Submitted by Vandana Gupta and Jyoti Patil of V Care Foundation, Mumbai, India,
The year 2008 was not the best year for Mr. H.J. Mr. H.J. had problem in breathing so he went to a local General Practitioner (GP) for treatment. The medicines didn’t show any improvements and hence a chest x-ray was done. The report showed that the left lung had collapsed. He was then admitted for further treatment. There was some fluid retention in the lungs which was aspirated.
His friends were his greatest support; they would accompany him to the doctor and stay with him through the appointment.
On 21st Feb 2008 he went for a check-up again and now he was given shocking news. The doctor revealed that he was in the last stage of Kidney Cancer. Doctors told the friends and relatives that it would be an expensive treatment. Most people in India do not have health insurance. They cannot afford it. Treatment is nearly free in the public hospitals, but they are very crowded and sometimes the waiting time is long. In private hospitals, costs are very high. Payment for treatment has to be made before the surgery.
His friends encouraged him to fight cancer head-on. Once again they assured him that they would be with him at every step and support him physically, morally and financially.
Mr. H.J. was asked to go for a full body scan in which a 7 cm tumor was detected. Surgery was done and tumor was removed, there was a slight pancreatic infection and a part of the pancreas too had to be removed as well. The surgery lasted for 7 ½ hours. His weight was 110 kg (243 lbs) when he was healthy; it dropped to 52 kg (115 lbs).
His business went down, he was very tired, and his productivity was lower than usual. Some employers would continue the cancer patient’s salary, but not all would be able to afford to continue salary when productivity drops. In this case, since he owned the company, he was able to continue at a lower income.
The family was concerned and feared for his life. Gradually things began to improve and he was nearly back to normal. But life had different plans for him. He became critically ill again in March 2008, and his latest scan showed that the cancer had come back. His treating doctor suggested he start taking Sutent (it had just been introduced). The expense was a major concern but he applied to the Patient Assistance Program of the drug manufacturer (Pfizer) and submit details about his finances. His application was reviewed by V-Care and he began treatment with sunitinib (Sutent), four weeks on the drug followed by two weeks off the drug. He had to pay for the first three cycles, and after that the drug was supplied without charge through the Program.
Since then he has been on sunitinib. In June 2010 some changes were made in the drug protocol, but after a PET-CT scan he was again put back on the same medicine.
Mr. H.J. is a very positive person and has a big smile. He is grateful to his friends and grateful to God, as his health is more or less normal. He has few side-effects. He is very thankful to this medicine as it has given him a new life, a new beginning.
There are still many stigmas and myths about cancer that can create social problems in India. Mr. H.J. was fortunate to have friends who stuck with him through this experience.
With the added yeas he has enjoyed good times with his family. He is happy that he has been able to see his children grow up and that he was able to perform the marriages of both his son and a daughter. Now his weight is between 75 and 80 kg (165-175 lbs).
He says Sutent has become his lifeline. Thanks to the patient support program he has been interacting with V Care volunteers and has learned from and shared with them.
He is extremely happy and satisfied with his life and thanks God for giving him the ability and strength to deal with the adversity of life.