Their Journeys

Keyur Patel

Intro to me and my Cancer journey in 5 emotions fight

Well I’m your usual type of second generation Asian British lad, I’m short annoying, loud. Ahh yes and I have cancer. Chronic a Myeloid Leukaemia to be precise.

I want to start by saying that I am one of the lucky ones. Why you might ask. Well it’s simple, I get to live. Others are not so lucky.

I wasn’t sure how this particular blog / blogs would be formed, as with most of my writing they form eventually after I mull things over in my head and I eventually get to what I am doing now. The actual writing of it.

I’ve broken down the blogs into 5 parts that pretty much sum up the different stages that I went through when I was diagnosed and in the weeks after. I will go into more detail in my book, when its published, not if…..when.

The 5 emotions

  • Fight
  • Fear
  • Fairness
  • Hate / Anger
  • Acceptance

Now I’ve heard this word used a lot, in part by me but also by others when they talk about fighting cancer, battling cancer. I’m going to try and summarise what that actually meant for me.

When I was given the news on the 20th September 2012 that I had either Leukaemia or Lymphoma, I’m not sure it had the effect on me that the Doctor thought it would. I was in Charging cross, having various drips coming out of me, my vitals were getting back to normal and the Doc even joked that I was being a hypochondriac . Man was he wrong lol.

I’ll never forget it, one of the Doctors that was dealing with me came back and showed the Dr I mention above the results. He then said “run the tests again” the Doctor that had the results said “we did, we rang them twice”. He then gave me the news that I suspect no one really wants to hear. I vaguely remember him saying about my white blood cells and mentioning 275,000 and some other bits.

The conversation went a bit like this

Doc – “Keyur the results are back and…..medial blurb, it’s likely to be Leukaemia or Lymphoma

Me – “ok Doc how do we beat it”,

Doc – “Keyur did you hear what I said”

Me – “I heard you mate but I’m waiting for that proverbial fucking bus to run me over, so how do we fight it”.

He then went back to Dr mode and told me a series of things that would happen, most of which I cant remember. I do remember my ex wife asking the Doc to give us a moment and then bursting into tears and me consoling her telling her that it would all be ok. I guess there’s some strange irony in that.

What I didn’t realise then but realised something I realised later and even now. Just saying “I’m going to fight it’ and actually fighting it on a day to day basis are two very different things.

The true fight comes when you’re curled up in your bed and the tears and flowing freely because you’re joints are hurting or your just in pain and your thinking, how is this fair. Why me. What did I do that was so wrong to be given this illness.

However, as with everything, eventually the tears stop flowing, you uncurl yourself wipe away whatever excess tears are on your cheeks, you stand up, look in mirror and say I can and I will. That’s the true fight.

For someone battling / fighting an illness whether its cancer or depression (both of which I have some experience of) the above is the reality of life.

So when you’ve finished reading this, if you know someone apart from me battling something, illness, fear, debt, depression whatever. Send them a text, snap, tweet, like, ping or whatever.

Do something to show them you are there. Trust me when I say it will mean more to them then you realise.

Their Journeys

Aaron Singh

My journey to positive health

The year 2015 was supposed to be a positive year, I started university, things were looking positive, but somehow I wasn’t as happy as I should be. I noticed that I was tired a lot, I didn’t have the energy or motivation to get out of bed, to begin with I thought nothing of it I thought maybe I’m just overtired, but then things got worse. I started thinking negative thoughts, I made myself believe that people were against me, even my own family. Situations were getting quite tough and I was scared to leave the house, my thoughts were getting more and more negative, the feeling of worthlessness and useless, every day I used to think why am I alive?

 After searching on the internet, I was introduced to mental health, but I thought I can’t be depressed, us Sikhs we don’t suffer with depression or mental health, but as time went on, things began to get worse, I then thought despite me being a Sikh I’m still human I’m the same as every other human no matter what race or ethnicity, I started to believe yes I did suffer with mental health issues, but I was too afraid to admit it, I didn’t want to tell my family because I thought they would reject me and disown me, I remember sitting in my room on my computer chair in the dark staring out the window crying, my mum came into my room and she noticed me upset, that’s when I built up the courage to just say look I don’t feel good in myself, and gods honest truth, the reaction was heart-breaking. My mum was in tears and so was my dad, they said ‘son we will help you, we’re a family we’re going to get through this, anyone can suffer with mental health, we love you’ admitting my problem was the best thing I ever did.

After going to the doctors the next day I was put on anti-depressants, and gave me helpline supports which was put into place. However things didn’t stop there, as days went on I began to start hallucinating, I starting hearing disturbing voices inside my head, they got louder and more frequent and they increased in numbers, they were old people talking, young children singing nursery rhymes, dark demon voices talking another language, this is when I thought I’ve got a problem, turns out I’ve got psychosis too. I was questioning I am I different from everyone else, I’ve never seen a Sikh with psychosis, the elder generation would say to me your being silly it’s all in your head and they brushed it off this really brought me down.

