I guess it doesn’t take much to jump from chicken poop to human poop, and I promise I haven’t developed a new theme for my blog, but I do want to take a few minutes to tell you about another intercultural couple who could use a helping hand right now even though it’s poop related.
P and I met Arjit and and his partner Heather when we first moved to Massachusetts from upstate New York. Arjit, like P, was starting in the same phd program, and during his first year at the school the new cohort (of eight students)– plus the significant others, which meant me, and Arjit’s partner– got together once a week for dinner at one of our apartments. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other.
Arjit was tall and skinny, an American born to Indian parents, with a quirky sense of humor–I think I remember a story where he decided to raise money for charity by agreeing to cut and shave his “Asian-fro” into weird styles (like Krusty the Klown from the Simpsons) if he reached a certain amount of money. He liked to wear bright kurtas around the office, and always had a story. He was a genuine nice guy, and a really great person to know.
He met his partner when they were both working at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (yes, PNAS… insert joke here, Arjit liked making use of the double entendre) and when he decided to start his phd they both moved to Massachusetts.
However, sadly (for us), Arjit’s professor decided to move to a different institution in Arizona, and so Arjit left P’s phd program after two years with a master’s degree and followed his professor to finish his research. Before they left Arjit and his partner got married at the local city hall.
After about a year in Arizona Arjit and his wife had a wedding ceremony and reception with their friends and family, and a few months after that they traveled together to India for the first time.
When they got back from their trip Arjit started feeling sick. He was having strong abdominal pain and at first figured he was experiencing some sort of Delhi Belly-like crazy-intestinal-issue-from-traveling-in-South-Asia type of problem (hey, we’ve all been there). He went to his university’s health clinic a few times to see if he could get rid of it, but when that failed the school nurse sent him to a gastroenterologist. What followed became a nightmare that no one would wish on another person…
A colonoscopy showed a large obstruction in his colon, and during a surgery to remove the cancerous growth, his surgeon discovered that the cancer had spread well beyond the colon and small tumors had metastasized throughout his abdominal cavity.
In his own words, “In a matter of weeks, I went from thinking I had a bad stomach bug to learning I had metastatic colorectal cancer.”
No one is ever prepared for that kind of news, especially not an active, vegetarian, healthy 30 year old.
Sadly, there is more… since Arjit is still a student, and under university health insurance, his policy only covered a lifetime payout of $300,000. Thus far he has needed multiple hospitalizations, an additional highly invasive surgery to remove much of his abdominal lining along with his gallbladder, and many intensive chemotherapy treatments, and therefore has reached his payout limit.
As his website states, “I’m hopeful that this will only be a short-term problem; come August, I should once again have insurance coverage, either through a newly negotiated student health care plan or via the more expensive federal government-run Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Nevertheless, between now and August, I still need to undergo treatment and the bills will start piling up. Though it’s hard to predict, we expect that six months of treatment will potentially cost as much as $100,000, assuming that my current treatment regimen continues as planned.”
Arjit has remained positive through this entire experience, a testament to his warm personality and personal strength, but the medical condition alone is a tough situation to deal with, without having money worries on top of it.
So I am helping to spread the word. Arjit has started a website called “PoopStrong.org” and is selling merchandise and soliciting for donations to help off-set the cost of his treatments while he is without insurance. I encourage you to check out his site, read more about his story, follow his blog (http://stageivhope.wordpress.com/) and contribute if you can.
Please let me extort your connection and interest in South Asian intercultural relationships to help this lovely couple during a scary time in their lives. Even a few dollars is a step in the right direction.
I thank you for listening to their story and for anything you can do to help.