A (mathematical) way to think about Coronavirus: Covid19

There is a lot of chatter going on around coronavirus and its comparison to flu and whether all this panic is justified or moronic!

Well, my goal in this short post is to share a different perspective so we all can have more insights into what it is that we are dealing with and how they should personally approach it.

Let’s say there are two diseases: Disease X and Disease Y

Disease X infects 50 Million people in the world each year (and has been around for over a century)

Disease X kills 300,000 people in the world

0.6% dead (best case scenario)

Disease Y (which is like Disease X) has infected 121,747 people in the world

Disease Y has killed 4389 people

3.6% dead

Covid19 Maths

If Disease Y is not stopped, it has a similar or faster rate of spread compared to Disease X. Disease Y can also become endemic just like Disease X (and therefore returning every year).

The point is NOT “total deaths” BUT “total potential death”, if not stopped. The point is about stopping the spread.

Please wash your hand. Don’t handshake. Avoid unnecessary travel. Work from home, if not 100% well. Practice common sense. Stay safe and let’s keep everyone safe around us. 

If You Live in the US

Disease X infects 10-50 Million people in the US each year (and has been around for over a century)
Disease X kills 56,000 people in the US each year
0.5% dead (best case scenario)

Disease Y (which is like Disease X) has infected 1016 people in the US
Disease Y has killed 31 people
3% dead

Again, the point here is NOT “total deaths” BUT “total potential death” if not stopped. The point is about stopping the spread.

I Hate Unfinished Business

Last year, this was the week when my brother told me that doctors are suspecting that Dad might have Cancer. He was not getting better and all other options were crossed. Doing a Biopsy was the last remaining test. This was hard for him and everyone.

I suspected this through intuition since January. I told Neha (my fiancee) I am having a bad feeling about Cancer (not sure why). I was reading, researching and watching everything that I could find on Cancer. It’s weird, I know, but I was having precognition about my dad’s real condition.

In all, my father passed away battling cancer on March 5th. So, it was just 48 days from doctor’s suggestion to death. So much can happen in 48 days. I am sad about this but also insightful on how to use my time here. Today, all can be well and the next thing you know is you have just 48 days to live.

I have many videos, voice recordings, and notes that I took during those 48 days but still haven’t found the courage to go back and write my dad’s story and a video of his final days with us.

Unfinished Business

I could not give him anything back and that is the sharpest pain. What keeps me sane though is at least he went away in peace knowing he had a successful life, he has two sons who turned out to be decent, an awesome family who came forward with support, and a loving wife who stood by his side until the end.

Writing this short blog is my humble attempt to break free from the fear of feeling immense pain as my wounds are not healed yet. It may never get healed. But I need to tell my father’s story.

This way I can feel at peace and tell my father, “Dad, I miss you. I love you. I remember you. You are with me. You did great. I will continue to keep you alive in my heart.”

To Feel Pain Is To Be Alive

Do what you need to do, do what you want to do. Anticipate pain. Without pain, you won’t last long under pressure. Pain is the jet fuel for inner motivation. People say pain is temporary, don’t give up. Don’t quit. BS. Pain is not temporary. Pain is intermittent. It should never be completely absent. When you reach the state of zero pain, you are dead. Pain is resistance. And, there is no growth without resistance.

Be glad that you have today. Align your intention and your thoughts. Seize your chance while you have your breath.

Think about it.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell

Cancer In Family: Caring For A Family Member & What Does It Mean For You

Introduction

During these coming months, I’ll be publishing short chapters on Cancer and my experience of caring for a family member and what does it mean for you here on The Naked Soul blog. I am documenting my day to day experiences as my dad has recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer (“squamous cell carcinoma”). I hope this is my first and last experience with anyone with cancer in my family.

Cancer, you really suck. Please leave my family alone.”

 

Chapter 1

The letter C immediately paints the picture of the letter D. Cancer. Death. It is not cancer or pain of chemotherapy that the patient and family member fears, it’s the inevitable, the ticking clock of time and life that frighten us the most. Cancer is a tough battle where you need a whole army. Currently, we are four people caring for my dad full-time. There are emergencies, there are good moments and there are really down times including depression, tears, anger, denial, misery, fear, pain and hope.

If there was a conclusive proof for the afterlife, death would not frighten us anymore. But, even with firm belief in having a good afterlife, cancer is feared more than death itself.

What would you do if you are suddenly told you have just one year? (And you are not even strong and healthy enough to leave the bed.) What would you do?

 

The Believe in the Science
All diseases are treatable and curable. All stages of diseases are treatable and curable. The first step towards having a universal healthcare is to believe that optimal health is achievable for everyone.

If a cancer has grown into a big tumor and has spread into nearby or far organs, it is still treatable.

Think about for a moment: what kills a person with cancer? How can we prevent it from happening. What do we need to do here? What is preventing us from taking and executing the necessary steps.

For example, if the problem is we cannot perform surgery for a tumor that is near to a major blood vessel. Is it due to the fact that we do not have surgical precision or if we rupture a major blood vessel, we do not know how to fix them? May be both and then some more.

Irrespective of the number and severity of the challenges my point is every difficult steps can be identified, listed, and discussed. What we need is finding new solutions and testing them.

Day 1
My father was feeling stomach pain. He had recently visited Gaya and was suspecting something is wrong. He was feeling feverish. He fell sick and the local doctor suspected my dad has Typhoid. After doing some examinations they prescribed him two weeks of typhoid medication.

 

Day 14

Dad was still having high fevers, low platelets counts and was extremely weak. He has lost a lot of weight (mostly muscles), his ribs were showing up, his thighs became slimmer, his back was hurting real bad.

Upon noticing that my dad’s condition is not getting better, my family decided to take him to another doctor.

On second opinion, we took dad to The Mission Specialty Hospital in Durgapur. They found severe Dengu infection and admitted my dad. 

The infection has spread to his liver, small and large intestine. Dad stayed in the Mission Hospital for next eight days and was also treated for stomach ulcers. His WBC counts were 21,000 and went up as high as 29,000. Things were not looking good.

But, he got better and was discharged. During this time, all kinds of tests were run and X-rays was done, CT scan was done and MRI was done. Nothing suspicious, nothing more than a bad infection that can be treated completely in no time.

