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I Beat Cancer Thanks to My Wife’s Nudge for Regular Health Checkups: Lessons from a Survivor

When Ninad Raikar's wife asked him to get a routine check-up done after he hit his 40s, he found that he had a tumour in his bladder. What was a simple health run soon turned into an unexpected journey full of ups and downs.

I Beat Cancer Thanks to My Wife’s Nudge for Regular Health Checkups: Lessons from a Survivor

In 2023, I encountered a life-altering challenge – a battle with bladder cancer. This unexpected journey, marked by early detection and unwavering determination, reshaped my perspective on health and resilience.

Originally from Mumbai, I now call Singapore my home. During a routine visit back to the city, I decided it was time for a thorough health check-up. At 41, prompted by my wife’s gentle nudge (more like a push), I opted for a comprehensive assessment to ensure I was on the right track.

While I’ve always aimed for a balanced lifestyle — good work-life balance, moderate exercise, and indulgence — nothing prepared me for the news buried within my test results. A seemingly innocuous observation in my bladder imaging report (presence of a tumour) sparked a whirlwind of consultations and medical jargon.

The advice from all was clear. I had to undergo a surgical procedure called the TransUrethral Resection of Bladder Tumour i.e. ‘TURBT’. Once the tumour is removed, it would be sent for biopsy to test for malignancy. 

One of the key decisions to be taken was which doctor or hospital to choose for the TURBT. 

While seeking different opinions, I met two doctors. One of them was an experienced head of the department at a leading commercial hospital in Mumbai. 

However, the doctor spoke in monologues as he was very busy and used to get irritated when too many questions were asked. The impression this gave me was that he knows what he is doing and that’s why I have come to him. His reputation preceded everything. 

The second doctor was a young surgeon who took his time in explaining everything in detail to me and answered all my questions patiently. He didn’t work for a particular hospital but gave me a choice of multiple hospitals where he would do the surgery. 

After giving it a considerable amount of thought, I went for the more experienced, monologue-speaking doctor. The experience, process and my key takeaways from the entire journey are presented here in this article with The Better India.

"I have realised that the skills of a doctor are important but so are the bedside manners," says Ninad Raikar.
“I have realised that the skills of a doctor are important but so are the bedside manners,” says Ninad Raikar.

Taking the first step

At the Mumbai hospital, I underwent the TURBT procedure to have the tumour removed. 

The biopsy confirmed the presence of low-grade papillary urothelial carcinoma (Grade 1 to 3). The tumour was cancerous but as it was luckily detected early, it had not spread to the bladder muscle. 

The treatment was essentially over – tumour removed, cancer no longer in the body. 

As part of the protocol for such cases, I was given one injection of Mitomycin in the bladder, which is chemo treatment.

However, post discharge, I had discomfort passing urine and on consulting with my doctor, I was told that it will go away on its own and is a normal side effect of a TURBT. 

But even after more than a month of this not going away, I stopped asking my doctor for advice as he had nothing new to say. And the TURBT protocol is the same globally. I had to undergo a cystoscopy every 3 months for 1 year, followed by one every 6 months for the next 2 years, and then annually for the next 2 years. 

By then, I had moved back to Singapore, and during my first planned cystoscopy, another tiny tumour surfaced. The doctor also identified a condition called ‘urethral strictures’ which occur due to trauma caused to the urethra during a surgical procedure. 

Now, I had two things to fix — another tumour and the urethral strictures (likely caused by the monologue-speaking doctor or his assistants during my first TURBT). 

The tumour was removed during the second TURBT and its biopsy confirmed that it was benign! 

Given my experience with the doctor in Mumbai, I was clear that I was going to go with a doctor in Singapore who has the time to answer all my questions – however silly they may seem to be. I chose the doctor accordingly and the experience was wonderful. 

I have realised that the skills of a doctor are important but so are the bedside manners.

I have now gone through my first year of cystoscopy and am now tumour-free and cancer-free! I was very lucky to have chosen to get a preventive check-up done. Early detection helped me beat cancer.

Here are the lessons I learned-

  1. Prioritise regular check-ups to stay ahead of potential health challenges, especially as we age. Given the lifestyles that we lead, the pollution and climate change we face, it may be good to do additional check-ups. I always choose a health check-up package which is meant for men older than me. The more tests the merrier.
  2. Don’t rely only on blood reports as they cannot catch early stage issues. Include essential imaging modalities in your check-up regimen to catch abnormalities early on. The minimum recommended imaging is an ECG, chest X ray, USG abdomen and pelvis. You can get these done once a year.
  3. Ensure comprehensive insurance coverage to alleviate financial burdens during medical emergencies. All my procedures were covered by insurance. Opt for medical cover which covers ‘deductibles’.
  4. Seek multiple opinions to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Do not hurry. Not every medical problem is an emergency. More opinions give you clarity and choice. While selecting a doctor – it may be useful to check his/her bio and it is helpful if the doctor has done some form of teaching in medical colleges or written research papers, or worked for govt/not-for-profit hospitals. Commercially-inclined doctors’ caregiving is different (to the point, black and white advice) versus other doctors who do really care.
  5. Pay attention to the quality of care (bedside manners) provided by nursing staff when selecting hospitals. Go to a doctor who has time for you, who answers your multiple questions with a smile. Half of this battle is mental, the rest 50% is dependent on the doctors’ skills.
  6. Speak to patients who have undergone similar procedures. In the age of digital media, it is easy to find people who are ready to share their learnings and experience.

This article has been written by Ninad Raikar, the head of business operations at an OTT platform. He has been chronicling his battle with cancer. All picture credits go to the writer.

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not imply endorsement or promotion of any service. No claims, whether expressed or implied, are made by The Better India. Furthermore, The Better India accepts no liability whatsoever for the reliability of any of the views expressed above.

Edited by Padmashree Pande.

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