I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 1970 to parents of Keralan origin in India. Both my parents were doctors. My childhood was happy, but my parents were always busy working. I fondly remember holidays by the sea, in a resort called Port Dixon. The sheer excitement, joy and freedom of the sand, building sand castles and playing badminton, the seafood and the picnics. I was sent to boarding school aged 7 in Singapore. Whilst it was an excellent school, with hindsight, it was difficult to cope with. I felt frequently fearful, lonely and sad. But again there were the guardian angels: matrons and teachers who helped and supported me. At the age of 10, I was sent to boarding school at Marlborough House School in Kent.
What an amazing place and experience: the friends, teachers, and opportunities were fantastic. I learned to love the English way of life, especially food: bacon, fried bread, kedgeree and sticky toffee pudding. I was immensely happy and the school prepared me for the next stage: boarding at Tonbridge School. I found this transition difficult. Boys growing up alongside men. There were established traditional ways of behaviour which were a totally different ball game from the ones I had experienced. The school and teachers were excellent, the facilities faultless. The experience was profound in building relationships of life-long bonds as we negotiated the slippery paths of youth, and the mazes and trenches of our formative teenage years. My best friends are still with me today.
I enjoyed languages and science: especially biology, and learned to love ornithology. It was therefore no surprise that, with both parents being doctors and my love of biology, I was coaxed into studying medicine. I left Tonbridge School with a sense of discipline, determination, confidence, purpose, values and qualities for the next phase of life in the world of medicine.
I loved my training at the University of Nottingham where I studied medicine. It was an integrated course into this ancient and fascinating profession. I qualified in 1994 and trained down the physician’s route. I loved general medicine, but found rheumatology especially fascinating with its variety of diseases and being part of a team to treat them. I was lucky to train in both Bath and Bristol where the doctors were exceptional and I found the classical Georgian setting of Bath magical. I also found good role models and strong mentors and had opportunities for research. I developed an interest in ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.
I met my wife as a Junior Doctor in 1996. She was working as a physiotherapist, and we were married in 1998. Eventually our daughter was born in 2006. My wife and her family have been a rock for me. I have always been able to stand taller as I have been supported on the shoulders of giants. I have to mention also the love and sacrifices that my parents had made to put me in such a privileged place of life. They gave everything for their children. I regret however, that because of boarding school, bonds and family life on several levels were not achieved. My brother has been a constant soul mate and companion, and remains a pillar of my life today. How he tolerated me over the years, I don’t know! But his love and loyalty are very dear to me.
I became a Consultant in Rheumatology in Coventry in 2004. It took me time to adjust to the big step up, but once again I was mentored and cared for by my family of colleagues and the team. They supported me through clinical and professional conundrums and inspired me by their excellence, and helped me through personal and domestic difficulties. I was never short of advice! I loved working as a Rheumatologist, and found it a humbling privilege to be part of a caring team looking after patients. I wish I could be back with them picking up threads of where we left off. The daily bread and butter work, the challenges, and the mystery of medicine have always been special to me.
I really do miss it.
My passions include cricket, and I love the purest form of the game – the 5 day test match. That said I was absolutely bowled over by a recent T20 tournament that I went to: a veritable carnival and circus of cricket. I continue to love nature, especially ornithology. And my fond memory of seeing peregrines on top of Leamington Town Hall is special. I hate and I love golf. I play rather badly, but have been bitten by the bug and always been pulled back to the course by the one shot that went well.
My other passion is poetry: as a reader and writer. As I reflect I realise how lucky I am to have had the wonderful life that I have. The people, and their humanity are overwhelming. I wish to leave a legacy of my sense of gratitude, hope and joy at the experience of life. Since I have become a cancer patient, I hope by producing a book of poems and reflections of this doctor-turned-patient I will continue to pass on that spirit of humanity I have experienced. I hope to help other patients through my desire to raise funding for blood cancer research and the bone marrow register, and to improve awareness, especially amongst ethnic groups that are underrepresented in bone marrow databases in the United Kingdom.
As I write it is 4.56am in the morning on the 5th Sept 2017 and I hope I have the time to finish this privileged episode of my life, and leave a legacy for my daughter. I will continue to fight and hope.