Cancer eats away not only at a patient; it slowly gnaws away at their loved ones as well. Amid the parched throats, joint aches, poor appetites, and weak and fragile bodies, the fear of death looms large all the time.
It was during a moment like this, in January 2018, that Nitesh Prajapati, who was battling last stage colorectal cancer, and his wife Dimple Parmar, decided they would dedicate the rest of their life to serve people and help people struggling with cancer and their families.
“Nitesh’s last wish was to give hope to everyone around him, especially the countless people who are diagnosed with cancer every day. They fight this deadly disease, and often many lack the courage and resources. Through our organisation we wanted to give them a shout out: you are not alone, we are with you,” says Dimple, 25.
From 2016, when Nitesh was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer, the duo spent sleepless nights trying to study different ways of defeating this dreaded disease. From understanding the nature of cancer and how it can multiply and foster in one’s body to allopathic medications and holistic treatments, including dietary changes, yoga, meditation, pranic healings, and naturopathy, Dimple and Nitesh charted out a list on “do’s and don’ts” for cancer.
The duo wanted to share information and give back to the society, to people who had helped them through this difficult journey with financial and logistic support, by crowdfunding and through their IIT-IIM-Calcutta alumni networks.
They soon started Love Heals Cancer, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation. Nitesh, 28, himself oversaw the workings of the website in the initial days in January 2018.
The organisation was founded with a clear objective of increasing awareness about cancer and its prevention along with helping patients get through the journey with someone always by their side. Dimple, who understands the pain and suffering that family members and caregivers go through, also extends support to them as well.
After his demise in March, Dimple continued to work on his dream. Today, she runs the organisation with volunteer groups across metro cities in India.
“We don’t charge anything and never intend to. We just want to help those in need and spread their stories around the world for they are the true fighters among us,” says Dimple, an IIM-Calcutta alumnus.
Over the past year, Dimple has reached out to over 1,000 cancer patients and familiesacross the globe, and provided them counselling services.
Love and service above all
The eldest among his siblings, Nitesh was the sole earning member of the family, and was working hard to improve his family’s condition. An alumnus of IIT-Kanpur and studying in IIM-Calcutta, he had founded Appeti, a curated online marketplace. While completing his MBA in 2016, he met Dimple, who was working on her own startup, at the campus. The couple interacted over course work, bonded over startup and entrepreneurial dreams, and fell in love.
In September 2016, a routine health checkup led to the discovery that Nitesh had Stage 3 colorectal cancer. 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.
“Like any MBA student, he listed his short-term and long-term goals, organised funding details, on-going academic requirements, treatment options, and diet plan using Excel sheets,” Dimple recalls.
Through this journey, Dimple stood resolutely by Nitesh’s side. When Nitesh had to move to a place closer to lecture hall during MBA, Dimple chose to stay close to him to help him in his difficult time.
“When a person watches their life come to a close, everything else doesn’t matter. It turns out that something as simple as love is the only thing that matters,” Dimple says.
Despite his failing health, the couple decided to get engaged in 2016. The following year was filled with interventions, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, just when Nitesh and Dimple thought they had defeated the dreaded disease, a post-treatment scan in June 2017 showed that the disease had metastasised to his lungs, pelvis, and other abdominal areas. There were a total of 12 tumours.
Not willing to accept defeat, Nitesh and Dimple decided to get married and vowed to never leave each other’s side. And a newly-wed Dimple promised to heal her husband with her faith and love. They decided to move to the US to participate in various clinical trials, and they began crowdfunding for resources.
“When Nitesh and I first landed in the US for treatment, we felt like lost children, helpless, and remarkably incapable of making it on our own. However, we received financial and logistics support, and an immense amount of love and care from complete strangers,” she recalls.
A Gujarati couple, who came to know about them through the IIT-IIM alumni network, adopted them in America and helped them with housing; a local Indian prayer group helped them with groceries and food services.
“By January 2018, Nitesh was in pain, but there was no suffering. There was so much love and happiness in him; he wanted to give all this support back to the society that unconditionally helped him. And we decided to start Love Heals Cancer,” Dimple shares.
On March 14, 2018, cancer took Nitesh away from Dimple. Numb, Dimple couldn’t work for weeks. However, in June she decided that she would dedicate the rest of her life to complete her husband’s dream.
Through Love Heals Cancer, she aims to provide support, information, and services to help people in their journey against cancer. Their primary goal is to help cancer patients, their family members, friends, loved ones, and everyone else find unbiased information about healing options in conventional and alternative therapies. They also look at the psychological and spiritual aspects of cancer, and advocate communities of people with similar experiences to share and support each other.
“We also want to urge people to look at healing holistically – encompassing the mind, body, and spirit. Our team regularly goes through various researches conducted across the globe and shares finding with people. We want to make LHC a platform for anyone seeking information or support for cancer,” Dimple explains.
Dimple received counselling training from Commonweal, a non-profit cancer healing centre based in California. She was supported by multiple organisations, including Service Space, Doctors Beyond Medicine, and Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad.
Love Heals Cancer
LHC is a community of patients, caregivers, survivors, volunteers, individuals, and organisations, dedicated to providing love and support to cancer patients around the world.
Partnering with US-based cancer-care programmes at Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, Love Heals Cancer provide the following services to patients and caregivers in Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi.
1. Holistic healing
They help patients with complementary and integrative approaches to cancer by informing them about natural products and herbs, which help reduce the side effects of cancer treatment; train individuals in mind-body practices, which helps them to strengthen their mind and resolve to fight this disease; advocate healthy diet and exercises; engage in prayer and spiritual healing, thereby providing them the energy to go beyond the limitation of body.
2. Healing circles
This is an international learning community focusing on creating psycho-social support circles for people with cancer and other conditions. The aim is to explore healing in a learning community.
“Whether we feel broken or damaged by illness or some other condition, or incomplete through the trauma of loss or absence, the question remains: how do we make ourselves whole?,” Dimple explains.
Through healing circles, the team works with patients and caregivers, enabling them a safe environment to speak about the problems they are facing. Along with the community, they work together to discover the best ways to remove obstacles to healing, alleviate suffering, and deepen their capacity to heal.
3. Love Heals Cancer Help Programme
This is a three-day long retreat to help participants live better and, where possible, longer lives. The programme aims to address “the unmet needs” of people with cancer. It offers balanced exploration of choices in healing, biomedical, and integrative therapies, and emotional and spiritual dimensions of cancer.
4. End-of-Life Conversation
The aim of this initiative is to discuss death and dying with the patient and their families. This is done through conversations and mindful open discussions. The most important aspect is to accept death as a part of life. The team helps patients through meditation, decision making, and death contemplation.
5. Mind-Body Medicine Education
This programme teaches contemplative practices and skill-based approaches for successfully navigating the challenging care-giving environment. Through workshops and training seminars, the initiative trains individuals, organisations, communities, and institutions to become caregivers and get well versed with the challenges that come with cancer treatment.
A healing touch
Despite suffering the loss of a loved one at a young age, Dimple believes she has lived a complete life with Nitesh.
“It doesn’t matter how many years you live; what matters is how much you live in those years,” Dimple says.
Presently based in Mumbai, she hopes to extend the multiple programmes across India.
“By healing another individual you heal yourself as well. I know how quickly death comes, and that’s why I understand the value of life. By serving each patient I feel closer to Nitesh and I live to fulfil his dream and serve every individual battling this disease,” Dimple concludes.