In 1997, Naresh Kalra a Signalling Engineer with the Indian Railways at Ambala began experiencing an unbearable, searing pain in his stomach. Upon hospitalisation, a CT scan detected a lump in his large intestine along with unusual blackened areas of the stomach. A biopsy relayed that Naresh was dealing with stage 2 malignancy in his large intestine. His wife Poonam, was his beacon of strength through the entire ordeal. She held his hand while he went through shock, denial and acceptance.
On shifting to Chandigarh for his treatment that year, he continued his treatment and radiation therapy which made him weak. Financially too, the family did face hardships but he found steadfast support from his parents, siblings, who also provided monetary support, and well wishers who prayed and hoped for his speedy recovery. In the year 2000, Naresh was required to travel to the United Kingdom as part of a railway third-party deputation. Although it was a tough decision both health wise and financially, Naresh saw this as a good opportunity to recover the savings that had been depleted owing to medical bills. He managed to convince the doctors at the railway hospital to sign on the medical fitness reports by promising to follow up with a specialist in the UK.
Naresh lived in the UK for five years before moving back to Ambala. Being a signaling engineer, all his postings were on field. The work environment – the noise, pollution, long and stressful work hours were all taking a toll on his fragile immunity. In 2007, he was transferred to Jammu on a field posting. The unstructured project he was put on became highly stressful for him to handle. He sat with Poonam and consulted with her before quitting the railways with a heavy heart.
Post railways, he moved to UAE to work for a systems engineering company, choosing a non- field posting, aligning his lifestyle with his health requirements. Things were good for the initial months, before the day he discovered blood in his faeces. It alarmed him and tests and reports revealed 'polyp' in his intestine. Naresh had to be hospitalized and treated in Sharjah. The treatment worked and he resumed his routine within a week, though more cautious than before. In 2009, the family moved back to India. The family felt it was the right move as the kids had grown up and needed a more settled life. They invested in a house in Bangalore and things were smooth for a while.
During a routine Colonoscopy, Naresh could not endure the shooting pain half way through the process and the test had to stop mid way. This should have alarmed the doctors, given his medical history, but the doctors made a report saying everything was normal, skipping the part of induced pain. A few weeks later, in a similarly alarming painful incident, Naresh was taken to another specialist doctor, where the CT Scan suggested suspicion at the same spot in the large intestine where Naresh had been previously operated, leading to a second surgery in the same spot.
In the meanwhile, the family also discovered that they were cheated under a property scam in the new house deal, starting a prolonged legal battle, still on. Naresh and Poonam have endured this journey with immense dignity. With the prolonged medical treatment condition and precarious nature of relapse, they have gained a passive acceptance of the situation.
Naresh is quick to point towards the silver lining – the people he has met and who have stood beside him, during this journey. He feels fortunate to have family and friends he could depend on. One such friend is his long time colleague, Ajay who gave him a simple formula to Naresh to deal with every challenge – TCNK, aka Tussi Chinta Na Karo (Don't worry, mate!)