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Yogesh Pathak – Miracle Survivor Wages War on Cancer

Yogesh Pathak and his daughter Jhanavi are trying to make a substantial difference for those facing cancer. Both know first-hand how emotionally, physically and financially draining a cancer diagnosis is for both the patient and the caregiver. Born out of a teenage daughter’s love for her father and a father’s resolve to beat the odds, Jhanavi and Yogesh have created the soon-to-be 501(c)3 non-profit, The War on Cancer Foundation.

In June 2004, Stage 4 kidney cancer attacked Yogesh’s kidney, spleen, pancreas, lungs, leg, brain and skull… a finding that all doctors involved believed to be a death sentence, giving Yogesh only months to live. But months grew into years.

Shobhna Pathak, his wife, ensured her husband, Yogesh, was properly taken care of at the hospital as he faced frequent surgeries and specialized treatments over the years. “The minute you blink, something bad happens,” said Shobhna. “It’s vital to be vigilant — to have your eyes wide open 24/7. I had no strength, capacity or interest other than to take care of him. For months at a time, I lived on the sofa in the ICU because I didn’t want him to be alone. Too many things slip through the cracks when you’re not standing guard.”

His daughter, Jhanavi, described her mother’s fierce protection: “Socially my mother is an introvert. As an advocate for my father, she is a Pit Bull.”

A model teenage daughter and A student, Jhanavi lived alone, getting herself through the demanding I.B. Program and into the world-renowned university MIT. She found comfort and purpose in creating cancer support groups — first at her father’s hospital, then at her high school. But throughout her junior and senior years, and into college at MIT, Jhanavi heard the ever-present ticking of the clock.

Now, eight years after a prognosis that could have crippled the strongest of men, Yogesh Pathak is a walking, talking, living enigma — the Cancer Poster Child for how sheer determination, willpower, multiple surgeries, and an experimental trial drug can triumph over a terminal cancer diagnosis.

After fighting their own battle, Yogesh and his daughter, Jhanavi, have declared a war on cancer.

“What good is living in the wealthiest country in the world, with the best doctors, treatments and facilities, if the people who need help can’t afford it? People shouldn’t have to go broke or lose their homes to get treated,” Yogesh said. “Our War on Cancer Foundation will never be an impersonal, detached organization. We stay close to people going through this.”

Father and daughter decided to harness their experience to fill the void of resources they have encountered since Yogesh’s devastating diagnosis in June 2004.

“My dad’s cancer didn’t change me — it defined me. A third of my life has been dominated by cancer,” Jhanavi explained. “The War on Cancer Foundation is a labor of love. We want to take our experience, as terrible as it was, and do everything we can to make sure nobody faces cancer the same way we had to.”

In fighting cancer, the struggles of the caregivers are often forgotten. Shobhna and Jhanavi agreed that it didn’t hit them day-to-day, but when they stopped to breathe, the thought of losing Yogesh was crippling. With their foundation, they also want to help the patients’ daily cheerleaders – the caregivers.

“Caregivers support the patient. Who supports the caregivers? Unless you are a caregiver, it’s impossible to understand what people go through,” explained Shobhna. “There’s no break for the caregiver, but how can being tired or stressed compete with cancer? What caregivers experience is hugely different than for the patient. The patient is focused on fighting the cancer. The caregivers bear the immediate burden of collateral damage.”

Beyond the traditional roles of supporting research and education, Their War On Cancer Foundation will help patients and caregivers with daily living expenses and difficulties, extending access to counseling, and providing Advocates to help navigate all facets of the experience, from treatment and recovery, to billing and benefits issues.

Jhanavi explained, “We are fighting a War on Cancer. Education helps keep people out of the war, and research holds promise for ending a war. But what gets you through the war?! That is partly where we come in. We are the troops who go into battle with the patients and caregivers, fighting alongside them – and when they don’t have the strength, fighting for them. When you hear cancer, most people think ‘death’. We want to help people focus on living.”

The father and daughter team want to make certain others don’t deal with the pain, frustration and helplessness that accompany a cancer diagnosis alone.

“We want to silence the ticking clock, so patients and their families can focus on living. All the collateral damage? We want to help with that so they can focus on life.” Jhanavi added, “Cancer, your clock is ticking. Game on.”

Editor’s Note: The Foundation is set to go live in the near future.  In the meantime follow The War On Cancer Foundation at http://www.facebook.com/TheWarOnCancerFoundation

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18 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Deborah - USA said:

    It touches me to read the wonderful positive comments to our article. Thank you.

    It’s ironic. When I wrote this years ago with Jhanavi, I’d been blessed to be the few not touched by cancer. Fast forward a few years and my father was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and fights to avoid chemotherapy by a change in diet and lifestyle. My mother started a website documenting everything they’ve done since 2010 to keep cancer at bay. http://www.eatright2fightcancer.com

  • Nancy-Florida said:

    Jhanavi and family,

    I am so sorry to hear about your dad and the terrible ordeal you have gone through. I have such fond memories of your father and mother being extremely kind to me. Please know that I think of you often and hope for only the best. I pray for healing and comfort for you and your family.

