Mahesh Acharya, 50: Photographer. Cancer Detected: In 1996 and 2006.
He was a gem stone trader in 1995, picking up polished glittering pieces from artisans and selling these to bigger merchants in lanes of Johri Bazar in Pink City of Jaipur when he began having a problem in testicles with mild, intermittent fever.
He took casual treatment for six months before he was operated upon and his testicle removed. “On January 4, the biopsy report received from Mumbai confirmed cancer and that was the day, my son, my only child, was born,” he recalls.
His elder brother did not disclose it to him and a physician friend Dr C.S. Baid suggested him to consult Dr Hemant Malhotra, a cancer specialist at the SMS Medical College and Hospital.
Mahesh Acharya took the prescription, unaware about his disease, to a chemist, where high cost of medicines shocked him. It was the chemist who explained to him the disease and the expenses involved. “Although Dr Malhotra had assured me full cure but I did not know what to do. For a few weeks, I kept wondering if it was worth to spend all my savings of Rs five lakh on treatment or leave it to my son if I had to die eventually,” he says.
For months together, his wife and the infant would sleep in a separate room to keep them safe from the side effects of Acharya’s treatment. Dr Baid and Dr Malhotra prevailed upon him to opt for treatment and in November, he finally got a cancer-free report.
“Around that time, my father, who always believed that none of his children could die before him, breathed his last. The treatment in those days used to be very painful with a lot of side effects. But my doctors supported me like anything. They would respond to my midnight calls, reassuring and advising me consistently,” he says.
The disease forced him to change from gem stone trading to family profession of photography: his father and two brothers were photographers. There is now no looking back despite a second occurrence of cancer. He takes it lightly, but Dr Malhotra calls it a stage-four case when in 2006, Acharya was diagnosed with a cancer in intestine. “It was timely and quick intervention through a surgery and I recovered fast,” Acharya recalls.
“That is why we insist for a regular follow-up of cancer patients even if they are cured first time,” says Dr Malhotra.
“Nobody in my circle knows about it and I have led a normal life since November 1996,” Acharya says. “And I enjoy my new profession of photography more.”
He is happy, still lives near Hawa Mahal and enjoys taking up assignments and shooting around monuments. Yes, the pain, depression, suffering and perhaps the cost of treatment could have been lesser had he not lost seven months but he has got over this. “What a cancer patient needs to have is a strong will power,” he says. He has had that.