The journalist who dated cancer
/ August 08, 2016 /
Sumegha Gulati, a Delhi journalist all of 26 years, passed away in July after a four-year struggle with cancer. Apart from being a reporter for The Indian Express, Gulati has written articles for Caravan magazine, thequint.com and scroll.in. Just two weeks after she celebrated her 22nd birthday, Gulati was diagnosed with cancer: stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which she bravely fought for the next four years of her life. Gulati’s illness did not deter her from pursuing her career interests. What mattered the most to her was the story, and her most prized possession was her byline.
A year went by and after endless sessions of chemotherapy, physical pain and mental stress, Gulati was declared cancer-free on her 23rd birthday. Overjoyed, she headed back to work. Just when life seemed to be getting better and her friends were saying ‘She kicked cancer’s ass,’ she had a relapse. Three months after she was declared cancer-free, she relapsed into stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In her blog post from 2014 titled ‘I Dated Cancer’, Gulati talks about life since diagnosis: how she has remained courageous through severe treatment procedures, how she felt lucky enough to have extremely supportive family and friends, and in the end, how she waged war when the cancer relapsed.
Friends and colleagues all over the country grieved her death. People remember Gulati for her eternal zeal, courage and love for journalism. Colleagues recall how relentless she was in the pursuit of her assignments. For Gulati, there was no excuse for not doing a story. She would complain about not getting substantial assignments because, according to her, a good story topped everything. An instance that stands out is when an Uber driver was charged guilty in a rape case and reporters from all over were running after the story, Gulati approached it with a difference. She managed to establish contact with the unidentified survivor and her family. When meeting sources became strenuous in an over-polluted and winter-struck Delhi, she got herself a car and a driver. When note-taking with her right hand became tiresome, she practised writing with her left hand.
When the disease took over her life completely, she began to find stories around it: medical facilities in the nation, doctors, patients, and their stories. No matter how severe her condition got, she always pushed her boundaries to cover a story. After her relapse, Gulati said she wasn’t a quitter and that she would die fighting. For a young, gritty woman who aspired to become a conflict zone reporter and loved telling stories, it is deeply saddening that her own story ended at 26 years. Here’s to a brave soul, who fought cancer till the very end.