Cancer In Family

The Long Diagnosis
Dad came home with his follow up appointments scheduled at Mission. He was still weak but able to eat and talk. His back pain was still persistent. His appetite was poor, having severe constipation, and his overall health was not improving even after the treatment and medicine given at Mission.

One night he got the high fever and his health and energy level plummeted to the extreme bottom. He was not doing well and we did not know “why?” No one knew.

This was tome to take home to an even bigger hospital. My brother, one of my uncle (dad’s younger brother) and one of my cousin immediately took dad to Kolkata. From Kolkata, my brother, uncle, and dad flew to Chennai. They were rushing to CMC Vellore. 

This is when I got serious and started to intuitively feel something is wrong with my dad’s diagnosis. I told Neha (my finance), I have bad feelings about Cancer and I don’t know why but from past 2-3 weeks I have been reading, researching and watching documentaries on Cancer.

It’s weird, I know, but I was having precognition about my dad’s real condition.

Chapter 2
Day 41 (January 29, 2016)
I arrived Banglore at 3:55 am on Friday morning. I took Vayu Vjra express bus to Majestic interstate bus terminal at 4 am and reached there at 5 am.. Once There i I took a second bus to the satellite station.

I took another bus to Vellore bus stand for Rs. 152. From there I took an Auto for Rs. 70. I was received by my cousin and he took me to the lodge where they were staying. The lodge provides the bare minimum. The hygiene was acceptable but with open questions.

I came to hospital to see Dad at 1 pm. We were expecting to meet the cancer specialist doctor at 2 pm. He was supposed to go over the stomach biopsy diagnostic results.

Day 42 (January 30, 2016)
I woke up at 5 in the morning and got fresh. I believe due to jet lag my sleep was ended early. I briefly talked with my brother and then left for the hospital.

It was still dark and I went on a walk on the main road looking for other lodging options, particularly looking for lodges with kitchen.

I was also looking for shops or medical stores where I could buy paper rolls, plates, and cups. After a brief walk, I entered CMC campus and took a brief inside tour to familiarize myself with various buildings and units such as the blood bank, OPD, Radiology, and Scan building, etc.

During this morning our I noticed women praying in the chapel and at an outdoor candlelit stone vigil.

I turned back and came to the W ward where my dad was. I gave Rs. 200 to the overnight caregiving lady (Aaya) and she asked for some morning tea allowance. So I gave her another 10 rupees.

Here the hospital only allowed the female companions or caregiver to stay overnight the patients. For male visitors and family members, the maximum allowance is 2 person at each time and from 6 am – 9 pm. The male family members can stay outside the ward, near elevators for the night if they chose so.

It’s clear to me by now that it would make sense to bring mom here. Or someone who can be dedicated to the task of healthy cooking.

But there was another problem with this arrangement. My mom has the bad knee problem so if we bring her here, we will have to first fix the basics.

The basics of caregiving are so backward and risky here. Everyone who is looking over a patient relative are themselves having a poor diet, poor lodging condition, poor personal hygiene and poor behavioral habits when caring for the patients. For example, not using the antibacterial hand soap before feeding a patient.

So I made this list of items that I thought we need to increase our safeguard against infections, other diseases and to protect ourselves and our dad.

Paper cups, plates, spoons, knives, Plastic Food Wrapper, Aluminum Foil, Straw, RO Water filter, Juicer, Napkins, Kitchen roll, Toilet roll, Shampoo, Skin moisturizer, Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, Writing pad, Vomit bag (lunch bags), plastic bags, face tissue, Wipe (wet) tissue.

Then we need to cook our own meals. Currently, we are buying food outside and feeding our dad and also eating ourselves. The food outside is street dhabas. It’s just hard to digest to see what I am seeing. I want to save my dad and I want to my family to be healthy. This was hard.

I knew I need to buy fresh fruits, make juices at home, start meal prepping, buy basic Cooking utensils and buy one smart Phone here with SIM card and iPad for entertainment.

Next, I need to find each of these items.

Chapter 3
Jan 30 continues

At 8 am the hospital did a routine blood test. Only one tube of blood (? ml) was taken. But it clicked my mind that with one tube of blood taken each day and with difficulty eating, he will no doubt have fatigue and low energy. He needs a good, nutritious diet every hour to make up for the lack of food and ongoing blood tests.

The chief oncologist came to visit my dad at 10:30 am. Afterwards, he met with me and my brother. The doctor started by saying, “it’s a stage IV cancer because it has spread to all over bones and into the lymph nodes.”

He continued, “there is no cure for this and gastrointestinal cancers are not the good kind of cancers because they do not respond well to chemo unlike some other forms of cancers such as breast or lungs.”

The doctor explained his plan which was to begin chemo on Monday every week. They wanted to do small chemo doses which have fewer side effects and the benefits are the same of large chemo dose.

We went over some of the questions we had and got some answers none of which was very good (what we were hoping for in terms of treatment and prognosis options).

1. What is the primary cancer? The primary cancer is stomach cancer. (Squamous cell carcinoma?)

2. How far has it spread? It has spread into bones (all over) and into lymph nodes. (How far into the lymph node?)

3. Which stage? Stage IV

4. What is the current prognosis? As the data shows.

5. Can you do stomach surgery? No, not now, not later. The cancer has spread to distant parts. The stomach cancer doesn’t respond very well to chemo. Surgery is not an option.

6. Can chemo be done along with radiation? Radiation is done to alleviate pain (it’s neither part of the treatment nor cure)

7. Can surgery be performed after chemo/radiation? No, due to the reasons mentioned above.

8. Is the cause bacteria or genetic mutation or environmental or food? We can’t say. This cancer could be caused by any number of reasons or a combination of reasons. The growth must be going on for years without any warning symptoms. That’s the nature of this disease. But it may not be genetic (caused by a particular hereditary genetic mutation) as in those cases cancer show up earlier in age.

For example in the 40s and 50s. But since your dad’s age is almost 60, it seems more like old age cancer.

9. If all treatments go well, what would be the new prognosis? As long as the chemo controls the cancer tumor growth. But eventually, the cancer growth will overtake chemo.

