Coming up trumps against cancer
THE first thing that strikes one on seeing the book is "How can anyone call a book The Joy of Cancer?" But as you read Anup Kumar's first person account of his battle with the Big C, you begin to understand. Kumar not only found joy in fighting lung cancer but also in sharing his story with others.
A routine medical exam, the prelude to taking up a plum assignment in Central Asia, reveals the presence of a tumour in his lungs. Told he had only a few more months to live and faced with the prospect of chemotherapy, Anup Kumar saw his world collapse. But he decided to face up to the disease - the first step of which was acceptance. This, he says, is the most important step in the battle. He was also alive to the positive changes it brought - for one, the air in the house improved as he stopped smoking; two, it brought him closer to his family, and three it taught him who his friends were.
Kumar enumerates his seven-point battle plan, which sometimes seems like what one reads in self-help books. But it gave him a base from which to organise his confrontation with death. Wryly admitting that "cancer is a rich man's disease", Kumar tells of how his wife sold her jewellery and borrowed money without telling him.
While he opted for conventional allopathic treatment, Kumar also used means like meditation, yoga, and chanting to cope with the effect of the treatment. In his view it is not the treatment per se that is as painful as it is said to be, but the loneliness and despair that eats away at your defences. In a highly philosophical vein, he talks of the conquest of self. "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."
Kumar also looks at the many myths associated with cancer and advises families and friends on how to cope. The latter part has much information on the types of cancer and the treatment options and their side-effects. There is also a list of support societies, clinics and hospitals, and websites and books on the subject. This book is a confirmation of the will to live. But it is not a book from which one walks away untouched. There are moments of great suffering, times when the author seems obsessed with his fight, times when you feel embarrassed at sharing and yet you admire the man's resilience and guts.
If one can see the "joy in cancer" why can't others see the humour in it? Naved Akhtar's illustrations show that he can laugh at it too.
The Joy of Cancer, Anup Kumar, Rupa & Co., Rs. 195.
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