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World Cancer Day: 'Defeated Cancer 6 Times By 25 & I'll Beat It Again'

World Cancer Day: When one goes through hell and back, you don't expect it to happen again. At 15, I didn't either.

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It was the summer right before I joined class 10. I was playing cricket with friends when I got hit on the neck.

I ignored it at first, but in a few days, the injury started swelling and turned into a nasty bruise. This turned out to be a blood clot, which kept getting worse.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the visit to the doctor for this injury would forever change my life. 

The doctor asked me to get a blood test. A few days later I was back in the doctor's office waiting outside while he spoke to my parents inside.

I knew right away that something was not right.

My father didn’t believe in hiding things from me, especially when it concerned my own health, so he called me into the room, sat me down and held me as the doctor said the three words that no one ever wants to hear, let alone a 15-year-old boy, “You have cancer.” 

Unfortunately, this wouldn't be the only time I would hear these words. I’m 25 years old and so far, I'm the only person in India to have beaten cancer six times. 

But, mine is not a sad story. 

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Being Diagnosed With Cancer at 15

World Cancer Day: When one goes through hell and back, you don't expect it to happen again. At 15, I didn't either.

My name is Jayant. I’m a 25-year-old entrepreneur from Ajmer. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma – a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes, which are part of the immune system – for the first time on 23 July 2013.  

When the news spread in my neighbourhood and among my extended family, people were sympathetic and helpful but in a defeated way, as if being diagnosed with cancer itself was a death sentence.

They talked to my parents about fulfilling all my wishes and making sure that I was comfortable. 

My parents, on the other hand, didn’t have the same attitude. I was only able to face the battle that lay ahead of me head-on because they hadn’t given up on me. My father used to say, Tujhe Bhagwan se bhi jeet kar le aaunga (I will bring you back from God himself).

It was scary, I won't lie. I was hauled from hospital to hospital for tests after tests and scans. Countless needles were stuck into me to draw my blood and to deliver all kinds of medication and fluids. During those sessions, I did wonder, ‘What am I doing? Why am I here? Is this even worth it?’ 

Initially, I was even reluctant to go through with the painful treatments, and my father would have to bribe me with treats afterwards, but slowly it became a part of my routine. 

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Finally, after 6 cycles of chemotherapy, a lot of nausea, fatigue, headaches, and losing all my hair, I was told I was cured. 

Oh, and during all of this, despite having to skip classes for my chemo sessions, I also topped my class in the 10th board exams.

At that time, I remember feeling relief, like I was finally out of this bad nightmare I had been thrust into and that it was finally over.  

When one goes through hell and back and is told their cancer is cured, who would think they’d be put through that ordeal again? At 15, I certainly didn't. 

It Happened Again...and Again, and Again

A year later, when I was in class 11, I was told the cancer was back. They detected it during one of my routine PET-CT (Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography) Scans.

This time, thankfully, I didn’t need chemotherapy. I had to undergo radiotherapy instead, which was comparatively less painful.  

However, the closest radiotherapy clinic is 150 kms away from where I live. This means that I had to take a half day from school to catch a train at 12:30 PM, reach by 2 PM, get the treatment done by 3 PM and take the 4:30 PM train back home. 

Another setback, sure, but I suppose I always had this itch in me to never feel like I was falling back because I was ill. It was this feeling of stubborn vengeance I had to outdo this illness. I topped class 11 too after scoring 98 percent in my final exams. 

World Cancer Day: When one goes through hell and back, you don't expect it to happen again. At 15, I didn't either.
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That wasn't the end of it either. It came back again after a couple of years when I was in college. And then again a year later, and then again, and again.

In 2021 I was told I would have to have a bone marrow transplant. This was perhaps the most challenging phase of my life.

Bone marrow transplant is a very risky surgery and the recovery stage is gruesome. Your body becomes like a newborn again – your body is extremely sensitive and you have to take all the childhood routine vaccines again.

I spent 40 days in the ICU, no one could touch me, I had to have a canula constantly, I lost a lot of weight and barely recognised myself.

Currently, I'm cancer-free, but the thought that it could come back at any time is always on the back of my head.

World Cancer Day: When one goes through hell and back, you don't expect it to happen again. At 15, I didn't either.

'You Learn to Live With It'

After the third time it came back, it didn’t shock me as much, and I felt more prepared to deal with it.

Cancer is treated as this big scary word that we only say in hushed tones. We tend to only think of the worst possible scenarios. When it's something you’ve never gone through before, it feels daunting and overwhelming.

But trust me, with time it gets easier to endure. We humans are kind of amazing in that sense – we eventually adjust to our circumstances, no matter how tough it is.

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To anyone reading my story who might be in a similar situation and is feeling defeated, I hope you can draw strength from the fact that I, a scrawny teenager was able to endure it not once, but 6 times, and I hope you will too.

I still carry the same drive that kept me in school while I was getting chemotherapy. At the time my one goal was to top my class despite my setback, now it's about making sure my startup business flourishes.

I had known from a very young age that I wanted to start my own business, and cancer was an inconvenience, sure, but never a deterrent.

World Cancer Day: When one goes through hell and back, you don't expect it to happen again. At 15, I didn't either.

With what savings I had, I started my own business in 2021, after my bone marrow transplant.

(Photo Source: Jayant Kandoi)

In my spare time, I also try to spread awareness about cancer and the importance of timely detection and treatment.

Cancer is a very small word, and nothing more. Keep yourself positive. Don't get into anyone's words, do what the doctor says. Death is an inevitable truth, don't spoil your today by thinking about it.

(Jayant Kandoi is an entrepreneur and motivational speaker based in Ajmer.)

(As told to The Quint's Anoushka Rajesh. His account has been edited for length and clarity.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  World Cancer Day 

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