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G.S. Viswanathan
08.01.01

Chennai, India; vishpriya@eth.net

1941 / Class of '93 / Last Update: 8/01

My name is Vandhana Veerni and my father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 1993. My father was 52 years "young" (he prefers to state his age that way. He hates calling himself or anybody so-many-years "old"). He was born on the Christmas day of the year 1941.

His email id is vishpriya@eth.net and he would be willing to share his experiences and also help others in all ways he can. He lives in Chennai, India. He grew up all over India, by the banks of the Ganges, in highly populated metro areas, and in a small suburb in Chennai working for the government in a factory that made combat tanks. He is a teetotaler. No smoking, drinking alcohol or any other vices. Not even enormous amounts of caffeine. And throughout his life he has had a very, very strict diet and does not eat red meat. So it was a total shock when he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.

It all started innocently enough. My father is a very energetic and active person. He is involved in a multitude of organizations providing social care to lots of people in India. He was employed by the Government of India, Ministry of Defense. My father is the 4th of 9 children born to his parents. All along, his leadership skills and selfless attitude made him the most loved at home and work and everywhere he went he conquered hearts. I can proudly say that, thanks to him, at least 200 people in Chennai, India have jobs today and he helped personally educate another 100 children or so. And at no time did he expect any credit for his deeds or any return for his good work. The reason I am mentioning all this is you have to understand what kind of person he was and how many people loved him to understand the impact the diagnosis made on us.

In October 1993 he started complaining of severe backache. He had been riding a scooter to work and all his extra curricular activities for over 20 years now. So we assumed it would be something to do with his riding on the pot holed roads. He just rubbed in some pain relievers and back to his busy self. But this pain kept nagging him for a long time when he decided to see a doctor. First he consulted a Orthopaedic surgeon and the Dr felt he might have a slipped disc. It was the first shock. From a perfectly healthy person, who had not a single day of illness (other than another struggle he had with Jaundice), this was the first problem they said he had. So he was advised to take it easy, lay off the 2-wheeler and get some physiotherapy and put himself on traction once in a while. For some time this seemed to provide a lot of relief. But the pain persisted. Then he was hospitalised to take some aggressive physiotherapy. That seemed to work too. But only temporarily. 

After he was back home for a few months he was unable to even walk. He used to depend on me and my brother (my brother for the most part) to even lift him so that he can use the facilities. The in December 1993 came the clincher. One morning he woke up complaining for breathlessness and was sweating profusely and also had some chest pain. So we rushed him to the hospital and there they said he had a mild myocardial infraction. He was in intensive care and seemed to recover remarkably well. When they did routine tests on him there they noticed that his ESR count was 150. That triggered some alarms in the Drs' minds and they advised him to have some thorough blood work. That is when they found proteins in his blood. What followed are the most harrowing moments of my adult life. He was asked to take a bone marrow test and that confirmed the Multiple Myeloma. We went to 6 hospitals not believing the initial diagnosis, hoping, praying that the first Dr was wrong... but alas that was not to be. My dad had the dreaded disease.

He was referred to Dr. Sethuraman, a haemotologist who has been his doctor since then. If we all saw god in real life it was in this good doctor. From there on, he treated my father primarily on oral chemo and steroids and brought the disease under control. My father achieved remission in 1997. All was sunshine again. Meanwhile I completed my studies, was employed and got married and moved to the USA.

I was 7 months pregnant last year when disaster struck again. His Myeloma relapsed and he had moderate to severe LV dysfunction. I rushed to India and was by his bedside for 2 weeks. He visibly improved.

Then he started fighting the disease again. I am amazed by his mental strength and pray to god to give him much much more. Within a year his LV dysfunction is totally gone and the cancer in under control again. Again our knight in shining armor is Dr. Sethuraman. And of course, the Hero is my father. His fight is so valiant that every day I thank god for giving me such a Gibraltar for a father. To this day he continues his good work, counseling school children in their careers, counseling socially and economically backward families, counseling men against domestic abuse and training people to become better employees and better humans. Even as I am writing this story for you he is in another town, training people on Quality Management. And no, he does not travel by car. He travels by public transport as millions of others in India, often standing in crowded buses, not asking for a seat because he is a sick man. He pride and strength make me feel so small and insignificant when I think of the small ailments I suffer from time to time. Truly he is Viswanath, meaning Lord of the world.

I hope his story brings hope to several others fighting this cancer and their families too. Throughout his struggle he did not try to hold us back. I have a younger brother and he wanted us to reach out and fly to our dreams never once stating his health as a reason to bind us. I live in the US and my brother is in the Indian Army. My father lives alone since my mother is visiting with us for a year. I hope and pray that god gives him a long and peaceful life. The world needs more people like him. You can write to him in case you need some counseling too. He is a wonderful person and I hope it gives you all hope that this disease can indeed be fought against.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to my father's story.

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