Interviewing India wanted to know from cancer survivors what it really meant to fight the disease. Our interviewer Arun took up the assignment and met Swaroop on the Interviewing India Founder’s recommendation. The two met in Yogisthaan, a cafe in Bangalore, on a Sunday evening and among other things bonded over marathons and runs – a common passion they share. It was then time to have the “talk”; Swarup Sridhar, a businessman and a two-time cancer survivor, shared his story on how he fought the disease like there was no tomorrow.
Swarup Sridhar, 36 years, Businessman, Bangalore
Interviewed by Arun Maharajan
Why did you decide to give us an interview on health and cancer?
Cancer came as a shock to me. Health has always been my first priority. I used to put in a lot of effort to be fit, I used to run marathons and then one fine day, I found out there was a tumor in my body. Doctors can be simple or complicated. My doctor was luckily simple, so he assured me it was something very small, it would be removed, and things would be fine. So that’s exactly what happened. 15-20 days later I went in for a surgery.
Now you are making it sound very simple. Was it that simple?
It was stressful. This happened when my parents were away. They were holidaying in Bali. If they were to know about the surgery, they would have taken the next flight back home, and I didn’t want that. Even the diagnosis took a month. I was made to take series of tablets; if one didn’t work, I had to take another; I was asked to undergo several tests, and finally I was asked to do a MRI. I didn’t even know what a MRI machine looked like. The MRI result showed it was a tumor and I had to get operated. It took me six months after the surgery to come back to normal. I just came back to normal in January 2017, and in February I realized something wasn’t right with my body. Call it intuition…I was due for a check-up in March but I didn’t wait for the scheduled check-up; as soon as the doctor checked me, he told me there was a recurrence. My PET scan revealed I had a tumor in my lymph nodes. I didn’t even know what lymph nodes meant!
What happened next?
Series of tests and scans were done; I was to do four sessions of chemotherapy. It all sounded very simple. I decided to take one day at a time.
How was the chemo like?
I didn’t feel anything at the first session. I was strong enough, but the subsequent sessions hit me hard. After the first session, I didn’t lose any hair, and I thought it was because of my strength. It’s after the second session I realized, “boss, this is not that easy.” The side effects started to kick in. I felt constipated for weeks together, I wasn’t able to read, I felt weak all the time, there was hairfall…I had bought a lot of books to read. During these six months, there was nothing else to do, and I couldn’t even read. I would just lie down on the bed and stare at the ceiling. I found it very difficult to focus. Reading or working from home was just not even an option anymore.
Did you try doing something else?
I tried doing meditation. In fact it was the first time I even tried meditation. I even tried pranayam, but nothing worked for more than two minutes. I was so restless, I couldn’t do anything. It was only my faith in the belief that this was part of life and this was my share of problems, that kept me going. Mentally I had become very strong. This experience also helped me see the people in my life. Only your family and your first circle of friends stand by you like pillars. Beyond them there is nobody.
Is your every day different now?
Yes. It is more peaceful and calm. I have started doing a lot of meditation. I was never a yoga person. It has made me a more composed person. All this has also taught me there is no point running in the rat race. Just live your life, live one day at a time, it’s okay if others get ahead of you, but continue living life at your pace because everybody has their own pace. Today, there is nothing called competition or pressure for me. If I don’t do something it doesn’t mean the world is going to come to an end.
I feel like coming back to the “staring at the ceiling”? How did you get past that?
I had trouble sleeping. If I went to bed at 11 pm, I slept only at 5 am. I used to watch videos or listen to music, but at one point even my favorite music started sounding bad to me. I used to keep thinking about my life and everything that had happened until then. That’s all I thought about. There was no point thinking about bitter experiences, I tried thinking about other things from which I could learn.
Is there a fear of relapse?
No. I have the confidence to fight it. Actually this thought did cross my mind once or twice, but I told myself how different can it be from the first two even if it reoccurs. I need to fight and move on.
It sounds like acceptance
You have to accept. There is no other choice.
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
Love to me means being selfless, affectionate and committed to a cause.