Cancer, as a young person, can affect your life in SOOO many more ways than people imagine. It's not just the brutal, life-threatening treatment that leaves scars, physically (pick any picture of me and you can see it), psychologically (I still get nightmares, that I'm back in hospital getting treatment, every now and then) and emotionally (coping with the loss of your looks, physicality, and sometimes self is hard, especially when you're meant to be "at your peak); it's the little seen, but all too present loss of independence that can REALLY get to you.
As a young adult, you're expected to live life "To the max", having started to come to grips with who you are as a person, you're expected to go out, stay in, explore the world and do things, pursue the dreams, and start to live the life you've envisioned for yourself... but when the long term effects of cancer stop you from doing that... it SUCKS.
But what sucks more though is the fact that you have to rely on others to help you. Because another thing that's expected as you leave your teens and hit your 20s is that you go out and become your own man. Or woman.
The last few months, as I've had those eye; let's call them "episodes" (1/10,000 complications happened in EACH of my eyes, a few months apart), as I've started further chemotherapy based treatment for the chronic graft versus host disease that lingers in my body, and as those awful cramps I keep talking about have gotten worse and worse, I've had to rely on others A LOT. My Mum, Dad and Brother, the most. But others too.
I remember the day before I lost my left eye, I was cramping so bad that I needed a friend to escort me from the full lecture theater of concerned looking medical students (the dean herself was lecturing, and looking worried too), and look after me as my brother pulled up to take me home. I was thankful. As hell. Touched, at not only his, but also the whole's grade's obvious concern for my welfare. An amazing trait to see in a room full of people who are gonna be looking after our, and our children's well-being in the near future...
My parents and my brother are the most amazing people I know. They've not only looked after me, caught me when I fell (literally and figuratively) and on top of that, also looked to help others (this amazing interview my mum did to let other carers know they're not alone was beautiful. You may not know this, but often, when people approach me through there, I "refer" mothers, fathers and other family members to her, and she gives them support) - they've kept me happy in these, the most frustrating times of my illness too. Which is just as important.
I recently got a message on my personal Facebook from a stranger. Not too uncommon an event due to this blog. But this was an offer to give me money.
Now I've been offered money, gifts, even flights to America being paid for through this blog and through my speaking a few times now. I always tell them to donate it to a good, effective cause, one that helps the most people possible, or to donate to one of my own fundraisers, if I have one running, if they insist. And so far, they've acquiesced. But this lady kept insisting.
What was touching about this though was the reason why she was insisting on ME having it.
Without me saying it, ever publicly before, without me having blogged or complained about it all... she'd somehow hit the nail right on the head.
Her own words... Here they are. I "just noticed that you'd like to play poker and I wondered if I could offer you some cash for taxis to get you going independently. I figured the hardest part (well maybe not the hardest...) of being a tad sick is loosing the independence which you've just gained as a young adult so nobody need know In fact I propose you don't mention it and just take s bloody taxi"
At that point in time, the week after being released from hospital after my surgery, that was probably the most frustrated I was feeling by this. I was otherwise healthy, I wasn't in any major pain, but I still needed help showering, putting on clothes, shoes; even getting up from bed and getting to the bathroom when those cramps came on.
The humiliation was one thing. My parents, and brothers' frustration at me, and mine at them, another. Tension just builds around the home when someone's sick, and in our case, it was sky high, and my activities, my "running around after others' while you're still sick" and my freedom was being questioned and ground away into dust.
I was sick of it. But as touching as it was, I still wasn't going to take that gift. I do all this not for money but to help others. So I told her, after she insisted on giving it to ME for my personal use and personal use only, that if she REALLY wanted to help me, she should give it to my soon-to-come charity (a social enterprise I'm talking to a few people about and starting to develop that'll help charities gain a new source of income and help businesses out simultaneously... I'll post more about it later).
But again, she admonished, "Nikhil, I'm probably your mums age so I'm going to have to pull rank here! You are not a charity. I give both time and money to politics and charity when I can and you are neither - you're a young man who should take a hearty offer to enjoy life and have fun with tiny help from someone offering who is happy to do so."
"Just be simple and un philosophical for the moment, push away boring old reason, humility and just take it!! Don't be shy or embarrassed. The only condition is its for you and it's for fun! I love that you play poker!"
"you should accept and should take whatever life throws your way... Just because you can! You of all people know it throws some shite... So a random stranger, eyes wide open offers you taxi cash, just take it."
And you know what, after talking to her for a while, after learning more about her and her battles with disease, and her work with social enterprises too... I decided to do just that.
She sent me the money just yesterday. And I'm gonna use it. For that reason only. All my poker winnings go to the Buywell Foundation (my charity's name) seed-fund anyway. Technically, she has given to my social enterprise. Technically, she has given me back some of my freedom, and technically, I am gonna be using it for poker.
She's insisted this remain anonymous. And it will. It wasn't a HUGE amount - don't worry, I'm not gonna be heading off to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery anytime soon (unless I win big of course... though to be honest... I'd chuck it all in the bank and build up that charity-cum-company anyways).
But one thing I've also realised is that TECHNICALLY.... I'm being payed to play poker now.
Hahaha - I'll keep you updated on my progress, on if my current $4000 "career" poker earnings go up significantly... but the way I play, just for fun, in low stakes games, her donation should last me months. And hopefully by then, the medications will have kicked in, I'll be over my cramps, and back to being me.
Hopefully this allows you guys reading on to understand that, and be more aware that others in your life may feel that way. Or that you're not alone if you yourself do. One thing I've also realised from all this, the weeks of tension that's lingered in my home, is that they wouldn't be doing all this for me if they didn't love me.