Champion Cancer Coach
Sidharth Ghosh snooks a thumb at cancer every day as he continues excelling in his fitness drive, and helping others battle the diseaseBy Christina Tom Jose
To win the battle against cancer is one thing, but to be able to run the Mumbai marathon and play a corporate cricket match in under a year after diagnosis is a different kind of victory. For Sidharth Ghosh, nothing short of this would work. Calling him as a mere ‘survivor’ of cancer would be to undermine the strength and spirit with which he fought the disease. A passionate sportsman since his school days, Ghosh wanted to make sure that he didn’t just survive cancer, but that he reached the same levels of performance he could achieve before he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2014. “There was no other option but to fight,” says the spirited young man who recently celebrated five years of being cancer-free. “I celebrate my birthday twice a year. Who else gets that privilege?” Being a regular marathon runner and cricketer, the diagnosis came as quite a shock for Ghosh and his family members. “The day the symptoms came, I had just played a corporate cricket match in the morning, and everything was normal,” he recollects. Ghosh was a familiar face at marathons and tournaments; he regularly played football and cricket right from childhood. After a massive surgery in which doctors removed his right kidney, arteries, veins, and some peripheral tissues, Ghosh was bedridden for three months, during which he could only make feeble attempts at standing up or walking.
“When cancer, he believes, has transformed him into a more soft-spoken, humbler version of himself, one that is perceptive to the feelings of others and gives everyone a second chance. It is this transformation that he wishes for everyone who approaches him.”
I got up from the bed and started to walk, I could barely climb two steps or stand for a few seconds; it was a very defining moment. I was comparing it to how 3 to 4 months ago, I was running 42km, playing cricket, and now I’m not even able to stand for a few minutes,” he says. Recovery was a rollercoaster ride. Ghosh was inspired by the lives of Yuvraj Singh and Lance Armstrong. He started out with small walks, and within six months, he completed his first run, which was half a kilometer long. Two months later, Sidharth was running the Delhi half marathon. “The purpose was mainly to complete it. A lot of people asked what time I finished it in, but it didn’t matter to me. I only wanted to finish. After three months I went to Mumbai and ran the full marathon, taking much more time than I usually do,” he says. It was at this marathon that his close friends dubbed him ‘Flying Sidharth,’ after Flying Sikh Milkha Singh.
During his recovery, Ghosh actively sought to talk about the experience of illness and recovery with other cancer patients. However, his search results always turned up support groups and forums that were based outside India. He was appalled by the fact that people in India were unwilling to talk about cancer because of the stigma attached to it. “As for me, I had decided that right from day one, I would be very vocal about it,” he explains. This led him to start his very own website, www.flyingsidharth.com after the very title conferred on him by his close friends. “People from 26 countries got associated with my blog, but the number of Indians was the least,” he says. Ghosh wanted to be very approachable to anyone who sought his help, and he was surprised to receive a number of calls from strangers after he put up his personal number on his blog. Ghosh now spends much of his time as a cancer coach, helping people who are undergoing treatment for cancer. He talks to them on the phone, and when necessary, meets them in person. “I like to talk to caregivers. People do not realize that the family suffers along with the patient,” he says.
He always tells those who approach him to first accept what has happened and then fight it with all they have. He has also penned a book on his cancer journey, called Cancer As I Know It: Six Simple Steps to Beat Cancer and Feel Awesome, the proceeds from which go to cancer charities across the country. Ghosh talks of cancer as more of a spiritual journey than an illness. He remembers how, when being wheeled into surgery, he thought of a few people to whom he had stopped talking for no rhyme or reason. “If something had happened to me, they wouldn’t even have known,” he says. Cancer, he believes, has transformed him into a more softspoken, humbler version of himself, one that is perceptive to the feelings of others and gives everyone a second chance. It is this transformation that he wishes for everyone who approaches him.
Sidharth Ghosh, Cancer survivor, author & marathoner
“WHEN I GOT UP FROM THE BED AND STARTED TO WALK, I COULD BARELY CLIMB TWO STEPS OR STAND FOR A FEW SECONDS; IT WAS A VERY DEFINING MOMENT. I WAS COMPARING IT TO HOW 3 TO 4 MONTHS AGO, I WAS RUNNING 42KM, PLAYING CRICKET, AND NOW I’M NOT EVEN ABLE TO STAND FOR A FEW MINUTES.”
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