Tobacco Addiction Changed My Life. It Shouldn't Change Yours: Survivor Umesh Bhosale’s Warning Against Oral Cancer
Umesh Vittal Bhosale, an oral cancer survivor, a man who once built a world of love, comfort, joy, and greenery with his close-knit family, found himself at a crossroads when life took a sudden and drastic turn. Faced with a challenging diagnosis, he chose courage over silence. In a poignant conversation with the CancerMitr team, Umesh expressed the need for time to recall and process his diagnosis. Despite this, he was determined to share his story, opting to type it out in a WhatsApp message to allow a more genuine flow of emotions and thoughts.
Meet Umesh, a vibrant 65-year-old who proudly identifies as a Mumbaikar yet carries with him his connection to his roots in the village of Kinhai in the Satara district. This quaint village echoes his family’s farming legacy, where his father and grandfather toiled under the sun as enthusiastic farmers. His father then chose to migrate to Mumbai, where he eventually opened a cafeteria, becoming the cornerstone of familial support.
Reflecting on a pivotal moment, Umesh shares, “On June 27, 1975, I received my class 10 results. Despite academic challenges in the following years, I persevered and eventually found meaningful employment.” In these words, we glimpse the resilience that became a guiding force in Umesh’s journey, laying the foundation for the chapters yet to unfold.
For a long time, his routine was straight – waking up at 6 am, doing all rituals and morning activities, going to the office, and coming back. Then, one day, destiny led him to the habit of tobacco consumption, even during work hours.
“Later, I started consuming gutkha. Day by day, I found myself consumed by it, indulging in this harmful habit for 10 to 12 hours daily, all while working relentlessly. Despite efforts from those around me, the addiction persisted,” he said in a message to CancerMitr. Eventually, he developed two unusual lumps on his right cheek.
As his fingers traced the unfamiliar contours, an undeniable truth emerged – it is something that could not be brushed aside.
Turning to a renowned hospital in Mumbai, he faced a profound diagnosis of oral cavity cancer. The prescribed path forward was daunting – the surgical removal of the tumour, a decision that weighed heavily on Umesh and his family.
“My doctor outlined a perfect treatment plan involving both chemotherapy to shrink the tumour and a subsequent surgery,” he said. He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, and after three months, a glimmer of hope emerged as the tumour diminished sufficiently for the crucial surgery. Though successful, the operation unfurled a set of physical and social challenges that Umesh and his loved ones had to navigate.
All of the teeth on his right side had to be removed for the surgery. That left him vulnerable to severity caused by extremely hot and spicy food items. He did not undergo any additional therapy to deal with pain and other side effects other than usual medications. However, he made sure that he ate enough nutritious, rich food.
“Still, I was very weak. I was resting all the time,” he said.
He narrated how his cancer diagnosis affected his family. His elder daughter, confronted with the looming spectre of losing her father, found herself in the clutches of depression. The heaviness permeated every corner, casting shadows over family and peers alike. Yet, amidst the prevailing sadness, a collective resilience emerged.
Umesh’s wife stood by him as his pillar of strength. Their dinners became more than just meals – they were a sanctuary of support, a quiet acknowledgement of shared battles. The warmth of her presence illuminated the path forward.
Additionally, Mr Nirav Raveshia, the company leader where Umesh once worked, emerged as an unwavering beacon of support. His wholehearted encouragement transcended professional boundaries, extending to genuine care and financial aid. In Umesh’s words, “Mr. Nirav regarded me as his own and offered me his assurances,” a testament to the profound impact of compassion and solidarity in times of need.
Today, he is living a pretty normal life but acknowledges how radically things have changed for him.
Today, he is living a pretty normal life but acknowledges how radically things have changed for him. He often faced insensitivity from people because his entire right side had changed, and people didn’t want to look.
“It is my humble request to people to please refrain from tobacco chewing, gurkha, smoking and other harmful habits. You have no idea how difficult things become, not just for you but for your family as well. They suffer with you, mentally, financially, and socially,” he said.
He added that life is precious, and people should dedicate their lives to all the good things, including supporting those who need it, while they can.
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