Hanspaul Singh Saund: Cancer patient
On March 17, 2009, just three days after his 27th birthday, Hanspaul Singh Saund was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer involving cells of the immune system.
For many, receiving a cancer diagnosis is a traumatic, life-changing moment. For Hanspaul, it was somewhat of a relief—a relief to finally know the cause of his medical issues so that he could get started on beating it.
“Having the facts in front of me put me at ease,” he said. “It’s what I wanted.”
Hanspaul was admitted to the Montreal General Hospital on the day of his diagnosis, where he stayed for the next week and a half. During his time there, he almost always had someone at his side. While Hanspaul said the love and concern from his friends and family was needed and appreciated, he also says he longed for some solitary time in order to process everything that was going on.
“I just wanted be alone. I needed that for myself,” he said. “When they were there I had to put on a facade and at a certain point I didn’t have the energy to do that.”
For the next five months, Hanspaul went through gruelling chemotherapy treatments at a pace of one four-hour session every two weeks. The entire experience left him unable to work for 10 months.
Like many young men, Hanspaul prided himself with projecting an image of strength. But his cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments made him feel like he was constantly being viewed through sympathetic eyes.
He told himself that he didn’t need the concern from his family or friends, nor did he see how it would help his situation. What he wanted most was a return to normalcy.
“I didn’t want my family members to worry, so at the beginning I had my feelings bottled up,” he said. “I also didn’t feel like I needed the support at the time because I didn’t think they could do anything.”
But at the same time, Hanspaul needed an outlet for all his thoughts and feelings. He eventually found that outlet in the form of a blog called Cancertainly.com, which he started writing a month after his surgery.
It wasn’t until a year later the Hanspaul said he felt ready to share it with the world and made it public. He continues to update the site with messages of hope and positive thinking, encouraging others to “exchange our fears for faith, our ignorance for inspiration and the negative connotation of cancer to cancertainly.”
Two years later, Hanspaul now sees the value of support and is an active volunteer with the Cedars Cancer Institute’s CanSupport program, which provides cancer patients and their families with practical, educational, emotional and humanitarian support.
Part of his reason for giving back is in thanks for the care he received at the MUHC. He referred to his attending nurses as “angels”, adding, “The care I received there was great, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Reflecting on the experience, Hanspaul says the hardest thing about cancer for him was dealing with a force that he had no control over. While he knew the chemotherapy was needed to save his life, he struggled with the resulting hair loss and possible infertility.
“The disease is making decisions for you, without your consent, that’s what I had a problem with. It’s hard to surrender, but you have no choice,” he said.
While the worst of the cancer is now behind him, Hanspaul admits the memories of it will never go away. “I was diagnosed with cancer, and there’s not a day that goes by that this fact isn’t with me,” he said. “But I don’t let it define me. It’s not who I am.”
Instead, Hanspaul calls his diagnosis a “blessing in disguise” that has enriched his life. He said it has helped him make better choices, live better and has created the opportunity for him to give back by being there for cancer patients.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.