10. Has cancer spread into bone marrow? Yes.

11. How far into Bones? All over. Every bone has bone marrow and the cancer is showing everywhere in the bones.

Our time with the oncologist in the Infectious Diseases (Ward W – West) hallway left me with more questions than what I had before.

1. How much of stomach has the cancerous tumor? Do we know the source location? Or are there multiple source points in the stomach?

2. How far has cancer spread into lymph nodes?

3. Can a DNA testing be performed on his cancer cell and on his normal cells? (To compare and find out the exact mutations)

4. You mentioned earlier, the bone marrow looks sickle cell. Is it anemia alongside cancer? Is he having two separate issues? Why are the cells sickle shape? Could that be the reason he is feeling fatigued? What can we do?

5. Immunotherapy? Is that an option here?

6. Have you tested for H. Pylori bacteria?

(and many more to come)

I definitely need to do more research now. I also felt we need to take a second opinion. I had my gut telling me that CMC is not offering my father anything more than palliative care. And yes, we need that. I am all for my dad’s care and I want him to feel better. But that’s not all. And that’s not all, he doesn’t want that. He wants to live. He is fighting. He wants to care for my mom and he wants to be out of the hospital, healthy and functioning.

 

Chapter 4 (January 31, 2016)

My mom and younger uncle will reach here on Tuesday. She is also looking for a full-time cook to bring with her. It’s great news.

For next two days, we will be still buying food from outside. We will be taking precautions with what we are eating ourself or buying for dad.

Earlier today, two of my brothers went to look for a better, cleaner, bigger lodge with kitchen and phone network. We have been here without the internet at both the hospital and at the lodge.

We have found it to be very hard to not have internet because while you are in the hospital, you want to research something. There are always questions in your mind. And no one can give you the answers. The patients are too many and the doctors are far and few. Internet access is your only hope of catching up with the information overload and learning more about various treatment options and its success rate and/or side effects.

Meanwhile, Neha found out that blood group A is shown related with stomach cancer. My dad, my brother and I, all three of us have A+ blood group.

My friend Alam asked me to get a second opinion. His father was diagnosed with early-stage Colon cancer and was completely treated at Tata Memorial Hospital.

He said, “I talked to my father. He told to get the report (Particularly of the biopsy). Also, in addition to the reports of biopsy, ask them to give the slides too. Press for it or they won’t. Without the slides, the report of biopsy will not be accepted at other hospitals. So, be very adamant that you need the slides too.”

It is common that cancer is a team-based treatment. Based on the biopsy report and what kind of Cancer is present, there are experts and its decided by the panel of the doctors at any particular hospital.

The ward nurse confirmed that the new bed is ready. The attending doctors came to see Dad. I brought up the question of if there will be a mini refrigerator in the new room. They mentioned that there are few room options and rates vary so check with the ward nurse.

Dad heard the conversation and asked me how much is the room cost? I said, Rs. 3050/day for double occupancy, Rs. 5500/day for single and Rs. 10,000/day for corner single room with refrigerator, phone, and other amnesties.

Dad looked in unease. His face was clearly showing he was feeling worried.

“It’s very expensive. How will we afford?”

“It’s not much. We can afford.”

“But if you add up for a month, it’s a big amount.”

And immediately he started sobbing. My Phupha and I began to convince him that it’s not a lot of money and it is well within our financial hold. We can take care of it. You have to just focus on your treatment. Focus on eating, focus on getting well faster, focus on getting discharged soon.

By this time both of my brothers arrived and they saw dad crying. They asked what happened? I said papa is taking stress about money.

They chipped in and repeated the same words. The treatment is well within our capacity and we are all in it. Don’t worry. But my dad was still feeling the pain. I could understand his emotions.

His main concern which remained unvoiced and only came out as tears were all my life I worked hard to provide for my family and I am going to spend all of that money on my own treatment which I had patiently saved for my family. This is painful.

What can a man do? What must a man do? Will you leave your wife and partner for life behind, alone? Or, will you give up the will to live? It’s a bitter and painfully frustrating situation to be. I could feel dad’s heart. I felt his tears. And there was nothing I could do at the time but I knew exactly what to do when the opportunity arrives.

The head nurse came in and said the bed is ready. Pisa fed one banana to dad. The wheelchair was ready and an attendant was present to help transfer my dad.

We helped dad to get on the wheelchair and began to walk towards 713A. The 7th floor in the A Ward hosts all cancer patients. Dad got bed A in room 713.

The room had TV and AC. The bathroom was cleaner and bigger than the previous ward. In fact much cleaner.

The new room had another leukemia patient, a ten-year-old boy. The boy’s grandmother was with him.

He was admitted after he suddenly fell sick and doctors found out that his body is not making blood. The doctors in Patna city where he was admitted referred him to immediately go to Delhi or Mumbai. His family decided to bring him to CMC.

The boy despite his tender age explained his experience with chemotherapy. My brother showed my dad to look at the little kid who is full with energy and is talking with excitement.

My dad found his strength from looking at this kid.

The following hours passed slowly. In late afternoon all three brothers, we went out to look for apartments to rent for a couple of months.

We finally found a place with decent size room with attached kitchen and bathroom.

While waiting for the elevator my brother peeped a few times inside an open room. The group of people seemed to be from our hometown. They were curious too and they invited us inside.

We gladly accepted their invitation and asked if we can take a look. They said, sure take a walk around and answered of our questions. They offered us thekwa to eat and when we inquired told us that his dad has lower body paralysis and that’s why they are here.

In past few days that I have been here in Vellore I have seen and talked to so many sick people that my heart lives in my mouth now and my heart weeps its bitter tears inside my hurting mind.

At 9:30 pm we reached our lodge and 2016 star movies award was playing on TV. I was lying down on bed along with Pisa and my cousin. My brother was arranging his bed on the ground.

My cousin said, I want to ask one thing. Is that okay?

I said, “yeah, sure!”

He said, “I want to ask you why you did love marriage?”

I replied, “not marriage. We are engaged.”

He said, “yes, engagement and (and I mean) marrying later. So why did you do that? Our family did not expect this from you.”

He continued, “how much hurt it has caused to all family members. I am not saying love marriage is right or wrong but I think people who do love marriage are selfish!”

I said, hell no. You are married with two small daughters and you still talk and think about other younger girls and even about the doctors and nurses in the hospital.

