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Rachna Tyagi
Rachna Tyagi

SURVIVOR STORY

It's okay to feel helpless: Manisha

Manisha-koirala Being diagnosed with cancer was a huge reality check for Manisha
  • Another important learning for Manisha was that not everything can be controlled and that it is alright to feel helpless and surrender completely so that your family can take care of you.

Manisha Koirala was constantly falling sick, every few days she would have a cough or a cold that would last for days and each time she felt she was getting better, another bout of illness would strike. This went on for almost six months during which Manisha continued to ignore the tell-tale signs. “I always felt tired and because of that I would push myself even more. I had put on weight and would always experience this bloated feeling and whatever I did, I wasn’t able to knock off the pounds that I had piled on. What I didn’t know was that the fluid in my stomach had increased so much that even a jerk in the car due to a pothole was enough to send me writhing in pain. That’s when it struck me that maybe something is wrong,” says Manisha.

It was when Manisha visited her home, in Nepal, that she decided to get a scan done. The results showed ovarian cancer. “My doctor broke the news to me in the gentlest way possible and my parents, my brother, and my aunt and uncle–both doctors were right there to support me. I was then rushed to Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai for further tests, and was taken straight to Dr. S.H. Advani. He was somebody I knew as he had helped a few poor Nepali cancer patients in the past. Never did it cross my mind that one day I would end up becoming his patient,” says Manisha. A lot of tests were carried out in Jaslok and things weren’t exactly looking up for Manisha. “Being an actor, I would read the doctor’s eyes and I could say that the news wasn’t good,” she said.

Luckily for Manisha, her mother’s closest friends happened to be well-known doctors based in New York. They told her to get Manisha to New York without wasting any more time and also assured her that she would get the best medical treatment there. “Soon, we flew to the US, and there they had arranged an appointment for me with Dr. Dennis Chi at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York,” says Manisha.

Manisha’s case was rather complicated. “But everything fell into place by the grace of God,” she says. “The surgery lasted almost 9 hours but it was super successful and they were able to weed out 99.9% of the cancer. The rest, the heavy doses of chemotherapy took out. Dr. Chi had cautioned me and my folks that he wasn’t sure of how I would react to the chemotherapy and it wasn’t easy having two holes in my stomach, but I showed very good results,” says Manisha.

“Chemo is torturous, but it is very important to get the sessions on time and not delay them. I had 6 sessions of chemo for 18 days, each session had three chemos and this went on for four months.” During the time Dr. Chi and Dr. Vicky Makker of Sloan-Kettering Hospital, were extremely compassionate. Dr. Makker encouraged me to eat right, exercise right and I learnt a lot about nutrition from her during my treatment.

During this time, Manisha had the support of not only her doctors but also her parents and her brother. “My mother would ensure that I’d eat and drink haldi ka doodh (milk with turmeric) every morning and my father ensured that I got some exercise everyday, even if it was just walking 5-6 rounds or doing stretches in the hospital room. My kid brother seemed to have matured overnight, In addition, friends and extended family would also call up and lend support. Then there was Dr. Navneet Narula of Weill Medical College of Cornell who would drive down every Sunday to visit and spend time with me. She would just sit with me and talk. She inspired me to go out and help others who were in the same situation and I hope to be able to lend support to others, the way she did to me,” says Manisha.

Being diagnosed with cancer was a huge reality check for Manisha. She says, “I understood what family means realised and realized how important relationships are. It was also a time when I saw that people who truly care stick by you and the ones who don’t disappear.” Another important learning for Manisha was that not everything can be controlled and that it is alright to feel helpless and surrender completely so that your family can take care of you.

“We spend all of our time running after things, living busy lives, with hectic schedules, working hard, sometimes non-stop, flying red-eye flights and we have never been really trained to focus on our bodies and ourselves but it is very important that we don't ever lose sight of that,” says Manisha.“I had a very hectic lifestyle, doing three shifts every day, working hard, sometimes even 18-20 hours a week, partying hard, but now when I look back, I strongly feel that we need to pause and think because nothing is more important than being healthy, and by healthy I mean not just in terms of body but also mind and spirit. Achieving this balance is vital to one’s well-being,” says Manisha.

These days, Manisha is busy promoting health and wellness festivals. “Not boring health conferences but an entire holistic health festival,” she says. “I am trying to make it fashionable to be fit and I don’t mean skinny, but robust healthy,” she adds. Besides going to Oneness University in Chennai, you can also catch Manisha in a few films which she will be acting in this year, but that’s not all…“I am hoping to pen down my thoughts,” reveals the star.

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