October 22, 2016
Trichy: “There are no mercy petitions for a crime as heinous as smoking, and a long term price must be paid,” says 70-year-old Nilakanta Siva, alias Sivaram, a former nuclear physicist with the Baba Atomic Research Centre, Maharashtra.
Sivaram smoked up to five packs a day for 40 years in his younger days and he paid in the form of bladder cancer with gross haematuria when he thought he could enjoy a happy retired life in his hometown in coastal Tamil Nadu.
While Sivaram makes light of his present condition, he wants to turn the attention of the young generation to the pitfalls of smoking and tobacco addiction through his recently released book, ‘When Thoughts Invade The Cancer Conqueror’ ( published by Notion Press).
“Wasn’t a 15-year abstinence from smoking sufficient atonement for the 40-year tobacco addiction?” he asks in the book, knowing well that the answer is a no. Written in a conversational style, the book traces the fear, anguish, and desperation of a cancer patient.
An IITian, Sivaram, was afflicted with bladder cancer years after he quit smoking. “I kicked the butt after nearly 40 years of smoking, when my sons reached their teenage years, as I didn’t want to set a bad example for them.” Yet, eventually the dreaded disease could not be avoided.
After retirement, Sivaram set up a medical transcription company and was getting busy again, when one morning he showed symptoms of gross hematuria, when there was blood in the urine, and he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Repeated cystoscopy and visits to uro-oncologists in different cities followed. Radiotherapy did not help and the only way out was surgical removal of his bladder, along with his prostrate and lymph nodes, to prevent the cancer from spreading to nearby organs.
“Cigarette smoke contains carcinogenic agents; some act locally, while others impact distant cells, causing damage at the genetic level. The auto-repair mechanisms of the body are affected by cigarette smoke, resulting in inherent defence mechanisms going out of commission,” Sivaram says.
Sivaram has lived to tell the tale. With his bladder, prostrate and several lymph nodes removed after a laparoscopic surgical procedure, he has to carry a urostomy bag, which collects his urine, outside his body and must be emptied periodically.
“Yes, I waged a hard battle against cancer and am a survivor now, but how many young smokers, who are smoking away their youthful years will be as lucky?” he asks. “There would have been only half the number of cases of bladder cancer, if we had listened to our parents’ advice to quit smoking when we were teenagers in the 1960s. I want the present generation to realise the fact that smoking kills.”