I was thinking to myself, his mindset is sick. For him family matters big time yet his wife deserves very little of his respect. He doesn’t even love her. He is confusing his husband and fatherly duty with love. This is fucked up.

I continued, “that is because you have never known, felt or understood love. I thought inside my mind. Stop fucking judging. You are causing extremely emotional distress.”

I was feeling extremely hurt insure and thinking dad is dying. He is feeling depressed. He cries. He is in bad bad situation. And what is he taking about right now! I could not sleep for hours and kept thinking. How much I hate these kind of people. If my dad was not here and if he was not here to help, I would block this kind of people out of my life.

I am going through extremely turbulent roller coarser every hour. Every hour is some sort of emergency. And feeling you are not able to do anything, feeling you are dependent of people who talks bullshit about you, those who doesn’t  understand what care means. I am not able to do it. It’s hard to handle.

 

Chapter 5 (Feb 1, 2016)
I woke up at 6, an hour later than my usual wake up time. During early morning hours, I was still feeling hurt and dreaming about the words that my cousin had said last night. This combined with the feeling of what is going to happen to my dad was taking its toll. But I had to let it go and get up and get to work.

I got fresh and went to buy coconut water. I asked the price and then said give two coconut water to me. The guy did not understand me and gave me four. I gave him Rs. 150 for four of them at Rs. 30/coconut. He was supposed to return me Rs. 30. The other guy standing there asked the vendor to give me 30 but he refused. He was cutting 5th one to take my 150. I refused. He resisted and was persistent on giving me the 5 coconut for Rs. 150.

I was already frustrated with my experience with them. I ordered two and take gave me four. And now they were trying to forcefully sell me five. After some brief argument and with the help of another vendor I got Rs.30 back. I headed towards dad’s ward.

I reached his room at 6:30 am and he was sleeping. I asked the Aaya if he had any food or gone to bathroom. She said she gave water and took him to bathroom once last night. She said the other lady has been washing cloths in bathroom since last 45 min. She seemed frustrated and annoyed. I could understand, she was not able go do her job and she wanted to provide care.

I released her and gave her payments. After she left I asked my dad if would like to eat. I gave him one organic banana and ate one with him. Then I gave him the fresh coconut water that I had brought. He said, this coconut water tastes fresh. I said, yes, I just got them. Next time, we will try to but immediately before drinking. Storing coconut water takes away its taste of freshness.

After my dad settled down, I texted Neha and vented about my situation and feeling of inadequacy. She tried to comfort me with her best but there was just too much happening. The events were developing fast.

A physician attended came to our room and started asking questions on medicines and current situations. She was extremely unprofessional, impatient and a bitch. She was telling if we want to stay here or take my dad home. She was talking loudly in front dad and said, his stage is incurable and therefore after few rounds of chemo we should continue at a place near us.

The attending physician visited my father around 2 pm and a nurse brought all the new medicines as well as the chemo drug Taxol.

They had my dad sign a waiver and explained you are going to go under chemotherapy.

My brother gave bath to our dad and chased him in new cloths. All of us encouraged my dad that he has to eat now. The doctor also said him to eat until you vomit. If you feel like vomiting, still eat. If you vomit, no problem, we will take care of it. But your only job under chemo is to eat well. So just focus on eating. Eat, eat, eat whether you feel like eating or not.

Starting at 3:30 pm the nurses started to give him anti-allergy and other preparatory meds to him. Everything was now given intravenously through a site in his right hand.

At 4:10 his first chemo was administered. Since his pain medication was over the nurse had to give him shot of tramadol painkiller. My dad took his entire first chemo under sleep. We were closely monitoring him and the first session went by without any adverse effects. Perhaps, besides a little bit of itchy feeling that we observed when we woke him up briefly to check on him.

He was hit hard by two drugs causing his state and we let him sleep until almost 8 pm.

At 8 the hospital dinner arrived. We have requested for it for next few days until we found a place to take him and be able to cook.

We woke him up and he ate better than previous nights. We were very happy. He had some rice, beans, curd, and some vegetables. He took his meds after his meal and also has one cup of milk. All very good.

 

The Glitch in the System
At 8:30 pm my brother and I began to feel concerned when we found out that our Aaya has not arrived yet. The aayas are assigned between 7-8 pm only. It was getting late and there was no sign of her. I went to front desk where all nursing staffs sit and inquired about the situation. She first suspected that we have not requested an aaya for tonight. I said, yes, we did request. And my dad had his first chemo today and he cannot walk on his own so there is no way that there can’t be an attendant or someone to look over my dad during night time. Hell no.

I returned to our ward and asked my brother if he had truly filled the aaya request form. He confirmed that he did and so we both went to front desk. By this time the staff nurse has done some inquiry and digging and it was true that we have made a request and somehow the nurse who was supposed to deposit the form and make a request forgot or missed to do it. It was clearly on CMC.

The staff nurse called her supervisor if one of the make relatives can stay overnight in our case and the supervisor gave her a firm “no”. There was no way her supervisor would allow a male attendant to stay overnight and there was no way we were leaving dad alone for the night.

After some thinking, walking, and brainstorming, the staff nurse came to our ward and said, okay one of you can stay but please don’t tell anyone or I will be in trouble. We said, OK no problem, and we don’t want you or the nurse who missed to request for an aaya to get in any trouble. We just want to be here with our father.

 

The Dirty Village
I returned home around 9:30 pm and went out to eat with my cousin and pisa. I was feeling cold like symptoms. I was feeling little feverish, body pain and beck of my right knee was hurting. My temperature seemed a little higher, breath was coming out a little hotter, all flu like symptoms. I guess just eating outside for past 4 days put me down with cold.

Nevertheless I reluctantly ordered two chapatis and egg curry for dinner. Every time I had to eat outside I absolutely hated it. I was literally surrounded by thousands of of ill people and their relative all the time when I was out in the street or while eating at a dhaba. Eating outside meant inviting sickness home with open eyes. I began to mentally count when we will get a place where we we will be able to cook our own food.

