Life has a way of catching us off-guard, throwing challenges and surprises when we least expect it.
That's exactly what happened to 25-year-old Surintan Ramanaidoo's life, when the world came crashing down in the form of a deathly cancer diagnosis.
This healthy, young telecommunication graduate's life took an unfortunate turn when he was diagnosed with a serious illness during a routine medical check-up in January last year, 2015.
A CT scan revealed that Surintan has stage 2 Lymphoma, a type of cancer that develops in cells called lymphocytes which are part of the body's immune system in the lymph nodes, spleen and other parts of the body.
While speaking to SAYS, Surintan explained that a PET scan after the initial diagnosis revealed that he had tumours in his neck and chest areas.
Instead of the usual feeling of drowning hopelessness, all Surintan felt after the diagnosis was surprise, wondering how he, a vegetarian, outdoorsy individual with no cancer history in the family could have this disease
"After two weeks, I told myself that there was no point in crying over spilt milk, so I went on researching about the available treatments and started having some hope."
Determined to beat this disease that could potentially kill him, Surintan started his chemotherapy session in February and stuck to them earnestly till the course of treatment ended in August.
After he completed that, he started his radiotherapy in late October, completing the final and 15th session on the eve of Deepavali last year, 2015.
Chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used cancer treatment that uses anti-cancer drugs and chemicals to destroy the cancerous cells.
This arduous treatment is known to have some very painful side effects, starting with nausea, diarrhea, constipation, physical pain, mouth and throat sores, to name a few.
During the course of his agonising treatment plan, Surintan lost a total of 20kg and was in constant pain with chemotherapy burns on his hand
"The treatment process wasn't easy. I could hardly move my body without feeling flinching pain and sleep didn't come easily.
To top it off, I could hardly lift my right hand because of the chemo port. It became worse eventually and I wasn't able to use my right hand for daily chores, making my daily routine even more difficult," said Surintan.
After a few sessions, the doctors had to resort to installing the chemo port in Surintan's chest, as the vein in his hand wasn't visible anymore.
In the midst of all those sessions, Surintan admitted to feeling really low and broken, with the heartbreaking realisation that he was unable to start caring for his family as the eldest son
"I felt useless, just wasting away at home," added Surintan, sadly.
"It was at this time that I decided enough was enough," said Surintan, determined to rise above all the pain.
Relying on his tenacious personality and leadership skills from his college days, Surintan made a decision to start picking up the pieces of his life.
He decided that the best way to get back on his feet was to not give up, no matter how painful all the moving around gets.
He started by learning to grip and hold on to objects, stand up and walk, even with all the searing pain.
To really turn things around and normalise his life again, he started going for brisk walks and continued to regularly exercise, regardless of the complications that arose from the treatments
"My aim was to prove to myself, and my parents that I'm not weak and they don't have to worry about their only son anymore. I slowly started to regain my strength," he said.
Upon completing all his treatments, this brave young man decided to celebrate his second chance at life by joining a hiking trip to Mount Kinabalu
"After completing my radiotherapy, I realised that the only way to fully convince myself that I'm back is to do what I love the best, and going big with it. So, I set my mind on reaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu and made it my only aim," added Surintan excitedly.
Mount Kinabalu's height is 4,096 metres (13,438 ft) above the sea level and is part of the World Heritage Site.
"When I reached the peak of Mount Kinabalu, I was really just overwhelmed and all the sufferings of the past year just flashed before my eyes. It was surreal," expressed Surintan.
He started his journey to the peak at 2a.m. and the freezing cold mountain air at 2 degrees Celsius numbed his face but he stayed on and kept hiking, determined to complete his mission and reward himself with the view from the highest mountain in Malaysia.
The journey apparently took only about 8 hours over a span of two days, which according to the guide was the average time most hikers take to reach the top of the mountain.
"The view was amazing, the clouds, unique plant species, rock formations, everything was just so beautiful." said Surintan.
When asked about his future plans, Surintan expressed his wish to join a telecommunications organisation and continue exploring the world
Surintan stressed that without the unwavering support and love of his family and reading the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, he wouldn't have been able to get through last year.
"My family, especially my first sister, was there for me all the time. This journey has taught me various lessons; always learn from your failures and strive to become a better person," advised Surintan.
2015 for Surintan was filled with unforgettably painful moments and experiences.
However, this man has proved that we have the power to make the best out of everything that happens in life, turning every struggle into a positive lesson.
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