Smiling the demon away

Anup — not withered by cancer.

Anup — not withered by cancer.  

"I was determined to call the book `The Joy of Cancer' even though everybody else disliked the title."

Anup Kumar wears his `cancer patient' tag as a badge of honour for a good reason. Not only has he fought cancer, and proved all his doctors wrong by outliving the four-month death sentence they issued him when he was diagnosed as being in the last stages of lung cancer in February 2000, but

he's even managed to find the joy in Cancer.

Though it was dark, wet and gloomy outside, the mood was upbeat at the Chola Sheraton on Friday evening, where the literati of Chennai crammed into one room to listen to Anup read extracts from his optimistic book `The Joy of Cancer', which was being launched in the city by P.S. Ramamohan Rao, the Governor of Tamil Nadu.

Written in the first person, the book honestly discusses the dreaded disease, without shrinking from describing the physical and emotional pain and the rarely discussed financial strain that cancer causes. Considering the book was written while Anup was suffering the illness, undergoing

chemotherapy and desperately searching for evasive answers, it would have been understandable if it had become a document of depression.

However, since Anup decided right from the beginning that he wasn't going to sink into a "why me, why now" hopeless defeated gloom but fight with his eyes upon the light at the end of the tunnel, the book became instead a tale about survival and overcoming tremendous odds. The lines in his book "It's your body. It's your mind. It's your cancer. It's your battle. Only you have the answers to how you can win," could well be a battle slogan for every kind of crisis. "I just told myself `I have cancer. Now I have to find the best way to cope with it.' I just wanted to live more," he says to explain his gutsy reaction.

As a result the book hit the bestseller lists just a few days after it was launched in Delhi in July and stayed there for six weeks. Anup was inundated with phone calls and e-mails from people across the country who said his book helped them weather crises they were going through, and they were not all cancer patients.

Anup had some terrible moments, all of which are laid bare in the book. He lost his job, his savings were depleted. Unnecessary and expensive surgery was performed on him making him too weak for chemotherapy in the beginning.

Not only were the Homoeopathy, Ayurveda, Reiki, Naturopathy and Faith Healing he tried unsuccessful but at an advanced stage of chemotherapy treatment he also discovered that his Ayurvedic doctor had been pumping him with steroids, he says. "There were moments I wanted to give it all up. But you have to decide that you won't let the disease be the master. I made a single-minded resolve to stay positive," he says.

Anup also says that to a large extent he owes his survival to his family. "They kept me in an ivory tower. I was never told any bad news." In the book he talks of how his wife Amrita quietly sold her jewellery and borrowed money to pay for his treatment.

Cancer changed Anup. He learnt the value of relationships and life. "I was determined to call the book `The Joy of Cancer' even though everybody else disliked the title," he says as he autographs books for a constant stream of people by writing `The joy is all that matters' on the front page before signing his name.

Anup has not yet won the battle. Six months after his first battle a CT scan report showed that the cancer was back. He is currently under treatment. But there's still no bitterness, perhaps because he had managed to see the joy of cancer: "Cancer has transformed and changed my life. It has made me a more complete human being — a human being that I am beginning to like."

By Shonali Muthalaly

Photo: Vino John

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