 

The Evil of Having No Understanding
It was time to go home. Three of us got back and I quickly washed my hands, feet, and face and began to arrange my thin mattress on the floor while my cousin and Pisa took the bed where they were lying down and watching TV. I tried to sleep to my best and with all the lights and noise it was hard. Every night for the past four nights I hated the TV watching habits of my relatives.

But it was not all. This time both my cousin and Phupha asked me when is your wedding? I said there is no wedding. (Papa is fighting with gastric cancer). We have canceled and postponed everything for the indefinite time. So I don’t know. I will see.

Phupha asked I will find a girl for you. I must be invited in your wedding and I am not going to the U.S to attend your wedding.

My cousin intervened and asked our Phupha, “what if Salil will do wedding and reception in India.”

Phupha replied, “no, no, from my heart, I don’t want to attend your wedding if you are marrying this girl.”

He asked me is it okay if I find someone for you. An engineer girl,  a doctor girl, beautiful girl, whatever is your criteria.

I said, “NO, I can’t say yes to you.”

I was feeling extremely annoyed and angry by this time. I wanted to cut off the topic right there, so I turned to my side and parented to sleep.

But my cousin and phupha were still full of gas and there was still a lot of fuel to burn. Phupha continued that Dad has cryingly told him one day about his disappointment about my relationship and the choice of girl who I love and want to be with.

I knew perfectly well that he is taking bullshit and there was nothing I could say. I was brimming with anger. This is not the time to talk silly and this is not a good occasion to speak anything unkind or false about my dad.

I would have almost shouted and left the room and stayed somewhere else for the night and would have talked to my dad, brother and mom to let go of all these negative people. I wanted no negativity anywhere near us when we all are trying to fight cancer.

I was convinced at this point that none of these people have any clue about the gravity of the situation. Because no one has fucking taken the time to truly listen to the doctors or read the reports. They are happily watching TV where every second is critical in finding out about how we could seek a second opinion, where to take our dad, what kind of pain cancer patients feel and how long can this treatment last. What are the side effects? How can we minimize the side effects?

These and hundreds of other questions are screaming for an answer and we are all running with time. We have to run faster or we will be left behind in pain. 

But unfortunately, this was not the end of this night. My cousin and phupha continued to push, poke and spit bitter words for next 30 min while I kept lying sideways listening and staring on the empty wall.

They said:

“My dad has been hit by my actions.”

“He is broken because of his son’s action and pressure from society.”

“Break your engagement and allow us to find someone for you.”

“This kind of marriages will last 4-5 years maximum and when she will suck you, she will leave.”

“If you break up and marry according to our will, our family will walk with their chest up and chin high. You have hurt us all.”

“Your dad will jump up and sit up immediately if you would tell him that you will marry according to family choice and wishes.”

“You have brought down the family and we are not in support of your action. (Your marriage will not work.) we are trying to help you because we care for you and love you.”

“I have just said what is in my heart but now it is up to you to decide afar ever you want to do.”

“We are not happy about your decision and engagement. No one is. People are not saying but no one is happy.”

The fan was running in high speed and I continued to look sideways towards an empty wall, keeping quiet. All this time they both failed to notice that I have caught a cold.

They continued to watch TV and I remember staying annoyed for some time due to the TV volume but I managed to fall to sleep while the tube light was still on.

 

The Next Morning
I woke up suddenly in the morning. I checked my phone and it was 4 am. I went to the toilet and sat down and began writing this chapter.

As I am finished with yesterday’s event and it’s already 5 am now. I am going to get fresh and would head directly to the hospital where my brother is. I am thinking of sharing some of it with him but since he is under the tremendous amount of pressure himself, I am debating if I should or should not. Maybe I will not. Not right now. I am going to talk to Neha. I need her here.

(to be continued…)

The Naked Soul Talk Show | A Daily Podcast

The Naked Soul Talk Show: A Daily Podcast

Woohoo! Friends, creatives, seekers, and entrepreneurs! Here it is. Share all you can. Please spread the good news! Coming soon to iTunes/Radio. And NOW AVAILABLE on YouTube.

The Naked Soul Talk Show: Full Human Potential and Daily Growth

Welcome to The Naked Soul Talk Show with Salil Jha and Neha Rizal. Learn with us as we dig deeply into ways to initiate breakthroughs in our personal lives in relationships, health, and body- consciousness, discuss the law of success as it manifests in careers and finances, learn how to attain mastery of any skill, share rags to riches stories, and delve into what it means to have a purpose driven life and how to create one via lifestyle design (the 80-20 rule).

We have guests from all over the world from various ethnic, spiritual, educational, and cultural backgrounds. But all of them have one thing in common: the desire to be better than they were yesterday. Naked Soul is a transpersonal talk show.

Here, we will explore how to realize measurable self-growth and manifest success by turning our dreams into realistic goals and eventual realities. Build your own inner-GPS. Create a map for a success-lifestyle: plenty of time with family, and no bosses, no alarm clocks dictating your day, instead indulgence in creative pursuits and the enjoyment of a free life, passionately lived.

The Naked Soul is a place where we transform our “Daily Grind” stories into “Daily Win” stories. Our goal is to empower each listener so that they live their full human potential.

Are you ready to heal, grow and kick-start your soul-evolution and become world class?

The Naked Soul Podcast Ep. 01: Chris Jones on The Art & Business of Writing

The Naked Soul Podcast Ep. 02: Simone Salmon on Writing Books & Taking a Transformational Journey

 

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Read Next

How To Get Out Of $50,000 Debt | Tips On How To Overcome A Large Debt

 

Part One of a Three Parts Series

Every time I have lost money is when I have tried to make more money than what I was already making. ~ Salil Jha

Week 1

I have been hit hard (twice now). I have got an IRS bill for $17,000. This needs to be paid in 30 days. Five months ago, I got a similar tax bill from IRS asking for $8000 in various taxes. I took a loan from my girlfriend and paid $8000 thinking it was a big fat check for an expensive business lesson. I thought to myself, I have already learned a lot in my various business venture. But, unfortunately, this was just the beginning.

This is a story of resilience, positivism and making lemonade out of life’s lemons. This is my story. A true story. A story of an immigrant boy trying to chase his American Dream and the mistakes made on his perilous journey.

I started an IT consulting business in Oct 2011. My primary goal to start Precog LLC (the name of the company) was to generate some side income and possibly grow the business to enough profit so that I eventually sponsor my H1B visa and Green Card through it while making good cash.

