We Indians are intrinsically religious people and even though I have never professed to have been a follower of any faith or practice, one does seem to wonder at times about the greater game that is majestically and mysteriously played out. People give it many definitions, God being one of them, by whatever name it is pronounced. Others call it karma, fate or destiny. I belong to the latter community.
However, there are times when one questions the belonging to one or the other community of believers, whether there is something cosmic about the evolution of this Universe and the whether someone up there (or down there) is actually pulling the strings to make things happen in their own unpredictable and unknown ways. Well, unpredictable and unknown to us lesser mortals anyway.
One of the people I look up to is Steven Callahan. He was participating in an ocean race when his boat capsized and in a matter of minutes he found himself floating in a flimsy rubber boat, in the middle of virtually nowhere, bobbing about in the bosom of the greatest and most frightening desert on Earth - the ocean. He fought to survive, often came to the brink of despair, yet somehow persevered for seventy six long days, before being rescued off the Caribbean coast by some fishermen. Describing his adventure in his bestselling book ADRIFT, he called it "a view of Heaven from a seat in Hell".
I can quite imagine what he must have gone through. No food except the fish he managed to catch weeks into his ordeal, no water apart from what he could muster from the desalinators he did not know how to use, plugging his leaking and fast sinking life raft after it had been torn apart by what he thought was a shark, merchant ships sailing by literally meters from where he was ... but failing to see him. All this while he had a front row seat to the wonders Mother Nature painted all around. The beautiful sunset, the gorgeous dawn, marine life keeping him company, the rolling clouds, the pitter patter of the rain drops on the canvas of the boat.
I got to know of Steven Callahan when I was researching my own proposed journey into the ocean, recreating a survival situation of floating in a life raft. My plan was to stay in a life raft, in a simulated survival situation, for thirty whole days, dependent on the emergency pack, rain and fish that I can catch. Scary, dangerous and an attempt that many advised me was best left within the covers of a 'wish' diary. But no ... I have to do this and am embarking on this expedition in the winter of 2016. Like Steven Callahan I too expect it to be a journey where I will get a view of Heaven from a seat in Hell.
But things have changed slightly since the time I started designing and developing the expedition. The Hell that I was expecting in the middle of the ocean has advanced its meeting with me and I am living a life of daily uncertainty, dread and an unknown future that looks bleak. I suspect the view of Heaven will have to wait a few more months before the meeting with the Hell I expect floating in the inflatable rubber boat.
You see, my wife has been detected with leukemia.
One of the milder varieties I was told, one that is slow in its progress and rarely debilitating. All that changed after the results of the last blood test came out. It showed that a protein resident in the genes - TP53 - had mutated. That is something that keeps cell division in check in normal circumstances. When it mutates it goes berserk and starts creating more and more cancer cells. In fact, once it mutates, the victim gets infected with different kinds of cancers ... multiple cancers in different part of the body and its organs. The only solution is a bone marrow transplant preceded by aggressive chemotherapy and radiation to kill all possible cells and then replaced with healthy bone marrow which will hopefully create disease free blood. The treatment is intense and debilitating and like many medical interventions, there is no guarantee of success. If something goes wrong, the patient advances their meeting with the Creator. If the transplant goes through successfully, there is still the matter of the body accepting foreign bone marrow and getting used to it. If everything goes as per plan, the recovery can take up to a year.
That is the Hell I am going through at the moment. What needs to be done will be done, yet it is very taxing emotionally. Moreover, the procedure is expensive. The good news is that this procedure is no longer experimental and chances of a full recovery is very high. But for the family in general and the patient in particular, it can be a very traumatic time.
My Hell is here and will continue with me through the duration of the expedition. I am hoping that the view of Heaven that I expect to see all around me in the nothingness of the emptiness of the ocean will be coupled with the sight of a fully recovered spouse, ready to take on the world as she has done for so many years.
The purpose of 30 DAYS FLOATING IN A LIFE RAFT is now to spread awareness not only about survival at sea, but also about this disease called cancer and the many forms it manifests itself. And the complications brought on by proteins like TP53.
Help me spread the word so that I can share my story and other patients and their loved ones benefit get to know about this problem and learn to deal with it. Every rupee I save from the contributions I receive will go towards cancer awareness and the treatment of CLL with TP53 mutation. Join me and help me spread the word.