Cancer

A New Year, a New Sun, and Renewed Hope! | by Amit Gattani | Jan, 2024

Mission Beat The Beast — Is it showtime?

I am probably out of the statute of limitations to write now about the New Year… but who cares? As an advanced cancer patient, I am allowed the leeway to do whatever I can, whenever I feel I can, right?

November 26, 2023, marked five years of my cancer diagnosis and a journey that I did not sign up for. Well, no one signs up for any cancer or critical disease journey — we just get drafted I suppose — that’s life.

Frankly, at the time of diagnosis, I did not know I would be here five years later. Things got very challenging in early 2023 and I did not know if I would be seeing 2024… but it’s 2024 and here I am!

To recap, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Prostate Cancer, that had already spread (metastasized) all over my bone structure. That is considered terminal and currently non-curable. In my very first oncology appointment, I was informed that the average life expectancy from that stage was 28 months (with a lot of disclaimers that the data was old and lots of new treatments and trials were becoming available). Soon afterward, my first genomic testing showed that I have an even more aggressive prostate cancer mutation with an even lower life expectancy. 24 months might be a good run!

I am very grateful that I am here today, five years later.

My journey has been a roller coaster ride of all types of emotions and realignment of mind… shock, fear, action, hope, disappointment, and readjustment to the ever-changing reality. Much of it has been documented already in my blog series that I started writing in April of 2022. So, I won’t repeat all that here again.

Let’s start with a focus on what’s new!

I have been thinking about writing this blog since early December to mark the 5th anniversary of my journey, but just could not get to it. My health has been dynamic and tricky lately, so getting my head around this has not been easy. But I am not bound by some marketing deadlines here. My blog is purely a collection of my thoughts, and it will get out whenever I am up for it.

What is the new hope? I have no promising approved or in-trial treatment choices left at this point… my disease continues to grow, and my quality of life keeps slipping. After months of research, I decided to go for a novel and out-of-the-box immunotherapy treatment that’s not an approved trial or standard treatment anywhere and is practiced by only a few doctors around the world. It’s a long shot and has its risks… but at this point, I need a long shot. After as much due diligence as I could, I took the plunge and had this treatment in Florida on Jan 13th.

It was a tough decision, but I feel good about making the choice and getting the treatment. I believe in doing our “karma” to the best of our abilities and leaving the rest for the ALMIGHTY to carry us wherever we are destined to go.

On our flight back from Florida after my treatment, my wife Monika phrased this as “Let the game begin” — now it feels like we are in a “Gladiator and the Beast” showdown of life!

I am going into this with strong hope and belief that something good will come out of it! I have so many guardian angels looking after me.

Sunrise through Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. October 2022

As I reflect on these five years, I feel like I am a very different person now than I was before the start of this journey. I have grown differently than if I were continuing the same trajectory of life I had before it. While we think of fighting cancer as an enemy, I know some cancer patients who consider it a friend that they are co-living with and learning from. I will not characterize my relationship with my cancer as a friend… I don’t want that company; but I appreciate the learning, growth, and perspective it has given me in life.

  • Practicing is harder than preaching: The few most important takeaways are acceptance and realizing that many big things in our lives are not in our direct control. So don’t sweat the small stuff either. Do your “karmas” to the best of your abilities, and with genuine engagement, and let life take you where it takes you. Take solace in the effort you have put in, leaving no stone unturned. But don’t obsess over the results and outcomes as life’s equation is very complex and beyond our comprehension. Our soul will continue its journey across multiple lifetimes; while we obsess over the life we see and know today, that’s a very small fraction of our soul’s life. These are classic teachings of “Bhagavata Gita” — a foundational book of Indian culture. But knowing it vs. being able to practice it are different things. My cancer journey has brought me close to being able to practice it.
  • Become your champion very early on: As an advanced cancer patient, you are pushing the limits of what standard treatments can do for you. For most patients, the standard pathways will not be sufficient. While our medical professionals do an amazing job of helping navigate options between treatments and ongoing trials, a lot is going on globally in cancer research and alternative treatments to expect any one person to be on top of everything, specifically from your lens. If anyone can do it, it must be you or your caregiver — you must champion your cause. You must become the co-pilot in your journey to bring disparate treatment options to the table with your oncology team and have meaningful conversations to make every treatment decision. The sooner you take on that role, the better it is. Taking calculated risks with treatment options early on is easier than later in the journey.
  • Multi-source/crowdsource your problem: Multi-source your problem to collaborate with many oncologists and crowdsource the problem to a peer community of advanced similar patients who are trying to do the same for themselves — that accelerates learning and benefits everyone. To do this, you must be open about your disease to the relevant peer community. Don’t hide under a rock and sulk. There is no shame in acknowledging what you are going through… remember you did not sign up for this journey, life just drafted you. Consider that as giving back to life.
  • Be honest and transparent. Don’t shy away from being vulnerable: The same applies to social life. I have always been an extrovert, but I was never explicitly open about my personal life or vulnerabilities. Many of us lead our lives, consciously or unconsciously, in a manner that creates a persona and perception of who we are. We are programmed to appear tough and be able to take on anything. But a disease and diagnosis like this makes you bare. Your choice is to keep hiding, or learn to be open and vulnerable, and seek help and energy from everyone around you to heal and help yourself. I have become a big fan of harvesting energy from others for my healing, by being honest and transparent. That was a humble learning process in the first few years of the disease… and the culmination of that has been my blog writing.
  • Discover your purpose and path to peace and calmness: Prioritize time and life to find calm and peace under extreme ambiguity and duress. That helps maintain an ambiance around you that is peaceful for everyone involved in your journey. The path to that varies for everyone — from spending time with family to being fully engaged in work, pursuing hobbies and bucket list items, or spirituality… define your path that gives you peace of mind. For me, it started with a stronger mindset of giving back to my professional teams to grow and mentor the next generation of leaders, transitioning to spending more time with family, traveling, pursuing hobbies like photography, and giving back to cancer patient communities with scientific data/research sharing to help each other.