Fast forward to 2019 I’m now in recovery I’m seeing regular psychiatrists and care coordinator, I wanted to turn my experience and knowledge to help others in similar situations as me, I wanted to raise awareness in the Sikh culture that just because we’re Sikhs it doesn’t mean we’re are immune to mental health, we’re human like anyone else, I just want anyone who sees any warning signs or begin to feel unwell, don’t suffer in silence, seek help. There are so many amazing people out there to help. I for one will be someone who will always help any person in the best way I can, because if I can do it, why can’t anyone else, remember Waheguru (God) does things for a reason trust god and he will put you on the right path.

My name is Aaron Singh Randhawa and this is my journey.

Their Journeys

Tegh Singh

Tomatoes and Turbans

Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh. 

First and foremost, I would like to thank Maharaj for giving me the opportunity to write this blog post for Sikh Forgiveness. Without their endless blessings nothing would be possible. Sikh for Forgiveness are doing a great sewa of raising awareness of mental health related issues such a job stress, depression and anxiety. 

Depression and Anxiety is one of those things that can just hit you. One moment you’re feeling fine / ‘top of the pops’ and the next minute you are feeling so depressed and miserable that you don’t have the energy to even get out of bed. You may have so many nice things planned and yet you can’t physically do any of them. It can make you feel like you want to shut the whole world out of your life and just sit in a dark room on your own. Many people who suffer from depression may well appear outwardly fine but deep down their not. 

My approach to getting and feeling better is driven by natural self-help. I base my life around a pyramid structure. 

Sikhi is the foundation stone of the pyramid without strong foundations the pyramid would fall apart. Sikhi and Guru Sahib provides us with our daily structure. Our structured day starts with waking up early and doing out Nitnem. In the evening structure is again re-applied when we read Rehras Sahib and finally Kirtan Sohilla before going to bed. If we follow Guru Sahib and keep them at the forefront of our minds, they will do the kirpa (Blessings) on us and settle our mind and make us happy. 

The second layer in the pyramid in my gardening and allotment. Along with Sikhi it provided me with additional structure to my day.  For example, If I don’t water my plants and vegetables they will die, if I don’t sow more seeds, we won’t have any vegetables to eat, if I don’t dig up the weeds they will take over.  It gives me more daily motivation to get going and keep going. It also my escape from the world and a place to relax unwind away from the pressures of life and work-related stress. Plus, I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of sowing a small seed, nurturing it into a seedling, then into a plant which then turns into a something you can eat. I’m outside in all weathers and there is something very therapeutic about having your hands covered with mud and dirt. Or getting caught off guard by in a rainstorm. Being at one with the soil and mother nature has so many naturally healing properties.  Or just chilling out on a freezing cold January day with some hot soup. Just being outside makes a big difference. 

The third layer is cooking and trying to eat healthily.  Your body is like a temple. If you eat junk food that is full of saturated fats or processed food packed full of preservatives, e-numbers and chemicals this is ultimately going to affect your mood, how you think and feel inside and how you react to other people and the world. Not to the mention the potential side effects of other medical conditions such as clinical obesity or type two diabetes which is becoming major problem in western society and within our community. If we eat a well-balanced diet, which is largely unprocessed this in itself will make us feel must happier, settled and contempt. It’s not about saying you can never eat pizza or sticky toffee pudding. It’s about balance. The Ying and Yang. 

The four layers of the pyramid is exercise and physically keeping fit. This is something that I need to work harder on this year. Last year I was training for a triathlon and I was the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I was cycling into London 2 days per week (45 miles per trip) going for two 10 mile runs, 2 swims and finishing the week off with a 55+ mile bike ride on Saturday and  10 mile run from my house to Park Avenue gurdwara in army boots with 10kg weighted rucksack. I simply went to quickly, hammering it and ended up burning out… Hopefully maharaj will do the kirpa on me so I can get back into it. When you do exercise your body released happy hormones making us feel better. 

I think all layers of the pyramid relate back to the Gur Sikhi way of life.  For example, when you are growing your own vegetables and fruit you know exactly where your food comes from.  So if you buy food off a supermarket shelve how do you know who handled it as it been passed through from producer to supermarket through the hands of the sower, the  harvester, the shelve stacker and finally to the checkout assistant who bleeps it through the till… you don’t. We should also care for the environment  and mother nature so does it make sense to eat fruit and vegetables which have been flown half way around the world, wrapped in loads of plastic wrap, with loads of air miles and pollution when you can walk 5 minutes from your house and harvest your own? Plus, do you really want to eat fruit and vegetables which have been sprayed with preservatives and chemicals to make them last longer? Do you want to eat non-organic food whereby the land has been sprayed with pesticides that kill all the nature and wildlife to get the crop? 

Eating healthy and exercise relate back to Sikhi. The Khalsa should be healthily.  Guru Angad Dev Ji Maharaj used to encourage Sikhs to wrestle in his court.  The Khalsa is an army which should be fit and strong. 

