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Cancer survivor to fitness coach

/ November 22, 2016 /

An active individual, busy software professional, excited father-to-be… the last thing 39-year-old Bangalorean Kanishka Lahiri expected was getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 4A.

The diagnosis itself was much delayed. An unrelenting dry cough was put down to the pollution of the city and doctors prescribed various doses of antibiotics. A long-distance runner and trekker, Lahiri enjoyed running ultra-marathons and trekking in challenging environs such as the Himalayas. The annoying cough that gradually worsened over two and a half months saw him undergoing various bronchoscopy procedures, X-rays and CT scans. Amid all this, his family also welcomed his firstborn.

Though the diagnosis was inconclusive and baffled the doctors, the right lung was found to be severely damaged and required surgery. On the operating table, it was discovered that the entire right lung had to be removed. The post-operative biopsy revealed the devastating verdict. Chemotherapy was started immediately and Lahiri’s left lung too showed signs of damage.

Chemotherapy after a major surgery left the young father on the ventilator in the ICU. On returning home, the former running coach could not stand or walk unassisted or even breathe normally. Impaired vision, non-trivial neuropathy in the right leg and loss of body weight were other physical ailments.

Despite the physical and emotional challenges he faced, Lahiri’s family, friends and physician kept his spirits uplifted. His doctor promised him a complete recovery that would ensure his return to his favourite sporting activities. Through will power and self-confidence, Lahiri started learning to breathe using only one lung. After five doses of chemotherapy, he showed signs of recovery as he regained body weight and learned to breathe without assistance.

Four months after the surgery, he started going on walks. He practised yoga, pranayama and strength training. Looking forward to getting back to physical activity, he started practising climbing stairs to rebuild aerobic capacity. After two months, Lahiri started to attempt running on light schedules. Soon a PET scan certified Lahiri to be in a state of ‘complete remission’. And he was free of the need for further treatment.

Though Lahiri is well aware of the risks of living with a single lung and has to undergo routine scans every six months, he has set achievable goals for himself. Within two years after his treatment, he managed to run half marathons (21km). Though he admits he is no longer as fast as he used to be, he is back to his job as a running coach to an amateur running group. His firm belief in his abilities also led him to scale an amazing height of 14,000ft in the Himalayas.

Lahiri attributes credit of his miraculous recuperation to medical science as well as to the encouragement and unstinting support of his team, as he calls them – his pulmonologist, oncologists, wife, family members and friends who rallied behind him.

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