Chapter 1

A New Mountain to Climb

'I'm going to die', was my very first thought when the doctor calmly announced my cancer diagnosis on a cold and dark day in December 2001.

Simultaneously, I experienced a strange disorientation. Time seemed to slow down, and the doctor's words came and went as though they were emerging from a warped record.I felt a choking sensation in my throat as if all the air had been sucked out, and I could not breathe.

'What's going to happen to my family, who will look after them?' I asked myself, but no answers were forthcoming. It was all a blank. 'Why me ... what have I done to deserve this?' surfaced soon after. In a trembling voice, I called Nilima and asked her to rush to the hospital. Then, in that tiny, windowless waiting room, I broke down and howled, with rage, anguish and hopelessness all rolled into one. I felt as if I had been brutally attacked, fundamentally violated and even betrayed in some way, even though it wasn't clear how or by whom.

Every individual who receives a cancer diagnosis knows what I am talking about; many people have recounted similar experiences. Irrespective of age, gender, socio-economic background or nationality, cancer comes as a shock. It punches a hole through your sense of self, your very identity, leaving you in a very fragile and vulnerable place. Think back to the moment when you first heard your own diagnosis: what happened within you?... Click here to read more or download pdf to read later