Life is beautiful

Chetan Mallik chose to take on acromegaly with a spring in his step

Published - December 07, 2016 03:16 pm IST

Chetan Mallik

Chetan Mallik

In February 2016, through a series of posts #LifeWithAcromegaly, Chetan Mallik began narrating his story. Those who know him closely were aware of it. But it took others by surprise. A former journalist, now working with a multinational company, Chetan was diagnosed with acromegaly in 2011. The Chetan many know today has 10K runs, half marathons, a novice and a sprint triathlon to his credit.

On the day we meet, the conversation happens over green tea. Having worked with Chetan, who earlier wouldn’t think twice about wolfing down high calorie junk food, it takes a moment to register his transformation. A lifestyle change is one of his ways to cope with the rare condition. “When I first told a few friends and colleagues about acromegaly, no one knew what it was. They started to Google,” he laughs. It came as a shock for him as well, when a doctor alerted him about the possibility of the condition.

The wake up call

He remembers the day rather well. In April 2011, his father was recouping after a surgery and Chetan was attending to him. Once, when the endocrinologist entered and found both of them chatting, seated on the attender’s cot, he asked who was the patient. “I showed him my dad and the doctor said, ‘from where I see, you are also a patient’,” recalls Chetan.

The endocrinologist asked him to read up on acromegaly, see if he can relate to the symptoms and then meet him. “I had many symptoms listed under acromegaly. My joints were aching, my feet were swollen, I was irritable and would be fatigued easily. My skeletal features had changed drastically in 10 years,” he says.

A battery of tests followed. Chetan had high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, impaired levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. “An MRI revealed a benign tumour riding on the pituitary gland, close to the optic nerve. In another six months to a year, I could have lost my vision. Acromegaly had caused overproduction of growth hormone, mine was 150 times the normal level,” he shares.

A surgery and a month of radiation therapy were to follow. His immediate task was to win the confidence, not sympathy, of family members. At work, he confided in a few but insisted that he be assessed like any other employee. “I would be at work during the day and go for radiation after 5 p.m. As I saw it, everything needs a repair. If my car breaks down, I head to the mechanic. Something similar was happening to my body and I needed to address it. There was no space for self-pity,” he says.

With time, growth hormone levels came within the permissible limits. Even today, Chetan undergoes periodic check-ups. Gradually, he made lifestyle changes, took to healthy eating and made fitness a part of his routine.

The urge to run came slowly. He consulted his neurosurgeon, oncologist, cardiologist and endocrinologist. “I took it step by step. I run to stay fit and be happy, not to compete with anyone,” he says.

Podium finishes and timing runs were not his focus. There were days he cycled or ran and finished last. Now, he can run alongside his friends. “I took it one day at a time. Now I live from one weekend to another. As of now, I know I have to participate in runs in Hampi and Amaravati in January. I managed ten 10K runs and two half marathons at my own pace. Will I run a full marathon? I don’t know. I wouldn’t force myself, but if I can someday, why not?”

In his stride

Chetan Mallik with his daughter

Chetan Mallik with his daughter

Encouraged by him, his wife Jyotsna Nayak also took to running. Chetan beams stating she’s much better at it. When the couple cannot find someone to baby sit their three year old daughter, he runs short distances with her on his shoulder or walks the length with the child in the stroller. “Some days I run half the distance, step back and cheer the others. It’s fun.”

Looking back, Chetan is glad he has a story to tell. “I’m happy I can write about acromegaly and share it on social media. The other day I identified someone with similar symptoms and directed him to the doctors,” he says.

He doesn’t get cowed down at the thought of battling a life-long condition. “I’ve grown at work and done a number of things I wanted to do. The word tumour can bring tears. Instead, learn to take it in your stride,” he signs off.

What is Acromegaly?

A rare condition in which a benign tumour in the pituitary gland may cause an overproduction of growth hormone. As a result, a person is likely to undergo several changes in skeletal features. Protruding jaw, swollen arms and feet, with an increase in shoe size could be an indication. Symptoms are noticed gradually and it may take take a few years to discern them. Aching joints, high blood pressure, increased fatigue are among the many symptoms. Treatment is through surgery, radiation and medicine.

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