Monday, May 16, 2016

5. Long. Years. And I'm STILL Here.

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On this day 5 years ago, my doctors told me these words... 

"Nikhil. The good news is, you're 17 and you have leukaemia. But the bad news is, you're 17 and you have leukeamia."

And they've changed my life. 

They've transformed me from a boy, fresh out of highschool, who wanted to help people, but mainly just wanted to play basketball all day, to a man who focuses on the opportunities rather than the prices paid, one who needs to put his all into that desire to help others...
But also one who often can't. 

It's been long. I've had 2 bone marrow transplants, with 8 rounds of some of the hardest chemo you can get, plus over 20 "maintainence" chemos (in truth, the fatigue they bring sometimes feels worse than those hard ones). I've relapsed, been to ICU at least twice (probably a few more times that I can't remember), lost a rib to a different cancer altogether, an eye to I still don't know what (the other eye's missed being blinded twice now since...), and lost my mind for 2 weeks to a reaction that almost reduced my chances at relapse to 0... The side effects from that last one alone, the drugs I'm still on and the constant threat of those seizures returning, still bear heavy on my mind... not to mention the major side effect of this all - the Graft Versus Host Disease that turns me into a child, cursing, screaming, pleading for the pain to stop, most nights due to the cramps.  
I've had over 300 bags of blood products infused into me, one that nearly took my life, 2 that have saved it (the bone marrow transplants). I don't even know how many appointments I've had. I STILL have monthly infusions, still go to monthly checkups with 3 monthly, 6 monthly and yearly ones thrown inbetween, and currently have 8 specialists looking after me.  
It's changed me from this; 

to this... 

The isolation after being so self-conscious due to cancers' changes, made life dreary, and lasted months before I developed the mentality that got me through it...

The torture of losing friends, over and over, made me question why I even bothered... living.

The pain I still endure every day sometimes that makes me feel the same sometimes...

And it just keeps going on... 

There's so many different ways of looking at all that...
And I bet immediately, you went to the bad...

Being told you have a 10, maybe 20% chance of surviving at 17? A relapse? ANOTHER cancer? Your disabilities? Dude... that's horrible... 

I mean you could also think, "Wow.. you had 5 marrow matches? Many don't even get one (that's something YOU can change - click here to find out how) You've had, and met some amazing doctors and people in your life... you've learned so much from this... you've grown from it all. You're so blessed!"

If you asked me if I feel blessed or lucky, or if I'd do it all over again, my answer... 
would change. 
Depending on the day. On how I felt. On how much pain I was in... Or how much my depression prone mind was affecting me...

But overall, I am a happy guy. The way I dealt with it, by taking a step back, looking at where I was and then realising, when I didn't have emotions stopping me from doing so, that it only made sense to take the path that led me to success... To view the world in the good light, which is always there, and bend my attitude to focus on that so I'd have the best chance of being happy.

It's made me a man who sees opportunity, everywhere, even where most people see dead ends. 
It's made me able to laugh at the traumatic stuff I've been through, able to learn from it, and try to help others do the same, rather than being scarred. 
It's made me thrive, made my desire to help others a need rather than me curling up in a ball of my own misery...

At least, it's made me that... most of the time... 

The times I'm not can be horrible, with spells of utter depression that have lasted months...
leaving me numb, self-doubting, sometimes, suicidal,..

The grief I talked about here is just part of that.
When I'm cramping, and have been for hours, and I feel like I can't do anything, that this body I've been given isn't mine, and isn't worth it... you can understand how I don't really see much point to this all. 

But if you asked me how I felt today... 

I'd say Thankful. 

Not so much triumphant, ecstatic or gleeful... Though of course, there are hints of that.


I have suffered, and in the days up to writing this post, I wondered if that's what I'd be focusing on as I wrote this. But no... It's not. 

I'm thankful for the doctors I had who not only gave me premium care, not only went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me safe, not only listened to me, getting me the medicine that's probably kept me alive, but also gave me the words that made me realise I had a CHOICE in how I viewed life. 

"the good news is, you're 17 and you have leukaemia..." 

I'm thankful for the nurses I had, who not only were the doctors, the real healers who'd look after me, administering the poisons that brought me misery and bringing me the meds that relieved that, but also be my confidants, carers and friends in all this. My angels. Who I couldn't visit today (I've got an infection I don't wanna spread to other critical patients) but would, if I could, give them the world for the comfort and happiness they brought me in the hardest times of my life... something they do for every single person they care for.  

Me at my 18th birthday, when I was feeling so down and out about being THERE of all places, and at my 22nd, when I was told I had a THIRD cancer and needed surgery.
Both times, these amazing angels picked up on it. Both times, they threw me a party. Both times, they showed how much they cared. 

But what I'm thankful for most, is my family. An eccentric, funny, spontaneous father who'd always be able to make me laugh; something you need in tough times...

A brother, who's given up so much for me, and continues to do so Every. Single. Day of this young life, despite my being the biggest, baddest, most dickish troll ever... 

And a mother, who's done, and would do anything and everything for me. Who's slept in a fold out, often basic chair for months of her life so I didn't have to move that metre and a half to my phone. Who's had to watch me go through hell, ICU, and so much trauma, helpless, unable to make a difference as I did. Who's always there for me, who takes so much of my crap and somehow still somehow not only loves me, but laughs about it, and inspires me... sometimes even as I'm berating her...

just one example of how my mother, hell, any mother, will be the most selfless, loving beings you'll ever encounter.
just wow...

And I'm thankful for you. You guys who've read this, spread it, the friends who've kept me happy, those who've allowed me the privilege of coming into your lives to help, and just be there. 

And I will do anything and everything to try an make the most of everything I've been given... Starting with this;

My idea, trying to hack into the billions of hours we spend online and make good come from it.
to try and help those we love to watch keep doing what they do, for a living
to try and make it so easy to help people, by just opening an app, or loading up a site, you can change the world.
Tell anyone you know who entertains to join at ! They won't regret it. For sure

My only wish, is that everyone be as strong as they possibly can. That they learn from me and my experiences and not wait for tragedy to strike, or circumstances be changed to become the best possible version of themselves. That they be able, and willing to help those who are struggling... That's what my new charity, an app/site - PlayWell, is all about. 

And look... if you can do that... then you've made this guy on this day, happy. 

Thank you. 


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  2. Nikhil,thank you for sharing this from the GVHD FB group. You are an inspiration. I've been through a very rough time, but nothing like you, and my diagnosis came at 31. I'm now 12 years out. Like you, I wish people were as strong and caring as they can be before events like this happened. I wish I was before it happened to me. There's a lot you wrote here that I completely get. Your words about nurses are spot on. Unfortunately it took me getting so sick to learn what amazing, selfless people they are. Thank you again, and stay strong. You are a survivor and you will prevail through this. There were many times in my first 10 years post transplant when I wondered if I'd make it. I'm still here, 12 years later, still with a bit of GVHD, but doing better than ever. Working full time as a VP of a software company, a parent of a beautiful girl born after my transplant, and appreciating every single day.

    1. Hey Tamir... Thanks so much for those kind words... I'm always speechless whenever I hear things like that.
      People like YOU are the reason I'm still here haha! I remember seeing my first patient (outside of me) just before my transplant... and just seeing that there was an end of the line for this just gave me a sense of not just hope, but also that there were others on the other side of this. And your rise and success, foremost amongst them, the birth of your child just furthers that inspiration!
      What software company by the way haha? My mum works at Cisco currently! I'm starting up a social enterprise that's essentially an entertainment app that makes money for charity myself haha so learning the ropes of many things right now!


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