When Ramanlal Patel boarded a jet back to the U.S., he thought he had a long trip in front of him — but he could not have imagined the journey it would become.
It was the day he began his journey as a cancer survivor. Cancer survivorship starts the moment someone is diagnosed. It includes those considered cured, as well as resilient people like Patel who live with cancer every day.
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Patel’s story started in 1999 on his way home from India to Rohnert Park, Calif. He arrived visibly exhausted — unusual for the former soccer and cricket standout. His family urged him to see a doctor.
The diagnosis: multiple myeloma, the second-most common blood cancer and a difficult disease to treat successfully.
Patel sought care at the nearby University of California, San Francisco, and after five months of aggressive chemotherapy, he had a bone marrow transplant and was ready to start his life again. He and his family traveled the world. New Zealand. Fiji. And India again.
He and his wife climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, appreciating every sight before eventually returning home.
Unfortunately, their time together grew to a close — not because of his cancer, but because of his wife’s heart. While the family was attending a San Francisco Giants game, she collapsed of a heart attack and died.
“I had a fight with God for two weeks,” Patel lamented. “‘Why did you take her?’”
To compound his grief, his cancer returned. And despite a second transplant in 2008, the cancer resisted treatment.
Today, he is grateful to live with his daughter in Southern California, and he is managing his disease under the continuing care of Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of City of Hope’s Clinical Multiple Myeloma Program.
Ever smiling, Patel traveled to City of Hope from Orange County, Calif., in June to be part of National Cancer Survivors Day, despite fatigue from chemotherapy.
“Last night I felt terrible, but I decided I had to come,” he said. “You have to remain positive.”
He continues to embrace life and urges other survivors to do the same. “People cried when they found out I had relapsed,” remembered Patel. “But I said, ‘Why are you crying? I’m not crying.’”