What is a cancer coach and how is different from a counsellor? You also seem to be India’s first cancer coach; how does it feel?
As a concept a counsellor is very different from a coach since they use a standard approach to counsel patients and provide them with necessary guidelines; on the other hand, a cancer coach is someone who has a personal touch; a connect and spends lot more time with the patients and his or her family members, also speaks to them very often sometimes even multiple times in a day. As a cancer coach, you want to be accessible to every patient with whatever medium of communication they prefer to be it chat, calls, face to face meetings etc… What people do not realize is that it is not the patient itself who is suffering but the entire family is, speaking to the caregivers and family members and helping to solve their concerns is an essential part since they have nowhere to go and generally gets avoided since the entire focus is on the patient. I believe the family of a cancer patient is also fighting its own battle and they should be left unattended. It is important to tell them what things they have to be careful of and answer all their questions.
Tell us something about your journey from cancer and back to marathon?
Running a marathon is always a big challenge because you are testing your limits and it requires an immense amount of training for months and each year you come across a new challenge, a new injury. I was prepared for such challenges but what came across was not expected at all. It was a tough phase since being a marathon runner for ten years, and now with cancer, you become so weak that thinking of walking itself was scary so running itself is a huge ask. I always wanted to go back to running, and I realized it is a mental battle which has to be won first than the physical battle. I started my walks slowly, took baby steps before I started to jog and then eventually started running again. One thing which I had learnt during my training days was that every day is not the same, hence you may run well some days and may not be able to run on a few days. The toughest part was to get yourself up when the spirits go a bit low. I did went ahead and ran the half and full marathons after 8 and 11 months of surgery and then never looked back. I just wanted to prove myself that it is over and wanted to announce in my running fraternity that I was back. The timing for those 2 marathons did not matter, I just wanted to finish injury free. It was then that I got the best compliment that my running friends gave me the name “FlyingSid“; they said Milkha Singh was called Flying Sikh from today we will call you Flying Sid and since that day I use the name Flying Sidharth. I did challenge myself and completed my first sub 2 half marathon in year 2016 when I was covered live by Star Sports in the believe me story.
You have penned down your cancer journey in a book, please tell us a bit about your new book?
I always wanted to write down my version of my cancer journey and share it different people with the aim that even if I am able to make a difference in one person’s life my job is done. My book named Cancer As I know It – Six steps to beat cancer and feel awesome shares all the incidents that happened with me during this time. I launched it the year when I was completing 5 years of my treatment. It talks about all the people who knowingly and unknowingly became a part of my journey. What all changes I went through in these 5 years and also the circumstances which probably has made me a better person today. It also has a lot of funny stories that happened, and I still laugh over it at times. In addition, the contribution towards buying this book goes to charity to NGO’s who are working in the field of cancer care. It is available on Amazon in 13 countries in the kindle version and in 5 countries in hard copy version as well. I was very happy when a few cancer patients reached out to me after reading my book and they could relate to a lot of incidents. One of the best compliments I had was when such people appreciate and say that you really inspire us to fight and generate so much positivity amongst us.
What issues you faced as a cancer patient and how did you cope up with it?
Post my life saving surgery I was on bed for over 3 months, I thought of reaching out to different people who were going through the phase who could help me but I realized there were very less Indian patients support group and blogs where I could interact. It took me no time to realize that people in India considered it as a stigma and people hesitate to talk about it, this was the time when I started my own blog and was vocal about my disease from day one so that the challenge what I faced can be at least minimized for other people. What people don’t realize that with cancer, you are also fighting a physical, emotional and a mental battle as well. The toughest part is to keep your spirits high so that you do not give up at any stage and your friends and family play a very vital role in it. I am so thankful to God since I have a very supportive family and a wonderful bunch of friends who never let me drop the ball. I strongly believe that staying positive is your job and let the doctors do their job of treatment. I also realized more than fighting cancer we are fighting the fear of cancer so fighting the mental battle is a key and the first thing to be conquered.
Any advice would you have for cancer patients and their family?
Losing hope is the worst thing to do so do not lose hope. Good times don’t last for long and similarly bad times either. Cancer patients don’t need sympathy; they need empathy and motivation. I have seen patients in the oncology department who have lost all hope and are low in morale and eventually lose the battle as well. You have to be with them and motivate them to fight it. You need to be positive about it and more importantly, the patient itself should be positive and live life king size. After all, God only gives such things to special people who have the courage to fight such an ailment. In the end as I always say only those people fail who have options; for you there is no option but to fight….