Instead of sinking into depression, the cancer diagnosis turned out to be the greatest motivator, said retired project engineer Bala Gangiah.
The 57-year-old discovered he had cancer in May last year. “When something likes this happens to you, you are in shock and you begin to realise the real meaning of life itself,” he said.
Gangiah then lost his left kidney to the cancer, and doctors later confirmed he had a cyst in his other kidney which over time could turn out to be malignant too.
Gangiah said his decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, in a triumphant show of resilience, endurance and tenacity, was part of a bucket list.
“I thought to myself that there is no way that I am going down without climbing that mountain,” he said.
Gangiah embarked on his strenuous journey on December 17 and reached the summit three days later.
Now he hopes to encourage other cancer survivors to live through his book, What’s Your Kilimanjaro? Climbing Kilimanjaro Against All Odds. The book aims to encourage and motivate people facing mountains in their lives.
For someone used to conditioning his body for remarkable feats - he has run 20 marathons, five ultra-marathons and has trekked to Everest Base Camp - the cancer diagnosis delivered a hard blow to Gangiah.
“It’s never easy to put into exact words how you feel when the news is broken to you. What I can recall is that besides the shock, I asked myself if my house was in order so my family could continue as normal, because you immediately associate cancer with death. Next, my mind scanned through all the things I wanted to do, but never got down to, and the first thing that came to mind was that I had not climbed Kilimanjaro.
“At first, my family could not understand my decision and were concerned about my health, but eventually they came around and allowed me to see my dream through,” he said.
Gangiah said his doctors could also not understand his healthy heart rate and ability to embark on such a journey. His preparation started with walking slowly, which led to jogging and then running.
“My only fear was not climbing and that I would not get it done,” said Gangiah.
Gangiah said he had learned that people have limitations set by themselves which prevent them from living.
“The way I feel right now is the same way I did when I was 20, despite being in pain all the time,” he said.