer hospital with blood pouring out of his body. He was suffering from acute promyclocytic leukaemia and put on arsenic – the only treatment for such patients. Fortunately, it worked. In December, he was declared “sufficiently cured” to pursue a normal life.

And the young accountant didn’t waste a single moment. He went back to studies, started attending classes regularly, and refused to be cowed down by the trauma.

“Even while I was under treatment, I took tuitions. Now I have taken up this job and it keeps me busy. I never even thought of giving up when I was fighting for my life. Despite the illness, the constant treatment, the drug–induced drowsiness and the fear of death, I did not lose the will to live. In fact, it grew stronger each day,” he recalls.

Arun Banerjee
“His spirit made him sail past cancer,” said Ritwik Pandey, his doctor. But Banerjee says he didn’t need any special courage to battle cancer. “I saw no reason to be scared. I wanted to get it (the treatment) over with and get on with my life,” he said.

Miracle stories like his are an inspiration that it is possible to beat the killer disease. If Banerjee faced cancer courageously with the strength of youth, Alipore Zoo employee Subhendu Halder (45) fought a longer and more bitter battle with the dreaded disease in his mid–thirties. And, he, too, emerged victorious.

A routine blood test in 1999 had revealed that Haldar was suffering from chronic myloid leukaemia. The treatment was expensive. His wife Sraboni rushed him to Mumbai in a last–ditch effort to save him but the costs were forbidding. “I had to bring him back and had almost given up hope. But he never lost heart and was ready to fight the disease even without proper treatment,” said Sraboni.

Fortunately for Halder, a senior oncologist offered help and bore the cost of his treatment. “I spent two months inside a closed chamber at Kothari Medical Centre. Cut off from the rest of the world, I didn’t know what was happening to my wife and my two children. All I could see were doctors, nurses and the stifling white walls of my room. One morning, I found myself in my bedroom, surrounded by my family. I was not sure if I was dreaming. It fired my will to fight off the disease,” recalls Halder.

He remained confined to bed for six more months. The day he was allowed to step out, Halder rushed back to his office. “I thought I had wasted enough time. I was itching to get back to normal life, go out on weekend trips and catch up with movies. I was determined not to let life pass me by,” he said.

Ten years on, still on medicines, 45–year–old Halder has to visit his doctor for regular check–ups. “A relapse is a possibility but I refuse to indulge in such negative thoughts,” he said. “I am a fighter.”

Forty–five–year–old Rekha Das was not too sure she would be able to fight her cancer until her family stood by her and said, yes she can. Her world had come crumbling down when she was detected with breast cancer five years ago. “I had a friend who suffered from colon cancer. I had seen how she struggled and how her family suffered due to her pain and the huge treatment cost. I was shattered when I came to know that I had breast cancer,” said Das, a resident of Bangur Avenue.

Her husband stood rock–solid behind her, but she still went into depression, refusing to undergo the surgery initially. She was also worried that the cost of her treatment would dry up funds meant for her daughter’s education. After several rounds of counseling and her family’s encouragement, Rekha underwent a mastectomy.

“Going through the chemo and radiotherapy itself was so painful that I wanted to die to escape all that pain. I even called up doctor Subir Ganguly, who was treating me, to give me a lethal injection. But gradually, I gathered courage . Once I had done that, it became easy to live with cancer. Looking back, I feel so happy that I did not quit,” recalled Rekha.

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