  • Daniel – Florida said:

    Uncle Yogesh you’re an inspiration!!!!!

  • Cindy – Florida said:

    The power of love , family & friends support cad do amazing things to the human soul …

  • Isabel – Florida said:

    For someone to endure Stage 4 cancer affecting many of his major organs and continue his fight to live is commendable but to create a foundation for other victims of the dreaded disease is truly unselfish and inspirational. His story must be heard not only by the sick but by others who feel down

  • Jett - Kentucky said:

    Overall, I enjoyed reading this story because of the survivor aspect and their determination to help others. Caregivers are a forgotten player in these scenarios and so it was nice to see them try to address that issue.

    I liked the quote the daughter had about her mother being “a pit bull” as an advocate for her father. I thought the quote provided a nice touch and was something readers could relate with on a personal level. Most people come out of their shell when defending someone they love.

  • Heather – Canada said:

    I loved this story of the Pathak family. So many of us face personal battles or watch family and friends go through battles and I love seeing stories of people rallying to find ways to help others through education or fundraising to overcome their challenges. Similar to this are stories about events and activities in the name of someone who has lost a battle in the hopes someone in the future might win.

    As the parent of a child with special needs I pay particular attention to the kindness of others. Perhaps it shouldn’t be but there are enough people who don’t know how to react to my son, enough people who look past him, that when he is shown kindness or welcomed, I am touched.

    About two years ago we moved to a small hamlet just outside Ottawa. I thought the smaller community would be ‘safer’ for Braedon and it might be easier for him to make long-term connections. Braedon has a real love of money. He calls foreign coins, dirty or especially shiny coins and commemorative coins ‘special money’ and has a knack for finding them.

    One day we were at our local convenience store and the lady behind the counter, who we had come to know, presented Braedon with a bus token she had found. He was thrilled and they spent a few minutes looking it over and talking about it. A few days later we were back and she ran back to the office and returned with a bag filled with foreign money – coins and paper – from ‘Andy.’ “Wow, this is great,” I said. “Who is Andy?”

    It turned out that day in the store a local soldier had been standing in line behind us and overheard Braedon’s conversation about the money. The bag was filled with currency he had brought back from all of the places he had been stationed over the years. There was money from Africa, from Russia and the Middle East. Braedon was thrilled and carried that bag with him for months showing everyone what he had been given and telling them about Andy.

    Andy moved a few weeks later so we never actually met him but the money he gave Braedon is now proudly included as part of his ‘special money collection’ and the gift of his kindness is one we still talk about.

    I believe there are actions like this that happen more often than we realize

  • Web Site said:

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to
    this brilliant blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

  • Sarah said:

    Go Yogesh! It’s your birthday!

  • Lindsay said:

    I love this new take on the cancer survivor story. It’s good to know what a family as a whole goes through fighting cancer, and to hear that a family can remain strong as a unit to conquer an illness. It’s great to hear how hard a person will fight for the one they love when that loved one is in dire straits.

  • Ingrid – Wisconsin said:

    I do love the attitude and the purpose of your magazine. It is positive and encourages people to overcome. I read this article and in there it speaks of ” how sheer determination, willpower, multiple surgeries” allowed the person to overcome. That is my story as well. Some days you have to repeatedly choose to overcome and it is indeed an act of the will.

  • Audrey – Singapore said:

    Personally, I think that this article is very relatable. Cancer is now a very real threat to everyone’s life, and in a sense it’s very personable. I liked this article as it showcases people in circumstances that could very well happen to every one of us and these people actually rising above it. What I find truly remarkable is that they not only found a way to rise up but also managed to illuminate the lives of other people who are in the same predicament. Of course, the fact that the daughter is a student at MIT university also seem a kind of an irony that even people who are accomplished/have great potential in the future could also be a victim of circumstances.

  • Bob Samuels said:

    After reading your inspiring story I now have a new hero. My prayers are with you and keep fighting. Bob Samuels, Cancer survivor

  • Amanda N said:

    I read about Yogesh Pathak. This article struck close to home. I have an uncle who is 75 and was just diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. This article does state exactly what you go thru. The up’s and down’s of not wanting to leave. You want your family member to know that no matter what you are there. I really liked this article. The writer did a great job!!

  • joy said:

    I vote for Yogesh!!! Great to see your story and feel the strength you have with family. Carry On with HEALTH!!!

  • Dhirubhai Desai said:

    Yogesh Pathak will be a LIGHT HOUSE for quite a few ships in storm.

  • Loni said:

    Great article, Yogesh! Very inspiring!

  • Trevor said:

    What a great story, the guy is giving the rest of the world hope…and with his family a sure sign that being together and supporting one another can over come the worst of problems.

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