On the eve of National Cancer Awareness Day, Global Youth Voice talked to Tushar Rishi. Rishi is a Young Boy from Ranchi, got diagnosed with Bone cancer at the age of 16. He underwent chemotherapy for around 11 months at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Upon completion of the treatment, he appeared for Class 10th Board exams and scored a perfect 10 CGPA. In his 12th Boards, he scored a perfect score of 95%. While battling Cancer, he also wrote a book titled, ‘The Patient, Patient.’ Here is a brief conversation that Global Youth Voice had with Tushar, discussing his inspirational journey.
1. Tell me something about your present life, what are you doing and what do you aim to do in the near future?
I was not interested in the field of engineering that’s why I opted not to choose it despite having my 12th with science stream. I have just completed my graduation from Hindu University with a major in English language and I will be going for masters in English after this.
2. When was the first time you realized that you have some serious problem in your knee and what all followed it?
This happened way back in the year 2013. I was into sports at school level. Around November, I felt a little pain in my knees but it got ignored as some sort of daily life injury and we didn’t pay attention to it as any serious concern. But in the month of January, 2014, I had to miss my pre-board exams due to this problem and then we decided to get it checked.The difficulty with bone cancer is that it rarely shows early, it is generally diagnosed when it spreads in the entire body. Luckily, in my case, the orthopedic surgeon we consulted, had expertise in this field and he noticed a small lump and quickly referred us to Delhi to have a detailed check up. What followed it, was the confirmation of me having bone cancer. I got shifted to Delhi at my cousin’s place and then the treatment started. My Mom and Dad both are working but I stayed in Delhi with my mom, and my Dad used to visit us twice a month. My mom is a professor at BIT Mesra. The college granted her a leave of one year and that was of great help and it was a very appreciable gesture shown by the college.
My treatment started at AIIMS Delhi in the month of February. The treatment involved chemotherapy and a surgery. Earlier it was decided to treat me using 6 cycles, 3 before surgery and 3 post surgery. Here a ‘Cycle’ typically means a dosage of medicine for 5 continuous days following a rest period of 2-3 weeks, precisely a ‘cycle’ means a treatment of 1 month. But later on, even after the surgery, the cancer was very aggressive and it was decided to dose me with 5 more cycles and hence it took 11 months in total to treat me to get rid of cancer. I used to stay at my cousin’s place in Delhi and visited the hospital regularly for treatment. I was admitted for 3 weeks during the surgery period.
3. What role has your family played in this whole journey of yours?
They were strong. They were very supportive. They always tried to keep me involved and busy into things so that I don’t ever feel like I’m going through some serious disease. They used to talk to me about various other things and they always treated me like a normal person and not a patient.
4. What role have your friends and teachers played in this fight?
Everyone at my school, my teachers, my friends all were very supportive. My peers or my teachers never feared that they would get infected with it(which is a very common myth- that cancer spreads by coming in vicinity). I never got socially isolated and I feel very lucky to have such people around me. I had to miss my board exams in 2014 due to cancer, and when I returned to school after one year in 2015, my school administration was very supportive and they quickly enrolled me into the final exams. The BIT administration was also very supportive in granting leave to my mother and then accommodating her after a year, smoothly, into college. Some of my closest friends and classmates stayed in touch with me during the treatment. It felt really nice to receive a call from them. While some friends left too but I believe that it’s life, some people just leave you and some stay, not everyone can be with you always, only the real friends support you during your tough times. My father also had to rent a room near the hospital to visit me and manage things related to my medication. Overall my family and friends stood by my side and helped me overcome this nightmare.
5. What was the motivation and inspiration that kept you going?
I used to read a lot of books. I tried to keep myself busy by watching movies, writing poetry etc. At times I felt depressed but eventually I came to terms with it and made my world around it for a year.
6. Adolescence is a phase of change in itself, do you think it was different in your case?
I think it didn’t bother me during the treatment. I felt it when I returned to school, my friends were worried about things like marks, college and career options while I was worried about not getting cancer again because usually there is a chance of a relapse. So I can say that there were differences between the goals of my peers and me. I was not more worried about my life plan because I didn’t know whether I would be alive 5 years from now or not.
7. How did you overcome the fear of cancer, how did you deal with it mentally?
I feel that in our society there is a hype that you have to be mentally strong to fight cancer but there is another side to this coin too. Cancer is a disease in one’s body and the body has to fight with it. There is nothing much you can do about it. When we talk about cancer fighters or cancer warriors then we are putting a lot of effort on the patient too who can’t do a lot about it. No one wants to die and every Cancer patient fights it mentally within his/her mind.
8. Having suffered the pain of cancer, do you plan to do something for cancer patients?
I work with an NGO based in Delhi that works as a support group for cancer patients. It works in AIIMS. I try to help people out. I remember a boy who was very distressed due to cancer and was not eating. The NGO asked me to talk to the boy and I did. It helped him come out of that state. So yes, I am working for cancer patients and also plan to do the same in future.
9. What would you like to advise the people who suffer due to this fatal disease?
The most important thing is that Cancer patients need to understand that the disease is not in your hand and you can’t do much about it. Cancer patients should try to keep themselves as busy as possible because it helps to forget the pain and gives the strength to fight it. Some people do blame themselves for getting cancer but actually it has got almost nothing to do with your routine, it’s solely a biological malfunction so never blame yourself for this and try to remain busy all the time.