"I can't explain what chemotherapy feels like. Everyone I meet asks me, and I don't have the words to describe it. Some say it is like your veins on fire, some feel nauseous. I sleep through it, because staying awake scares me." - Vivek
Vivek is 23. He was in the 8th semester of Automobile Engineering when he was first diagnosed with cancer. That was February 2017. Chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, remission, relapse, and repeat. This has been Vivek's life so far. Usually, cancer patients have all the support in the world. Family and friends who rarely leave the bedside. Vivek does it all alone.
He never got a job because of his cancer
"I had applied for placements. I attended 12-15 interviews. Cancer got in my way. In the HR round, I'd have to declare. I said I may need 2-3 days off a month for chemotherapy. Employers don't like liabilities. So I never got a job."
February to September 2017, Vivek went through countless sessions of chemotherapy. By December 23rd 2017, he had 17 cycles of radiation. He was happy when he saw the word 'remission' on his report. But then, he relapsed. It became clear that chemo was not enough. He needed an autologous bone marrow transplant. In July 2018, Vivek felt like he had fought cancer and survived for the second time.
Cancer did not bring him closer to his family
"The doctor advised me not to leave the house for 6 months. In Mumbai I'd keep travelling by local trains to NGOs looking for funds. Public spaces could cause infections. I wanted to survive and not give cancer any more chances. So I moved back home to Rajkot. In December 2018, I took my first job. 2 months later, a PET scan showed that cancer was back. This time it is worse."
Vivek has been away from his family ever since he went to a residential school in 8th standard. He did not visit home for over 12 years, even when he was diagnosed with cancer. His parents are conservative and uncomfortable with sharing their names or photographs here. They do not understand the complexity of his disease. They do sometimes accompany him for chemo. Vivek is extremely grateful to his friends who have stood by him through this journey. His family funded Rs. 14 lakhs for his treatment the first time. They cannot do anymore.
His will and wish to survive weighs like a burden
"I go to chemotherapy on my own. Only on the worst days, I take my brother. Chemo happens for about 4-5 hours and I should recover in another 5 hours. I don't want to burden my family, increase cost of travel, and make my brother take a day's leave. If I am awake, everything that is dark, gets highlighted. It scares me. So I sleep."Cancer taught Vivek a lot of lessons. He learned to be independent. He learned different ways to finance treatment. He availed PM and CM funds. He was able to get the first line of chemotherapy for free with Amrutam Card. He also began to appreciate the smaller things in life, sleep, food, friends, family, nature.
Cancer's vengeance makes this fight dangerous and expensive
"This time, I need immunotherapy. Each injection costs Rs. 1 lakh. I need at least 30. The alternative for now is chemotherapy but it won't keep my disease at bay for long. When it starts itching a lot, I know things are about to get worse. If I take a local bus to Ahmedabad, I may get an infection. That could kill me faster than cancer. Or, I would end up spending lakhs to survive it. Lakhs I do not have. Right now, I don't have much time either."Vivek has been very brave through this fight. Every time he thought it was over, cancer came back more aggressive than ever. This is his last chance to beat the disease. He can do it with your help.