Pandalam: Septuagenarian C Kunjupilla comes across as a humble yet successful farmer. But what his gentle demeanour hides is a stirring story of three decades of surviving cancer.
It’s more like cancer lost out to the grit and determination of Kunjapilla, a 73-year-old farmer from Perumbulikkal near Pandalam in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district.
He leads a quiet farmer's life in the company of his wife Chellama, his youngest son and grandchildren. Besides the garden in their own house, he has also taken a near-by farm on lease and grows betel, banana and vegetables. Kunjupilla cultivates paddy too, besides keeping poultry and dairy. He has been a farmer ever since he quit his studies in class X.
Kunjupilla said that he developed symptoms of cancer at the age of 43. Though he ignored them for the first 5 years, he sought treatment at a private hospital in Pandalam after the illness turned serious. Eventually, Kunjupilla had to seek special treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) in Thiruvananthapuram. It was only then that his relatives came to know about the dreaded disease.
Although the doctors had prescribed chemotherapy, Kunjupilla said he wanted to undergo radiation only.
Kunjupilla has been on a strict diet for several years now. He has been avoiding hot and spicy foods for the last 20 years. Chewing betel was also given up.
Kunjupilla explained that twice daily, he takes a tea brew that has been boiled and cooled. He also has rice and banana in fluid form. When he has to go away from home, he survives only on the water until he gets back.
Incidentally in 2008, Kunjupilla's condition had worsened to the extent that doctors wrote off any chances of recovery. However, Kunjupilla said that diligently sticking to the regimen of medicines and diet prescribed by the doctors enabled him to regain his health. Following the illness, he lost all his teeth in 2011.
Kunjupilla regularly goes for his check-up at the Kozhencherry district hospital on the days when the doctor, who treated him at the RCC, is scheduled to visit. Having no other health issues now, Kunjupilla is busy from dawn to dusk in his garden and farm. He is also an active party worker of the Congress. Kunjupilla is a regular visitor to cancer awareness camps where he shares his experiences of being a survivor.