Richa Joshi owns The Indigo Trails, a small home furnishing line in Dubai, and was inspired by the indomitable will in her 19 month old who suffered and won over leukemia. Manju Ramanan charts out this mother’s courageous journey
It was the year 2000; I was in India and 32 weeks pregnant with my second child when my 19-month-old son, Arijit, was detected with leukemia. True to his name, Arijit, which means someone who defeats evil, the baby struggled and fought cancer at an age when he hardly knew the severity and seriousness of the disease. Now, at 17, he is a regular teenage kid with his console and video games. But there was a time when I had to leave him with my parents, deliver my daughter and then attend to him. However, when I delivered my daughter, the cord blood was stored by the hospital in case a bone marrow transplant was required to treat my son. His treatment started at Tata Hospital in Mumbai and continued in Dubai Hospital.
I was superbly supported by my family, which included my husband, parents, in laws, as well as my aunt. In 2003, he was better with intensive chemotherapy and radiation and he responded well to treatment. But after the maintenance chemotherapy finished, he relapsed and we shifted him to Al Tawam Hospital. His treatment got over in 2006. And now, he is officially a survivor.
Most kids would cry at the sight of the nurse, but not Arijit. The three year old laughed and was so calm that though he was physically at his weakest, he was tough. His attitude gave us confidence. We were amazed at how the little one took to it. Meanwhile, my daughter grew up to be this strong independent girl and we often missed her birthdays or celebrated it at the hospital where her brother was undergoing treatment.
He didn’t understand what was wrong with him. We never uttered the word cancer in front of him. It was always oncology and leukemia. We just told him that he needed to take medicines to kill his bad cells. As he got older, and he learnt how to Google around the age of eight or nine years old, we had a long talk with him.
We had great family support and some really good friends who didn’t give up on us. Chemotherapy crashes your immunity. When you get an infection, a simple cold can turn into pneumonia and it could turn fatal. So we had masks around the house all the time. We told friends to not come home. We lost some friends and some who didn’t give up on us.
What did it make of him? He is very tough and his early brush with pain has made him tolerant to it and he is quite a go- getter. He lost out a bit of school but he was very young. Today, he is keen to study law and get into international relations. He studies in Deira International School. And he is a happy, talkative boy!