The goal was also to help recent college grads to find jobs and help them in whatever way possible. There were a lot of bad and abusive companies in the IT consulting realm and our goal was to purge the abuse of innocent and poor college students.

The company was started by Albert Pen, my good friend and me. The company was incorporated in his name, the same month he got his Green Card. I was the man running the engine. Albert was the legal structure beneath our company.

One thing that I did not mention yet is that Precog was not originally conceived as an IT consulting firm.

The groundwork of Precog started in early 2010 when two of my good friends and I thought of building an electronic stretching machine. Our ideas was to make stretching easier to learn for martial artists, yogis, gymnasts, and any fitness enthusiasts.

But, one of my friends had another idea, a rather big idea to build flying drones and sell the idea to state governments.

The Birth of an Entrepreneur

Look, back in 2010, a Canadian company was in fact building and selling drones (UAVs) to DC police. Their product was in $20,000 USD and we wanted to build something for half the price.

We started to work on the first prototype, leaving the electronic stretcher idea on the back burner. As we got more involved in our overly ambitious project, all of us started to realize that we need more capital than what we had initially planned for.

Together we spent $6500 into the project and as you can probably predict from the story line, we lost it all. One of my friend who has spent into a powerful computer took his computer and factoring that still lost about $1000. I lost about $3000 in this failed venture.

So this was the beginning of Precog. And this Precog was about to be transformed into a service-oriented company where you do not have to invest a lot of cash up front.

The Precog LLC Era

I worked very hard building Precog. I created a website for our company and began to advertise our services. Soon, I had several interested students calling me for IT training and assistance in job placements.

I started to teach classes, often charging $500 for each student per course. Initially, I was mainly working with recent college graduates.

The first 6 months were tough. Not for the business but tough on me. I was working a full-time job and I was running Precog part-time. I used to wake up early at 6 AM, do a training session, then get ready for the job.

During my lunch hours, I used to call and screen my students and answer to new inquiries. In the evening, after returning from my job, I used to take another class, sometimes two classes in a row.

I was working with various vendors. I was working with my students over the phone to prepare them for job interviews. I was talking to clients and other marketers. It was an all-consuming job. I believe I used to work ~16 hours a day, maybe longer on some days.

In the first 10 months, I invested almost $10,000 USD without much return. This was the turning point for Precog. It was “do or die”.

One of my friend, Matt Joy, who was trying to find a job came onboard during this time. Matt took charge for saving Precog. He was Godsent. Precog not only survived but actually thrived after Matt joined the team. Soon, we hired a marketer from India. His name was Daniel. And now we were a strong team of three, making some real cash.

The $750,000 Venture

We placed more than a dozen consultants between 2012-2014. We trained a lot of students. We were making some noise. This was late 2012. Things were looking sunny. We did over $500,000 in revenues in 2013 alone. In total, we did almost $750K in business in two and a half years of Precog’s life.

The business was doing great but my mind and body wanted to give up. I was single and occasionally dating. I thought to myself, business and money can come anytime but this is the time to find my life’s partner. My focus shifted from business and money to relationships.

2013 was hard on me personally. None of my relationships were lasting more than 3months. Matt was getting frustrated with me because he was all pumped up and wanted to take Precog forward. I, on the other hand, was distracted between dating and running a company.

I did not have the energy or interest in doing so. By this time I also began to realize the tax and accounting complications that Precog was facing. We had consultants working in 8 different US States.

All the tax paperwork in itself was 20 hours of work per week. The stakes were high, money was rolling in, and the business was getting complex.

 

Week 2

This past week, I have been thinking of ways to repay my $50K debt. The breakdown of my current debts are like this:

$18000 IRS/Business Dissolving Cost

$14000 – Girlfriend’s loan

$18000 – Credit cards debt

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$50,000  Total debt

 

This past week, I canceled some small monthly payments (to stop the slow bleeding). Subscriptions such as Spoitfy premium, TU Credit Monitoring and Audible membership were the first three to go.

These small monthly savings will not amount in big numbers but it is for the motivational purposes. These steps gave the mental confidence that “I CAN DO IT.” And I have 2 years to clean this mess up without significantly downgrading my lifestyle.

I am not giving up on music, reading or financial know-how. Instead, I am switching to Pandora’s free account, switching to Kindle eBooks (much cheaper) and Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring. I do not have any upcoming big purchases or loan request so I really do not need any credit monitoring at this time.

Next, I gave ultimatums to all other people I have employed on eLance for blog writing, manuscript editing, etc. This is going to save me $140 per month starting May 1st.

However, I have decided to keep one editor to edit my two upcoming books and one Virtual Assistant to help me grow my public platforms. In total, this is $200 per month expense. It is important to note that these costs are not new addition but the continuation of on-going expenses so I won’t feel a blow but will have to suffer the heat, well at least for now, until I find a better solution for my requirements.

I took advantage of Citi double points credit card offer. This will let me use $1700 credit for next 18 months without any interest.

I applied in my girlfriend’s name and got another $6700 for 21 months at no interest. These two credit cards will give me enough credit to use for the next one and half years.

In the coming months, I will be paying off all my existing credit cards where I also pay interests on purchases and existing balance. This way I’ll be saving $30-$40 in interest each month.

My girlfriend and I also applied to TD Bank’s checking, debit and credit offer which is offering $200 cash back and 5x points per dollar spent for the next 6 months. Together, we both will be able to get $600-$1000 back from TD bank’s offer in next 6 months. In the coming months, we will be looking for similar bank offers where we can earn or save a few hundred bucks.

The $10,000 credit union loan that I applied, I am still waiting to hear back from them. In the meantime, I applied for a $10,000 loan from my local Credit Union in my girlfriend’s name as well. If she will get a better rate from the Quincy Credit Union, we will take the loan in her name with Direct deposit payments. I’ll be transferring the monthly amount to her.

 

The other things I have decided to do are:

1. Call Xfinity and cancel the service in my name and get the service in my girlfriend’s name. Being a new customer, she will be getting better rates than what I am paying right now. If she gets the same rate, then I will cut the TV in our package and only keep the high-speed internet. This will bring in additional $20 monthly saving.