I also do all of the above for my daughter. What we teach our kids is what they become. If you let your kids sit around and watch telly tubbies that is what they will become. If you feed your kids ready meals that is what they will think is ‘real’ cooking. If you don’t exercise and sit around watching TV that is the lifestyle that your kids with adapt. Do you want your kids to turn out like that?  Do you want your kids to be depressed? Do you want your kids to overweight and obese to the extent they are bullied at school… Do you want to have to explain to your child that they have type two diabetes because of your poor lifestyle choices… No. That is why I see my daughter’s upbringing more like like a training program. First is basics, now she  is helping me at the allotment and learning how to grow, forage for wild food, what the good bugs are and bad bugs, then next is going to be teaching her boxing and self-defiance (To deal with any bullies)  then archery, then it will be horse riding, etc Each year we will keep adding to it to the practical life skill set. By the time she is 10 she will be set up for life. 

By now you are most likely falling asleep with this incredibly boring blog post. My way of thinking is based on my own real-life experiences and how I personally feel inside. It’s not based on academia or medical knowledge. 

However, always remember that when you are troubled by a problem, a problem shared is a problem halved. Also remember that Guru Sahib is there for you no matter who you are, what religion you follow, what colour you are, no matter what you have done, no matter what your problem is, even if you have been to everyone doors first. When we tell Guru Sahib our problems, they will deal with it.  Our problems become their problems. When we place out head and hands at our Guru’s feet they will reach out, grab hold of own hands and never let go. 

If I said anything in this post that offends you then das humbly seeks the sangats forgiveness. Let’s come together as a panth and unite under one nishan sahib. 

Vaheguru JI Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ki Ji Fateh. 

Their Journeys

Beautiful Kaur

UK 24, government clerk.

My mental health and Body image struggle

I’ve never been a slim girl, but neither did I view myself being slim even as a child. I grew up with my family telling me to lose weight due to not fitting into clothes which were not for my age.

As life went on nothing changed all my friends wore figure hugging clothes and all my family member made jokes of how I was bigger than their daughters and wore lose fitting clothes like the older woman did.

When I use to travel to India, I had shop keepers tell me in their terminology that I needed plus size clothes IE “healthy” because I was a curvy girl. With years of being uncomfortable in my body and struggling to understand my condition I have not appreciated the way, which has affected the way I look at myself.

Then at the age of 23 I was diagnosed with a medical condition which effected my weight, my mood and my hair.  I go to the gym 3x a week and I eat quite healthy, but this never helped my mood as the condition threw my metabolism all over the place. As most of you will know as you get older your body changes which sometimes you cannot control.

I have been told I am beautiful, and my body is one which most would envy, but I do not see this. I have lived with being called

  • A pig
  • Fat (moto)
  • Frumpy
  • Ugly
  • Elephant
  • Heavy
  • Manly

All sorts and this is all because people’s view is that as a female you should be slim and fair skinned, one which I am neither

It’s embedded in so many industries/cultures/and in people’s upbringings that we all should look a certain way. When really it should all be about whether you are healthy and happy. When a child is born this is all we are concerned about if the child is healthy. So as adults we should care about being healthy regardless of what size dress/jeans we can fit in.

Be happy with who you are, we can be the most beautiful looking people in the world, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own inner struggles and for those who know these people these here’s a few examples

  • Selina Gomez
  • Deepika Padukone
  • Rupi Kaur
  • Bishamber das

All individuals who have had their struggles but whether it’s with their physical or mental health they have had struggles. Just because they are beautiful does not mean they don’t have struggles.

I cannot say that I can look in the mirror and tell myself I am beautiful but one day I hope I will.

Please be mindful of those around you. Thank you for reading my story.

Their Journeys

South Asian Mother of one and support worker

South Asian Mother of one and support worker.

My experience over my personal and professional life is that within the Asian community mental health is still seen as a difficult situation to talk about. It’s still frowned upon within families and still a huge taboo!

There are so many mental health conditions that all communities are not aware of. Generations are still trying to understand how they can help & support their family as well as themselves.

As Asians we are brought up to respect our elders and not to do no wrong when given advise from them. However, we still fear open communication, because in our community admitting you are experiencing any mental health concerns, it’s shameful and a form of weakness.

 I have worked in charities and within the education sector for so many years. However, over the years’ time and time again there is that continuous battle of cultural pressures/ traditional pressures/ the expected role of a male and a female.  From ladies who are monitored, to men who hide their emotions and conceal them through hidden addictions.

As a generation with increasingly high mental health sufferers. Its important that Asian families do encourage friends, family and loved ones to openly speak about mental health, but most importantly seek support, some may require specialist intervention from mental health support teams.

these can be from;

  • Doctors,
  • Support groups,
  • Therapies,
  • Self-help,
  • And communities / charitable organisations who dedicate their work into mental health and wellbeing.

I urge communities to learn about mental health and it is impacting us and to support each other.  People can be saved if you just talk! I see too many people suffer due to the inability to communicate with one another.