Part of my audience on LinkedIn already knows about it, but I could not simultaneously announce it to the audience I have here on Medium. Much overdue.

To mark the fifth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and survivorship, I launched a new initiative called “Gattani Prints for Cause” in November 2023.

Photography and capturing the beauty in the world around us has always brought me immense joy, and I wish to share that joy with you. So, I started an online store selling prints of my original photographs with all proceeds benefiting a few of my favorite cancer charities/advocacy groups.

In under 2 months from the launch of this initiative, I am overwhelmed by the positive response from so many people. There have been many purchases, contributing to the charitable causes that I am passionate about. You can read more about the specific charities I am supporting under the “About the Artist” section of my website.

Your purchase from my website won’t just add beauty to your life but will also contribute to the fight against cancer that we all deserve.

I am incredibly grateful to be here today and writing this. I don’t claim victory; I simply wish to express my gratitude to the numerous individuals who have supported me — my family, friends, and all the wonderful strangers who have read my blogs and extended their support. This past year has brought significant challenges. Aggressive treatments and an even more aggressive disease have taken a huge toll on my body. Physically, I’m far from where I was a year ago, limiting my ability to travel and engage in activities I have always loved.

A special shoutout to a vast community of fellow prostate cancer patients who are continually redefining the boundaries of battling this disease and inspiring me to live life to its fullest.

Cancer’s complexity makes it impossible for a patient to be able to tread this path alone. We require the support of peer groups and industry experts. This has fueled my passion for advocating for patients and supporting organizations that do so, with my time, expertise, and resources.

I was encouraged to write this blog series by my family and friends who closely observed how I was dealing with my cancer; they felt that others might benefit from my experience. So I embarked on this blog series with a simple goal: to offer a transparent narrative that could resonate with others facing similar challenges. The omnipresence of cancer in our lives makes it a shared experience, and I hoped that if my story could provide solace, insights, or support to even a few who needed it, I would be giving something back to the community.

I feel like I have accomplished that goal with a readership response that has been beyond my expectations. The blog series has garnered over 15,000 views on Medium, with more than 50% active readership. Additionally, my stories on LinkedIn have reached over 75,000 impressions.

While my real-life story will continue to evolve, blogging has less to do with that than sharing my life lessons from it. The engagement I have received highlights the impact of sharing genuine personal experiences and fostering a sense of community.

Given that… as of today, I am not certain if there is more for me to share or write on the topic. This might be my last blog of the series, but I’ll leave that open to circumstances.

Heartfelt THANKS to everyone, and all my guardian angels out there rooting for us. As always, I approach the unknown with optimism and gratitude.

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, Dec 21, 2023.

My cancer journey through blogs (in chronological order)

  1. My Ongoing Journey with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer: Mission Beat the Beast (MissionBTB)
  2. Why am I finding my cancer diagnosis so late?
  3. Creating a Personal & Professional Support System
  4. First treatment and first win… but too short-lived and humbling!
  5. Can I eat my way out of cancer?
  6. Will Immunotherapy do the magic?
  7. The Year of Volatility
  8. Life at the crossroads, again!
  9. The blind curve of life — can I get through it?
  10. Living with Intention!

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button