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STORY OF A BRAVE HEART AND A CANCER SURVIVOR: AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBAYAN SEN- PART 2

/ April 15, 2016 /

Zuvius: The seriousness of having cancer hit you was there anyone from the past, who you had lost touch with, you felt you’d like to call and talk to?

Debayan: During the early stages of diagnosis, one of my business partners was working on the studio show for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. I would sometimes drop by to sign a few cheques for our official work. On one such trip, I asked my wife to come along since that was the day of the semi-final against Pakistan and we watched a fabulous Indian victory with about 40-50 odd crew members and some stars and ex-cricketers. It was there that my old friend Harsha Bhogle asked me if everything was alright with me. I have no idea why he asked that, so while I said yes then, I called him later at night to tell him about my diagnosis. He was most supportive, and quoted examples of people he knew who had emerged even stronger after cancer treatment. Few days later, my wife and I were back, watching the final and cheering India on to a famous win! Similarly, there were other old colleagues and friends who got in touch when they came to know. Some even visited home. They were great sources of strength, and our conversations were never morose or negative!

Zuvius: What did you learn about your friends and family during this difficult period of fighting cancer?

Debayan: One of the greatest fears of humankind is losing a loved one, and I am no exception myself. But I found that when the people around you are positve and cheerful, it makes the healing that much easier. The first day that my diagnosis came in, my wife asked me to meditate with her. We visualised that the whitish slough inside my throat was being cured by a white, healing light. And sure enough, the doctor actually found nothing the following day! This was before even a single drop of medicine had been ingested in my body, though the treatment still had to take place. It’s actually the good vibes and strength of your loved ones that heals you…the medicines merely attack the cancer cells as per their bio-chemical abilities.

Zuvius: What is the first thing you decided to do after you were declared cancer free?

Debayan: I was offered an overseas commentary assignment within three days of my radiotherapy getting over on the 20th of July, 2011. There was an UAE-India World Cup qualifying football game in Al Ain, UAE on the 23rd. I was offered the gig and I had to call my doctor to ask if I should take it up. He said as long you stay well-hydrated, there’s no issue. I must confess it was one of the most painful flights in my life. I love flying Emirates, but because of the ulcers in my mouth (a side-effect of radiotherapy) I could barely have any water, forget eat. I think I forced myself to have some breadcrumbs and butter and that was all I could take. From then on, regular work resumed. In September, my company produced a marquee Argentina-Nigeria football game in Bangladesh, which featured Lionel Messi and other superstars. But I only helped set up the game and gave it a miss, since I’d promised my wife a holiday on the dates the game fell in. I don’t think she appreciated the fact that the actual game day was just on the eve of her birthday, and I spent most of the time on the phone sorting out some technical issues (that game was being beamed live in 150+ countries, so we had to stay on top of a lot of international clients!)

Zuvius: Did having cancer change your perspective on life, things around you?

Debayan: I would say not particularly. I have always been a positive-thinking person and perhaps having cancer only made that belief firmer. I don’t think we often realise how important and yet how simple taking care of our health is. It’s the basic things in life – love, laughter, kindness, sport – that we sometimes lose touch with in our pursuit of “success”. Having a health roadblock (and I have had a few, in spite of being a person who prides himself on his general good health) only reinforces that if you make sure you keep doing the basics, other things in life will follow suit themselves.

Zuvius: It affect the lives of people around you? If so how?

Debayan: At the time it happened, I often wondered how my wife took the diagnosis. She channelled all of her energy into her art (which she had started taking up seriously just about a year prior to my diagnosis) she created such fantastic work that she was exhibiting regularly and in prime arenas within a year. I also spent a lot of time with family members – my wife, my parents, my brother – at the hospital, with whom I was usually not getting a chance to speak with at length so often. We reminisced a lot, laughed and joked often. I don’t know if they ever look back at that time with regret – I know I sometimes do (but only because it took five months off my work). But I have stopped beating myself over it – I think getting diagnosed was beyond my control, but getting better and leading a healthy life wasn’t!

Zuvius: Is the most important lesson that cancer taught you?

Debayan: Cancer cells reside within each one of us, and there’s no telling what or how they may get triggered to malignancy. This is something I knew from a science perspective, but getting a first-hand demo of it just reinforced this lesson. That said, one must take care of one’s health and not be fatalistic about rising cancer rates. Do everything you can to stay health, and if the need comes, then fight the good fight!

Zuvius: What were your conceptions about cancer before and after the treatment?

Debayan: I didn’t have any conceptions as such, having also seen my grandmother undergoing treatment at around the same time. The first and only time it felt surreal was when my hair started coming off in clumps, since I had generally avoided a haircut before. Following a day of this, we organised a barber within the hospital to come in and remove all the hair from my head.

Zuvius: How important life is to you now that you’ve come out of this ordeal?

Debayan: Life is and always will be precious. However, it is very important to live your life with a sense of detached attachment. That is to say that the ultimate truth of life is that it ends one day. That neither means you sit inside a bunker for the rest of your life in fear of what might go wrong, nor that you lead a suicidal lifestyle full of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. There must always be a strong motive to live a good, clean life. If you can find that motive early in your life, then no amount of obstacles will fall in the way.

Zuvius: What would be your advice to those who feel life is not worth living because career setbacks, failed love affairs or financial burden?

Debayan: All of the things you have mentioned are somewhat superficial, and it is important to be able to realise that yourself. What may seem like setback/failure/burden could actually give you the freedom to do something you may have never thought of otherwise. Some of the greatest entrepreneurial successes have been rooted in some sort of failure or the other. Have faith in your ability and the strength of your character – that is all you need really.

Zuvius: If asked to say something to motivate cancer victims what would you say?

Debayan: Stay strong and cheerful. Remember that it is an auto-immune disorder, which feeds off the state of mind. If you can be positive, that will make your healing that much quicker and that much effective. If you carry yourself with positivity, then it will also rub off on those around you. It is a cycle of vibes which shall then contribute to your overall well-being. Think always at least 4-5 months ahead of your present state. This will give you a goal to aim for. Plan your next vacation and think of all the wonderful things you will set out to do once you are healed.

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