December 9th, 2020, we started a new chapter in our lives with Vivek’s Stage 3C Colon Cancer diagnosis. Saying that we were caught off guard would be an understatement as one never thinks this is something that could happen to them. In our first public post on December 30th about this, we had mentioned that our lives are a collection of stories and this specific chapter of our bestseller had just begun and was a work in progress and would remain nameless.
What followed was colon resection surgery where they removed a foot of his colon (not to worry he still has approximately 4-foot left), 7 day hospital stay, countless number of blood tests, ultrasounds, PET Scan, biopsies, endoscopy, colonoscopy and 10 rounds of chemo with two different types of cocktails (CAPOX & FOLFOX). And now, eight months later(August 2021) the time has come to close this chapter and give it a name. We as a family decided to call this chapter “Flipped The Script”.
Flipped The Script
One of the biggest things that we knew we needed to do after receiving the diagnosis was to make sure we kept a positive mindset. So the night he was admitted in the hospital we as a family started a nightly gratitude circle for appreciating all the things that were going right for us despite this bend in the road. We have continued this daily since then.
More than the three of us staying positive it was key for Vivek to be able to not let himself get down and stay distracted. He decided he was going to do this by staying busy at work and continuing to exercise and stay fit as much as he could. We ordered a Peloton first week of January (which did not get delivered till March 24th because of the backlog from the pandemic) so he worked on daily walks twice a day, playing pickle ball and squash outdoors with Riya & Eshan and hiked any chance he got. And off course once the Peloton came he challenged himself to do 100 rides on chemo, which by the way he managed to do an hour before going into his 10th and last round of chemo. He would keep telling himself “mind over matter” even with the peeling hands and feet.
And would you believe that Peloton even sent him flowers on achieving this milestone – now talk about a class act company who truly live by their tagline “It’s You. That Makes Us”. You better believe we are even bigger fans of Peloton now. Anytime you asked Vivek how he was doing, his answer was always ” Like a champ”. He took minimal days off work as he loved and welcomed the distraction. We did our best to keep our friends and family in the loop as much as we could. Those messages were truly the wind beneath our wings to keep soaring. We knew this journey was something we would need to take a day at a time and our plan was to ride the high waves and swim with all our might thru the lows. And the only way we managed to do this for ourselves was by changing our perspectives and flipping the script to stay on the path of positive.
Thoughts by Vivek (VK)– It has definitely been a surreal chapter or journey. It almost doesn’t feel real, and it’s only been 4 weeks since the end of chemo but in some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. And then I sense the neuropathy in my hands and am reminded that it was real, and it wasn’t that long ago. When I look back, I think we did our best to get through this and tried to do all the right things; gratitude circle, focus on the positive, inspiring hashtags like #eyeontheprize, #beastmode and #100ridesonchemo. Going through something like this, you realize that there is so much strength in constantly reminding yourself that you have two options as you go through this; Accept defeat or stay on the court with the best attitude and outlook possible and keep pushing through playing that rally (like in a squash match).
And not to forget the power of all the constant love, support and encouragement from friends and family. It is hard to describe in words the power of a check-in text out of the blue that held so much meaning. And lastly my 3 pillars, actually 4 pillars since we can’t forget Jax, our fur baby. They have been such a source of strength and a constant reminder of why we are doing this. I never ever felt this was my journey and mine alone. It was our journey, and I am truly, truly one lucky guy to have them as my source of strength.
We have been very transparent with sharing our experience/story to create awareness and get people to have their colonoscopies scheduled. We made the promise to ourselves from the very beginning to share our experiences in the hope of ultimately helping others and if we can help make a difference in one person’s life it would be worth it. Here are a few articles: Ocotillo Living Magazine, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and AZ India Times to name a few.
In May, we also shared our story on ABC 15 with reporter Sonu Wasu about lowering of the official colonoscopy screening age from 50 to 45 by United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). It was a huge win and will help save so many more lives but at the same time it is continuing to be diagnosed in people younger and younger and Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s program Never Too Young (N2Y) focuses on increasing awareness, building a community, and learning more about young-onset colorectal cancer.
VK: At the end of the day, it is clearly not an easy journey and is filled with many ups and downs. And I share this mainly to emphasize that prevention is the key. Going thru a colonoscopy is certainly not a walk in the park and can also be embarrassing to talk about but believe me, a colonoscopy is nothing compared to 6 months of chemo. So, you must take that initiative to schedule that appointment with your medical provider not only when you turn 45 but earlier if you have any symptoms, concerns, or family history. I was 48 at the time of diagnosis and could have been lower than a stage 3 if I had been screened three years earlier. Click on this link to see some possible symptoms of Colon Cancer but for the record I didn’t have any symptoms. The earlier colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome and the ease of treatment. If you know your risk and get screened, and have this conversation with your friends and family as this could save the life of someone you love. Now wouldn’t that be worth it?
This is your one and only life, so stop gambling with those odds – RGK.
Few Facts About Colon Cancer
- Is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in the US after lung cancer in both men and women.
- Is the 3rd leading cause of cancer in both men and women in the US
- Most colorectal cancers develop from polyps. Removal of colon polyps is key and usually have no early symptoms.
- Colonoscopies may be uncomfortable, but chemotherapy is much worse.
- Colon cancer Is being diagnosed in younger and younger people.
We honestly could not have done this without all the constant calls, emails, texts, visits, and check-ins of love and support from family and friends across the globe. They not only checked up on Vivek but also on Riya, Eshan & I as they somehow knew that going through something like this is tough and takes a toll on the whole family. We fall short of words in how to even say thank you. But as you can imagine this journey doesn’t end here as we need your continued support to raise awareness and funds for Colon Cancer.
We would love for you to join our team (VK’s Rockstars) on the walk to raise awareness. Please do register and come walk with us if you are in Arizona or walk wherever in the world you are. Donation is not mandatory but fundraising helps deliver support to patients, families, caregivers, and survivors. We can do our part by registering for the walk, fundraising and walking with our family and friends on November 13th.