Nikhil Joshi, M.D.
Doctor, Author, Leader
Nikhil Joshi is a young physician, writer, and speaker. He is passionate about furthering his ability to touch the lives of people positively.

A Note on Love

A Note on Love

Hey you!

I’m ALIVE! Just got out of the latest chemo hole. It was a remarkable horror, that I will not recount here, but instead today we should celebrate something wonderful- Love. Thanks for being there, thanks for the messages and phone calls and all the Love- I needed it.

I recently spoke to a long time friend of mine from Calgary. And we spoke at length about our favorite subject which is love. My life has changed a great deal in 2013. I loved and lost a great deal. Which is to not say the year was bad- no, it was the richest year of love of my life- it just also had the greatest heartbreaks. I’ve never been so alive as I’ve been this year, I’ve never been so awake as I have been this year, and I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing, I don’t think I can frame it in terms of positive or negative. It just is.

We were speaking in particular how not all people feel the same about love. Some people find discussing it to be maudlin. Some people don’t really like romantic love- they’ve got their own things in life they like. Some people don’t want someone to be truly close to them- and who am I to say that there is a right or wrong way? All I’m here to state is that I think it’s the purpose of human life. I think we’re here to love. That’s it. That’s my answer to the big question. Doesn’t make it right, just makes it right for me. And I think so many people feel the same way. I think the world is full of people in love, looking for love, and who have suffered for love. And I think all of it is entirely beautiful. Even after all the wounds I have suffered from surrendering to love, I still believe more strongly than ever that it’s the answer to all my questions.

But the thing is, I do have cancer, and that does complicate things. I don’t believe my medical condition makes it impossible for me to be loved, far from it, I don’t think any condition makes it impossible for anyone to be loved- but I think they do make it harder. In the news recently there was a man with neurofibromatosis, which caused him to have many tumours on his body and face, and he was being blessed and was kissed by Pope Francis. I’m not interested in discussing the rights and wrongs of religion, I don’t want to touch that with a ten foot poll, but I was thinking- how hard must this man’s life have been? How lonely has his existence been? How much ridicule has he endured? Is it pessimistic of me to assume that he has known tremendous hardship in finding romantic love? And I also thought, that whatever your take on religion is- that the act of comforting someone who had endured those things was a brilliant act, that made me proud to be human.

And then I thought of myself. I thought of a party I was recently at, and a stunning young woman I was talking with. At this junction of my life, I’m open to whatever life’s got for me, and so we spoke for a while and I was having a great time, when in the course of our conversation she learnt I was not joking about having cancer- and when she knew that everything changed dramatically. Our light and enjoyable banter became strained, she became awkward, unsure of what to say, and I in turn also felt pretty awkward, excused myself to play beer pong with some of my friends (I’ve been actively trying to sharpen my game). And after we finished the game I wondered what if this will be hard forever? What if after, and let’s assume I’m cured, it’s scary for someone to get involved with me because I have had cancer? I mean newsflash- having had cancer is some significant baggage. Or is it really? I think on the flip side, of the things from partners I have endured in relationships: a range of OCD spectrum habits, various lifestyle choices, medical conditions, scars from past relationships- and I think to myself- isn’t it all really the same thing? Doesn’t it all boil down to- how willing are we to surrender? How willing are we to love someone else?

I realized then that as long as my capacity to love someone else kept growing, as long as I could keep on loving someone more deeply than I could the day before that everything was going to be alright in time. I don’t doubt that it will happen in my lifetime, because I’ve had cancer and have been given this rare opportunity to see and believe in people. I’ve suffered and have been loved and comforted- that’s all I’ll ever need to believe that people are good, to believe that as long as you never abandon love it’ll never abandon you. And the thought of sharing that idea with you made me happy. Have a great day.

-N.

5 Responses to “A Note on Love”

  1. Carol Ann Ryan.

    You know, I always thought you were an awesome guy….with a larger than life personality…..You certainly lit up CCU when you were there. After a marathon reading of your blog….I am beyond words to describe how awesome I think you are. Keep saying fuck because it’s the best word to describe everything.

  2. Annie

    I read your recent article and then was taken to this blog via link, and I have to say it is all very moving and I wish you nothing but the best in your recovery and life thereafter. I personally don’t find the “having had cancer” bit to be any different from other forms of baggage, and in fact, it’s the struggles that we overcome, the scars we accumulate, that end up being not something to detest, but something to love about somebody else – when it’s real that is, and it only needs to be real once. Keep that positive attitude, which I am sure makes you an inspiration to many going through the same thing.

    On a sidenote, I just moved from St. John’s this past summer where my husband and I were living for 3 years. Newfoundland is fantastic, I really miss it.

  3. Doug M

    Hello Dr. Joshi,

    Thanks for your writing – I was browsing our local CBC station’s website and followed a link to your blog. All the best for your treatment. I expect you receive no end of lay and even professional advice, but I thought I’d highlight one aspect of therapy that I have an indirect connection to. Here at the University of Waterloo, the Applied Health Sciences folks offer a “WELL-FIT’ program that encourages chemo, radiation or hormonal therapy patients to participate in a fitness/exercise program as folks are able. Not sure if Memorial or anything else in St. John’s has an equivalent, but here’s a link – https://uwaterloo.ca/uw-fitness/uw-well-fit – I know the fitness leaders and they’re great folks who can very likely provide more info/literature references on the value of exercise during therapy, etc. Personally I’m a heart patient, but we get over the awkwardness pretty quickly – lots of folks with no hair and plenty of funny stories helps. Can I tell you about the time the paramedic forgot to disconnect my nasal O2 line before they tried to roll me out of the ambulance? Appreciate your writing.

  4. David Stuart

    Hi Nikhil,
    I developed stage III A Hodgkin’s disease in September 1975 while in my last year at Stanford medical school. I received the standard treatment of the day including a staging laparotomy followed by total nodal radiation. Towards the end of this I developed ‘B’ symptoms and lost about 50 pounds. I was discovered to have relapsed in my liver. I then underwent 6months of MOPP chemotherapy (minus the prednisone) followed by a year of every other month maintenance MOPP chemotherapy. This was in an area where effective anti-emetics were not available. I have been disease free since that time although not without other medical problems.
    I went on to complete medical school in 1978, then 3 years of internal medicine at UCLA and then returned to Canada where I completed my medical oncology training in 1984. I worked as a medical oncologist from January 1985 through July 2012 at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver and then Burnaby Hospital (after Shaughnessy Hospital was closed in 1993). I retired at the end of July 2012.
    I was married in April 1983. My first wife died from breast cancer in October 1994. I remarried in 1997. I have two sons ages 25 and 29 but no grandchildren yet. Neither son is biologically mine and both are my sons.
    What you are going through is difficult and also an opportunity to learn a lot about life, love, and their meanings to you. You are, and will be, the same person you always were and you will also be broader and deeper as a result of this experience. You have a lot to offer.
    If I can be of assistance in any way please don’t hesitate to reach me at my e-mail address submitted to this website.
    Best wishes for now and the future.
    David Stuart

  5. Yasmine

    Hi Dr. Joshi,
    I follow your blog on CBC and I wish you the strength to pass through this difficult time. I thought you would be interested to know about a technology that exist in Montreal that can determine the best chemotherapy regimen for a specific cancer patient. If you would like to know more about it, you can reach me at my e-mail address on this website.
    Best wishes

    Yasmine

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