A cancer patient’s journey, from choosing to be a Thriver instead of a Survivor to helping others approach cancer holistically
BY KHIRTINI K KUMARAN
WHEN Vijay Bhat was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2001, he was 40-years-old and at the peak of his career.
“Like everybody else, the diagnosis came as a complete shock, and I was sent to surgery because I had two tumours in my colon,” said Vijay.
As the surgery was successful, the doctor gave him a choice to proceed with chemotherapy or not. He chose a holistic and integrated approach over chemotherapy to minimise relapse. He has remained cancer-free.
Vijay spoke about his cancer journey during the recent CanSurvive Global Symposium 2022, held virtually.
“By no means do I recommend to anybody that they should reject chemotherapy, radiotherapy or any of the medical options. I would have taken it if the doctors had told me I was supposed to take chemotherapy.
“It is because they gave me a choice and showed me the statistics. My wife and I had the confidence to say no to chemotherapy and to look for a holistic and integrated approach.
“We, therefore, don’t look at holistic and integrated approaches as alternatives. We look at them as complementary.
“Within three days of receiving my diagnosis, I emailed about 500 or more of my family members, friends and colleagues with an email titled ‘A New Mountain to Climb’, and I asked for their help.
“I’m glad that I did it because I was amazed by the waves of love, goodwill, support and resources I received.
“That was a big turning point for me to realise that relationships are a key healing factor in any illness, especially cancer.”
Vijay finds himself fortunate because he got help from experts in regard to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and holistic and spiritual health.
“Immediately after my surgery, I was referred to a TCM doctor, Dr Xuan Song Ke, and he worked with me for a few years.
“He told us that essentially, the future of your health will depend on how well you manage your immunity. He told us this in early 2002. It’s been 20 years since, and only now, after Covid-19, the world is talking about immunity.”
TCM and holistic and spiritual health has been the foundation of Vijay’s healing and approach to cancer. And while going through these approaches, Vijay wished to be more than just a cancer survivor.
Thus, he re-defined himself as a “cancer-thriver”, and an idea started to form to reframe cancer as a growth opportunity.
“Not everybody can beat the odds and go beyond surviving. Thrivers are people who turn their traumatic cancer experience into a springboard for personal growth.”
Developing a coaching protocol
In 2004, Vijay disengaged from his corporate career and returned home to India from Hong Kong.
“My wife and I started helping other people, from individuals to small groups and larger groups.
“And through this process, our philosophy of holistic and integrated approach to cancer began to form slowly.
“Based on that, we created a holistic and integrated coaching protocol, and we piloted that about two to three years in a clinical setting, working alongside other experts.”
Vijay and his wife, Nilima, pioneered Cancer Coaching in India, co-developing a holistic and integrative approach and training coaches to deliver a “Thriver” programme to cancer patients.
Then, in 2010, they launched Cancer Awakens, an online resource website where people can find high-quality, well-curated information about holistic and integrated cancer treatments.
The holistic and integrated approach
Holistic, he explained, means addressing all aspects of an individual; the physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. And integrated means drawing upon different systems of wellness and wisdom from around the world.
“The physical dimension pertains to the lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and rest.
“The second dimension is emotions, which have to do with feelings because negative or positive feelings directly impact our immunity.”
Next, he explained, is the mental dimension which addresses the level of thinking, whether we are enabling or disabling thoughts that could improve or compromise our immunity
The fourth dimension is relational, which Vijay noted is often neglected. “We have found that the quality of relationships within our social circle directly impacts our immunity.
“Healthy and supportive relationships strengthen the immunity. Meanwhile, toxic relationships compromise it.”
The final dimension is spiritual. According to Vijay, spirituality is not limited to faith and prayer.
“It also deals with the searching for purpose in life, understanding the greater good and values, and finding answers to existential questions.
“These holistic and integrated approaches directly impact the immunity, which is the essence of illness and healing.” — The Health