2. Once the free APR Citi credit card arrives, buy a new router and model through our new credit card and ask Xfinity to take off their rented Modem and Router. ($10/month savings)

3. Ask my employer to take off my health insurance ($397/month). Expected savings $280 per month.

Total monthly savings: ~$350 – $500 (per month)

In part 3, I’ll be focusing on selling old iPhones and other electronic devices that we are not using. Also, how meal planning and bringing lunch from home is saving me additional $200 in foods by not eating out.  My goal for part 3 write up (next week) is to save another $350 – $500 each month.

Week 3

Now, I am at a phase where action means more than planning. I have prepared a very detailed plan and now it is all about execution. The key here is quick action.

The first thing I did was email my website hosting company that I will be shutting down Precog’s website (i.e. $375 per year saving). I also listed both the domain and website for sale and auction on both GoDaddy and Flippa. I hope to at least sell the domain name and recover whatever I can from the sale.

I also listed my other domain names for sale which I am not using or plan on using in the next 2 years. In total, I have put five domain names on sale.

Next, I emailed MyLLC (the registrar for Precog LLC) that I would like to dissolve the business. There are some paperwork and a $99 fee. I am working on it and hope to close the business by April end. I found out that I have not paid my 2014 fee for NV and there were several other interests and penalties. In total, I paid $500 due on Precog since Oct 2014. Another $500 bill added to the debt bucket.

My girlfriend and I went to Quincy Credit Union and signed our loans. I borrowed $12,500.00 at 12.65% interest rate on 24 months repayment term and my girlfriend borrowed $7000 at 11.65% interest rate on 12 months repayment term.

I hope to repay this amount back in 24 months and 12 months respectively. I am setting aside $1200 to pay back these two loans. Starting month 13, I will continue paying $1200/month to QCU towards my $12500 loan to cut the time short and save on interest.

The next day I transferred $14000 to Albert and asked him to deposit the amount in Precog’s account. We have $3000 plus change in Precog’s business account and this will take care of the check that we will write to IRS.

I opened all my Credit Cards account and organized my balances and interest rates. I found an interesting thing. I had Credit Cards ranging in 11.15% – 23% interest. Since my big loans are in 11.65% – 12.65% range, I decided to pay off all Credit Cards which is charging me > 12.65%.

Luckily, my girlfriend does not carry any debt on her credit cards and therefore we do not have to factor in any cash there. After looking at all our credits, this is the summary.

Pay Citi, US Bank, and Chase in full and stick with Capital One (11.15%) and Discover (15%). Since the bulk of my credit card debts are consolidated in my Discover card (~11000), I have no other choice but to keep the debt there for now.

This past weekend, I started to find out all the electronic junk and books that I do not need and gathered a pile of items to be sold. I listed both our old iPhone 4S, two old digital cameras, and 2 books.

I have about 20 more books to put. At the time of writing this, I have already sold both iPhones (within 12 hours of listing on Amazon for $95 + shipping) and one book (The Art of War by Robert Greene) for $8 + shipping. I’ll continue to do this until I am rid of all the things that I do not need, use or have touched in a year or so.

Also, anything that I am not using and does not need and that cannot be sold, I will simply donate or throw away.

Keeping your home and mind clean and organized helps you in better managing your debts. I mean, it is not scientific but it works for me and few others.

I called home and explained the situation to my parents and discussed my options with my elder brother. They were stressed by the news but after talking for about half-hour, everyone got calm understanding that the situation is under control.

We continued the meal prep on Sunday and this is our third week on meal planning. I believe, meal-planning itself is saving us ~ $300-$400 each month by not eating out our lunch and dinners.

Meal planning is not only effective to save lunch dollars but also dinners. And when you do eat out, for most of the nights, you can eat at Panera and Chipotle. Note, you have to avoid restaurants because you pay for the meal and then you pay tips and end up getting drinks. So sticking to Chipotle/Panera type food joints works best.

Last week, I also called my employer and canceled my Health Insurance ($397/month pre-tax dollars). I have been on health insurance from January –  March.

If I go out of it (I understand it is a risk but it is a calculated risk that I am willing to take). By going out of health insurance, I will incur MA state tax penalty in 2016 for 9 months.

This fine will be half of the premium amount of the cheapest health insurance. By paying a fine 12 months from now and by paying it far less than what I am spending on health insurance is a better choice for me.

After taxes, this might increase my paycheck by $300 per month. I will also try to take advantage of 3 months no-penalty gap period between health insurance enrollment periods. This way I will buy cheap health on my own in 2016 and not have 3 months of coverage.

I have always had health insurance and therefore I am up-to-date with my physical, dental, vision, and everything. I feel, going out of health insurance for say 12 months is risky but worth the bet given my miserable financial situation.

I called and email all my friends to whom I have loaned money. I explained my situation and they started to pay back. I got $330 from Norm Matthews and $140 from Sean Attitude.

Tim Robert said he will try to pay me back $1410 as soon as possible and Bill Tequila said he would like to pay me back $800 loan from last year. Â In total, this will bring me $2680 in cash. I’ll use this extra cash to pay off the high-interest credit card debts or my income tax liabilities once I do my taxes for 2014 this coming week.

I have ~ $250 in my OptionHouse stock brokerage account. I have to make a decision whether I liquidate my remaining position and get out or leave the money there. $250 is not a big amount. A hard thinking line for me but I hope to come to a decision very soon.

 

 

Week 4

I started this week with some excitement and joy of paying off three of my low balance (but highest interest rate) credit cards. In total, I paid off close to $3000 in outstanding debts. Doing this is going to save me $50 in monthly interest. I also canceled my PostPlanner subscription from May. This will save me $29 each month. Phew right there, just in one day I have saved myself another $80 each month.

 

I put aside these three credit cards (Citi Diamond Preferred, Amazon Chase Visa, and US Bank Visa) on my card box (and out of my wallet). I deleted these cards from all recurring payments and moved all automatic monthly payments to my Discover Visa and Capital One Master Cards.

As of today, all of my credit card debt now reside in three cards: One Citi Double Cash (0% interest, a new card that I applied and got), a Discover card (holding the biggest portion of my debt, almost $12000 at 15% interest) and one CapitalOne card (11.15% interest, the cheapest card in my wallet).

