S1E3: IIM Alumnus Dimple Parmar Shares Her Journey As A Caregiver To Her Husband Who Died Of Colon Cancer

Podcast MD by Ketto with Kunal Kapoor Season One’s third episode featuring- Dimple Parmar (Founder – Love Heals Cancer and ZenOnco.io) Wife & Caregiver of Late Nitesh Prajapat Shares Her Journey After Losing Her Husband To Colon Cancer.

Podcast MD by Ketto’s third guest is Dimple Parmar, the founder of Love Heals Cancer. Nitesh Prajapat and Dimple Parmar got married after they discovered that he had Stage 4 colorectal cancer. They launched Love Heals Cancer in January 2018 to provide support, information, and services to help people in their battle against cancer. A tribute to her late husband Nitesh, Love Heals Cancer is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping cancer patients live longer and better lives. Dimple and Nitesh’s journey started in IIM Calcutta where both of them were grad students. An alumnus of IIT-Kanpur and studying in IIM-Calcutta, Nitesh had founded Appeti, a curated online marketplace. While completing his MBA in 2016, he met Dimple, who was working on her own startup, Zaple, at the campus. They quickly connected and became good friends. Nitesh was diagnosed with cancer after he went for a checkup for severe back pain and constipation. Dimple talks about all the difficulties Nitesh had to go through during chemotherapy and cancer treatment including the side effects of treatment that wreaked havoc on his physical health. Dimple believes it’s important for caregivers to distribute their responsibilities of taking care of the patient to avoid burn-out. In his final days, Dimples opens up about how Nitesh transformed completely as a person and was more cheerful than ever before. She attributes the positive changes to a strong support system Nitesh had in the US, alternate healing practices, and a complete change in his diet. Here is an edited excerpt from our conversation with Dimple:

How and when did you guys find out about cancer?

We became friends after I met Nitesh during the time when we were both working on our start-ups. I didn’t find him much friendly but it all changed when he came back after a 3-month break. He also started getting sick more often and complained about severe back pain and constipation. After the doctor recommended a biopsy, it was found that he had Colon Cancer. This came as a shock to both of us. It was hard to accept that a young man who is very active, seemingly healthy, will have to fight against cancer. Spontaneously, I became his primary caregiver as he underwent Radiation Therapy followed by surgery. He was broken, but managed to rise above the initial shock, and, with his family’s support, started treatment. He approached his health condition in a logical manner, believing there was a solution to every problem.

How did you guys decide to get married?

Over the course of treatment, I began to develop a kind of empathy for him. He was a smart, intelligent, ambitious young man. He was a very good human being. I wanted to fight his battle with him. Nitesh moved to Mumbai for treatment and then came back to college in Calcutta after some months. That is when we decided to move in together. We got to know about each other more and more, and we fell in love. Nitesh underwent surgery. He was under continuous treatment and had numerous cycles of chemotherapy, while we were still in college. One day, he expressed his love for me and asked me if I would marry him. I said ‘yes’. On the day of our graduation in 2017, we got engaged on the campus in Tata Hall 213. We got married in August and seven days later, moved to the US to participate in clinical trials.

What was Chemotherapy and Cancer Treatment like?

Cancer eats away the physical and mental health of not only the one affected by it, but also the patient’s loved ones. The treatment was filled with interventions, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. And later when nothing worked, we opted for clinical trials. Just when we thought we had defeated the dreaded disease, a post-treatment scan in June showed that the disease had metastasized to his lungs, pelvis, and other abdominal areas. There were a total of 12 tumors. I saw Nitesh suffer immensely as he was undergoing treatment. I want to share with you the taboo that exists around cancer in our society and how ingrained it is in our minds. When Nitesh was told that as part of the surgery procedure, he would have to be fitted with a ‘poop bag’, he was so ashamed that he didn’t even want to undergo the surgery. He was willing to die than have a ‘poop bag’ attached to his body.

Chemotherapy was worse. When a person undergoes chemotherapy it affects them psychologically too. They want to withdraw into a shell. They become so sensitive that they get irritated by the slightest sound or even dim light. It’s due to a condition called neuropathy, a side-effect of cancer treatment where if a person is even touched, it feels like a current. Some weeks are okay but most are bad. The chemotherapy was so hard that Nitesh no longer had a problem with the ‘poop bag’.

Tell us something about your organization Love Heals Cancer?

Nitesh constantly pondered upon how millions of people suffer from cancer and how can we give them hope and support them through their journey. He was the epitome of strength and willpower, and in his last days, he redefined joy with his infectious smile. It was his wish that we help people undergoing similar circumstances and how Love Heals Cancer (LHC) started.

LHC is a community of patients, caregivers, survivors, volunteers, individuals, and organizations, dedicated to providing love and support to cancer patients around the world. Our primary aim is to help cancer patients and their caregivers to find extensive healing options and improve their quality of life. The core belief is that in addition to regular treatment, extending warmth, love and support to cancer patients can play a huge role in healing them. 

What was your experience as a caregiver during Nitesh’s cancer treatment?

I think it’s important for caregivers to distribute their responsibilities of taking care of the patient to avoid burn-out. Sometimes I would feel burned out because I wasn’t taking time for my own self and that’s something we all need to understand. You can only take care of someone when you are doing well yourself. Cancer treatment makes the patient overly sensitive. How you behave directly impacts them. So, if you feel burned out, it’s a good idea to distribute responsibilities among other family members or simply take some time off for yourself. Another thing I believe is that caregivers should undergo counseling because none of us knows by default how to take care of someone who is suffering from cancer. It helps to have someone who can help us understand our own emotions with respect to what is happening.

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Also, if you have a similar story you believe can be a source of inspiration for others, then you could be our next guest.

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