A fifty six year old Divisional Engineer of BSNL had been leading a very active life, following his daily routine of getting up early in the morning, doing regular practice of yoga. He is a staunch vegetarian, tee tottler and non smoker. He is jovial, with a good sense of humor, believes in enjoying life, living in the present and helping people. In his own words “even at fifty six, I used to feel like thirty six.”
He could not believe his ears, when the doctor told him that he had a malignant tumor in the esophagus which was cancerous. His mind was just not prepared to accept it. When the doctor found that he was not showing any signs of shock effect, and was continuing to behave in a light humored manner, he had to say “come on Mr. Panse, be serious now” Even this could not disturb his stable state of mind. He told the doctor “don’t worry about the biopsy report, just tell me what needs to be done now”
Mr Shyam with his better half Shobha
All this was happening in the clinic of Dr. Girish Naik, a surgeon in Indore. On the basis of the biopsy report the doctor advised surgery. Still not taking it seriously Mr. Panse said “what if I don’t go for surgery?”, “then you will not survive for more than two months” said the shocked doctor. Panse was not prepared to die in a month, so he asked the doctor to spell out the time frame of getting the surgery done.
In fact the signs of trouble started showing about two months earlier. Panse was having fever, burning sensation in his chest and lose motions. He felt decreasing appetite and increasing weakness. One day, he felt so exhausted while in office that he dozed off to sleep. When his son came to know of it, he insisted on getting a medical checkup done.
To get a second opinion, Panse showed the endoscopy and biopsy report to Dr. A.K. Waghmare who was also his friend. So much so, that Panse would offer to help him with odd jobs, even in the operation theatre. Dr Waghmare was not prepared to do the operation himself, being a close aide. He referred him to Dr Sanjay Kumar Sharma a cancer surgeon of Mumbai.
It is said that behind every successful man there is woman. Mr. Shyam N Panse is singularly fortunate to have Mrs. Shobha as his better half. When she learnt about her husband being diagnosed of cancer. She was working with FCI Bhopal. She did not lose her calm, but decided to take him to Mumbai for treatment. Any other lady in her place would have wept, cursed everyone including God, gone in depression and become a liability for the family.
Before leaving for Mumbai in 2004 to get the operation done, Panse called his brothers and close relatives to meet him. “I arranged a party for everyone” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. Anyone else in his place would have been sulking, fuming fretting and making life miserable. “When the relatives were departing, they were hugging me as if, it was our last meeting” adds Panse.
After the surgery on 12 April 2004, he was discharged after 15 days. There were a lot of medicines to be taken daily. These resulted in acidity, lack of appetite and weakness. His weight reduced from 80 kg to 50 kg and his waist came down from 39 inches to 29 inches. It was difficult to take more than one biscuit or half a chapatti at any time. He could drink water slowly in sips, with pause in between. Even coconut water had to be taken in three installments.
After two months of bed rest, Panse joined duties. The diet restriction and weakness continued for about two years,. “I was advised by Dr Sharma to take one tablet of Imatinib 400mg thrice daily for the life time. This medicine was very costly and used to act like a bullet in the body” recalls Panse.
He used to go for six monthly checkups to Bombay hospital. After his retirement in 2008, Panse used to get the check up done in Navodaya Cancer Hospital Bhopal. In 2010 he was advised by one of the doctors of Jawaharlal Nehru Cancer Hospital to discontinue the dose of Imatinib because “if cancer has to strike again, it will, whether you take this medicine or not, but generally it doesn’t”. Trusting his advice, Panse discontinued it. His appetite became better and his weight increased to 57 kg. Just when he felt that the worst was over, he was put to another test.
He started having pain in the liver in March 2012. He consulted one doctor in Bhopal who was foreign return. His treatment was very expensive, but his condition deteriorated. When his weight and hemoglobin count decreased, the pain became very severe and he could not eat anything, he consulted another doctor. After endoscopy and CT-scan, Dr Upasini said” since you have got the earlier operation done in Mumbai you should get the next one done there only.” Panse contacted Dr Sharma in Mumbai and he asked him to come immediately.
The CT-scan and other tests revealed a 15 cm cancerous growth on the liver. Dr Sharma was surprised as to why the dose of Ematinid was discontinued and why he did not come to Mumbai four months earlier. Now that the liver had been infected a liver specialist had to be consulted. The surgeon said “ I will do the operation, but I don’t know the result, so you pray to God” Panse remained unperturbed as he thought “even if I die, there is nothing to lose, as I have lived long enough, and fulfilled all my responsibilities”. On 25 Aug 2012 the second operation for cancer was successfully performed in SL Raheja Hospital, Mumbai. With regular medication including the dose of Imatinib 400 mg Panse took one year to recover.
His strong will power coupled with a positive bent of mind, defeated cancer and he emerged victorious. He has no regrets. He is leading an almost normal life with few restrictions like lifting weight, running, exerting shouting etc. Panse is cancer survivor who is spreading awareness, and clearing myths about cancer. He addresses people on cancer day and is a living example to drive home the point “yes, cancer is curable, provided the patient doesn’t lose hope and maintains the will power to recover”
He takes his father who was an army personal as his role model. In spite of five heart attacks, he survived and always remained cheerful. His teacher Shri M R Abhyankar also acted as his guide and mentor. Panse remembers his words “it is not important how long you live, but it important how you live” It is the quality of life which is governed by your thoughts. He sums up his philosophy of life in these words “happiness is not at the end, it is on the way, so enjoy every moment of the day”.
(The above success story is based on the interview of Mr SN Panse by Maj Pradeep Khare)