 

I mailed $10,000 check to IRS by a 2-day priority mail so that it can reach on Monday, 04/13. I wrote a letter, signed it and sent it along with all the forms and supporting documents proving my unintentional mistake.

In my letter, I basically requested IRS to forgive my penalty (~ $2500) and to add back my educational credit of $1415. I’ll call IRS in 10 days and check on its progress. If I receive some financial breakdown, it will help.

If I do not receive any financial breakdown, Albert will take on the missed education credit payoff and I’ll pay off the rest of the balance within 5 business days once we hear back the final word from IRS.

Lastly, it is worthy to note that for the past few weeks, I have been tracking all of my expenses in an excel sheet across 50 different areas. This sheet as I continue to fill in and track my daily expenses has been mind-blowing.

For example, even after doing meal-planning, I have spent almost $500 on eating out while my grocery expenditures have been only $125 so far.

This is 4:1 ratio. This clearly shows that there is a lot of room for cost cutting and improvement. I hope to update on this after 8 weeks of tracking. I am sure, I’ll discover surprising findings.

Money you can earn and spend but time – time is a finite resource. You can’t borrow it, you can’t store it. It moves only in one direction and there is only a finite amount that you have got. To be successful, while in debt, you have to work extra hard to make up for not having money. You have to solve each problem creatively. ~ Salil Jha

Week 5

IRS cashed my $10K Precog tax check on 04/15, that’s good news. Who would call loss of $10K a good news? Well, when you have messed up and there is no way out, any little progress (similar to drinking bitter medicine to cure illness).

Now, this IRS bill is not something that I should have paid because, overall, it was indeed a net loss. What went wrong is that during the tax filing, we did not show enough expenses thinking we have already saved on taxes (once our tax due became $0).

We stopped and did not add any further expenses. And now, after IRS did an audit and a match on our revenue, they came up with additional $40,000 in our 2013 income and since we were $9000 in the loss, after doing the simple math, made a decision that our net profit in 2013 was $31000.

This $31K was then taxed at a higher rate (sort of understatement tax penalty) and assessed a Self-Employment tax of 15% (which is ridiculously high). 

Anyways, let’s move forward with our story. I called Discover Personal Loan to check if I can take a loan to pay off my remaining Credit Cards and lower my interest payments.

I qualified for $15K loan at 11.99% and paid off my remaining Credit Cards. After a while, I will seek to refinance this loan again at a lower interest rate, say between 8-9%. How?

Since consolidating your credit card debt into one personal loan often helps in credit score within a few months. This is one reason that I did not try to move my one credit card balance to another credit card with 0% APR.

The goal for me here is to not only eliminate debt (by changing my spending habits) but also to improve my credit score which in turn will open up future opportunity to further lower my interest payments and therefore the overall debt burden.

 

At the time of writing this:

My total credit card debt = 0 (Zero dollars)

My IRS debt = 0 (Zero dollars)

Loan from my girlfriend = $14000

My other loans: $34500

Quincy Credit Union (in my name) = 12,500 ($595 per month x 24 months)

Quincy Credit Union (in my girlfriendâ€s name) = $7000 ($620 per month x 12 months)

Discover Personal Loan (in my name) = $15000 ($690 per month x 24 months)

Quick Maths

So, as you can see from week 2 (above: my total debt amount roughly remains the same. $48500 instead of $50,000 but now at least I have put up a plan to pay it off in 24 months without changing my employment or sacrificing too much on my lifestyles.

However, my game plan has just begun.

Continue Selling

I continue to sell my electronic gadgets and equipment that I do not use. Books sell as well but they bring on a very little amount of change (when we are talking about $50K).

I sold our two old iPhones (4S) for $200. Tim paid back $500 to me (actually just today). Tim still needs to return me $1115.

I have deposited $7500 in Precog’s business bank account just to wrap up Precog and pay off the remaining bill to IRS.

Both I and my girlfriend received our TD Bank cards this last week which is giving us $200 cash back for spending $500 in first 90 days. We have switched all of our expenses (and subscriptions and/or automatic payments) to TD card to meet $500 threshold.

On the flip side, last week, we also did our personal taxes and ended up paying $5000 and $900 to IRS and $52 and $200 in State Tax to Massachusetts (my girlfriend and I, respectively).

She had to pay a lot of federal tax because of how her I9 and W4 was set up with her ex-employer. She has had already anticipated and planned for high tax amount and therefore these taxes did not affect us financially.

Nevertheless, this was a lot of money going out of our bank accounts. At the end of the day, after paying over $6100 in taxes, we felt broke looking at our checking account balance.

Weeks 6-8

This past three weeks I have been selling my older books and other non-necessity items on Amazon and as a Garage sale in my building. I sold a few electronics toys to my friends and colleagues at work.

I am currently enjoying $0 in Credit Cards debt. As I mentioned above as of today my credit score has jumped from 670 to 720. Having a loan is actually a good thing for the Credit report and not having a Credit card debt is also one of the best things you can do regarding your personal finance.

At this rate, I hope within 6 months, I’ll be able to take loan offers at a much lower rate than what Discover is currently giving me (11.99%).

Conclusion & Next Steps

I’ll end the first part of this story here. I’ll have a second blog post on it with more details in 6 months. We’ll revisit my total financial debt and what new measure I am employing to get rid to the single penny.

Hope this post has been inspirational, motivational and educational in some regards.

Remember, to be successful, to get out of your debt, you have to work extra hard to make up for not having money. You have to solve each problem creatively. This is a blessing in disguise. You will get to exercise all the creative brain cells if there is such a thing inside the human skull.

You have to make sure that you are not losing time by missing out on good opportunities. Remember there is a thing called “opportunity cost”. You have to keep moving forward with time and not wait until you are out of debt.

I hope to shed some light on this topic in my next blog post as well. See you in six months.

If this blog post has been helpful to you or if you have faced a similar situation in the past, please DO SHARE your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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If you have tried any of above-mentioned methods and/or tactics to successfully get rid of debt (whether a small sum or large), please share your success story. Also if my post has made you laugh or helped you by motivating you or giving you a direction, I would love to hear from you. Any other comments, please feel free to share your rich thoughts with us.