Cancer-survivor spreads hope through cycling
By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Damas: Marcellina W Sangma is happy that she has got a second chance to live for others.
When she decided to cycle 600 km uphill for 11 days to Arunachal Pradesh, she had one goal in mind: tell the world that there is cure for cancer. So she set out from Guwahati with her two friends — Vaibhav Prasad Desai and Jitin Pavithran from Mumbai — in May 2016, flagged off by the same doctor who treated her cancer.
She was 12 and at school when she noticed a growth near her left ear. As it grew in size, she was alarmed and approached the doctor who at once operated upon her. He assured her everything was fine.
For the next five years she lived a normal life with her parents and younger sister at Damas, North Garo Hills. in Meghalaya.
Five years later when the tumor reappeared, her life went ‘topsy-turvey,’ Marcellina told Matters India.
Her parents searched for alternative treatments including herbal and Ayurveda. But nothing seemed to help. The tumor grew and it choked her throat making it very difficult to breathe and swallow food.
“It affected my vocal cords and voice sounded hoarse,” she recalled sitting in her house at Guwahati, Assam.
At the suggestion of the doctor she went to All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for better treatment followed by radiation therapy. It was in 2000.
The operation was successful leaving no trace of the tumor. However, the operation had left a huge dent on her body. While removing the tumor, some of the nerves also had to be removed resulting in facial palsy.
“The normal tendency of a girl is to look beautiful and this is sure to leave one depressed. But it could not break my spirit and I am quite happy to get a second chance to live my life for others. I feel quite normal and I am in no way inferior to others,” says Marcellina, who is now 39, with a smile. Her husband Christopher, a web designer, stood nearby.
Both of them were pen pals since school years. After graduation when Christopher went to meet her at Damas, her parents told him about her health situation. Nothing could stop him in his love for her.
“If it had happened after the marriage?” he asked her parents. And they accepted him into their family.
Christopher recalled that his wife goes for cycling every day to maintain her health. “So when she asked me if she could join her friends who were cycling to Arunachal Pradesh, I encouraged her. I would take care of our little daughter while she was away.”
Marcellina joined in. “I wanted to join my friends and spread the message that cancer is curable. Basically I am a philanthropist. My traumatic experience with cancer has strengthened my soul and spirit. I have always been helpful; I used to help others in whatever way possible – helping children learn, offering assistance to dropout youths and help them land good jobs, assisting the sick by meeting and interacting with doctors and helping the poorest of the poor with whatever I can contribute.
“I could be of immense help to those people even if I raise awareness among people of cancer teaching them how to take everything in their stride without losing their fighting spirit and living a life with positive attitude.
“At every stop we met people and I could make them understand that early detection of cancer is very important and this would pave the way for complete cure. I told them it is good to maintain good diet, and follow regular exercise to help to lead a disease free life. Cycling- the two wheels that move the soul – can work wonders reaching people in every nook and cranny.”
“First, the idea of pedaling thousands of miles sounded quite foolish. But when I came to know about the cause for which he had undertaken the cycle tour, everything changed. If one man can help in the creation of awareness of cancer touching people’s hearts, more persons with the same goal can spread the good news more effectively. Thus was born the idea of cycling for life. I am thankful to my friends Vaibhav and Jitin for having joined my team on wheels for creating awareness of cancer,” Marcelline added.
She says she got the fighting spirit from her father Reghunath K Marak. The employee of the Assam government, he is known for his initiatives in their village. He was among the first to try out rubber cultivation in his area which brought him rich dividends. His success prompted many neighbors to launch into rubber cultivation which helped grow the economic situation of the village.