We live in an age where knowledge sharing and nurturing are key aspects of leadership. A true leader is expected to be honest about what knowledge he possesses and what he doesn’t, and to share the skills he has garnered as a result of his experience.
In that sense, Mehul Vyas is a leader to many cancer survivors, patients and caregivers. Having gone through a brutal journey with stage IV head and neck cancer, Mehul decided to use that experience to help others complete their own cancer journeys.
From explaining procedures like chemotherapy and radiation to patients, to giving them a balanced understanding of the good, bad and ugly sides of cancer, Mehul has been a friend in need to many.
Having understood the role that tobacco smoking played in his cancer, he has taken up de-addiction activism by talking to youngsters over social media. A strong advocate of the buddy system, he keeps close contact with them to talk them through their weakest moments, all the way to victory.
In the latest session of our cancer support circle, Talk Your Heart Out, Mehul shared his cancer story, his life after cancer and tips on tobacco de-addiction. You can read his diary here.
Watch him speak about his cancer journey here.
Here we look at some key ideas we can borrow from Mehul, to help us all in our respective struggles:
Study your enemy
When he was diagnosed with cancer, Mehul could think about nothing other than cancer. He spent his time reading everything he could find on the topic, to understand just what he was up against.
He asked questions from his treating team of oncologists, to equip himself with as much information on his condition as he could. In his own words, “When you go into battle, you have to understand your enemy.”
To keep a clear head and focus on the problem at hand, rather than be overwhelmed by its enormity is a very difficult thing to do. Mehul has done it and he is more than happy to explain how.
Ask for help
Mehul is not shy to admit that his wife has an enormous role to play in his cancer fight. But he also knows not to depend on her more than he absolutely has to.
When he mentors youngsters through de-addiction, he encourages them to pair up with someone else who has successfully quit smoking, to bring the power of two to the fight.
Having someone to talk to when you feel like smoking, can help. The other person’s job is to distract you and stay with you till you make it through a week or two without smoking.
After that point, Mehul says, you don’t need that kind of help. You will be able to better control the urge to smoke, by yourself.
You can read more about smoking and cancer here.
Don’t stop trying
Soon after his cancer treatment, Mehul was overcome by the urge to start working again. He wanted very much to return to whatever normalcy he could. He was fed up of sitting at home, waiting to get better.
So he applied for a job and got it. The job required him to keep speaking all day long, and for someone with one vocal cord in place of two, that was no easy task. But he took the job because he wanted to work.
He still had a tube into his stomach and he could not eat from his month yet. He used to pour his food into his stomach bag in the washroom, as none of his colleagues yet knew that he was a cancer survivor.
There were plenty of reasons for him to stop. But he didn’t want to stop and there is something very inspiring about that determination.
Having completed his cancer treatment successfully, Mehul could easily have gone ahead with living his own life. But he chose to be present in cancer communities to cheer the others on.
He spends time online monitoring a couple of online communities so that the user experience is not ruined by unsolicited posts selling unscientific cures and treatments. He calls out misinformation at lightning speed. He takes on imposters to keep the space clean and empathetic.
He shares the knowledge he has gained freely and with anyone who asks for it. He takes his responsibility as a mentor very seriously. He is measured in the advice he gives, and very careful to stick to facts.
Learn to have fun
Mehul admits that earlier, he felt partying, smoking and using alcohol to have a good time was the only way of having fun. But now he knows better.
Today, he can enjoy himself by going for a walk around his beautiful neighbourhood, taking in the pretty sights. A bowl of ice-cream on his cheat day can also be fun. Just to sit and watch a sunset is something he can now enjoy.
Everyone has a different path to happiness and we need to find what works for us. But having someone like Mehul around definitely makes happiness seem more attainable, even in the face of cancer.
We thank Mehul for being the Miracle Man who makes our community a much better place. We have gained much from your experience, and hope to keep learning from you in the years to come.