From Cancer (Man) to Ironman In A Year
- Jonali Buragohain
- Published on 16 Nov 2022, 9:08 am IST
- 7 minutes read
- 2012-batch IPS officer of AGMUT cadre, Nidhin Valsan, finished Ironman 70.3 Goa 2022 race.
- What is truly remarkable about this achievement is that he is a cancer survivor.
- He was detected with stage four cancer in 2021 and underwent six chemotherapy sessions.
- SP, Crime Branch, Goa, Nidhin Valsan, IPS
From Cancer (Man) to Ironman in a year. These are the exact words 2012-batch IPS officer used to describe himself while speaking to Indian Masterminds. And these were the very words that kept him motivated while training for the Ironman triathlon, a fitness journey that was marked by strict discipline, lifestyle changes, and steely determination for this cancer survivor.
Detected with fourth stage of cancer of the lymphatic system in 2021, this IPS officer didn’t allow the disease to make itself at home in his body. Nor did he allow it to take up space in his mind. The police instincts in him, grilled into him during his training days at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA), came into full play as he took on the cancer head on and didn’t rest until he chased the last of the cancer cells away from his body.
In effect, he was born again, ready to challenge himself more, stretch his limits, set new targets and achieve them all. And, defeating all physical limits brought on by chemotherapy, a bout of Covid-19, and low immunity levels, he finished the Ironman 70.3 Goa 2022 race, announcing to the world that no cancer can defeat the man whose time has come, to shine.
In conversation with Indian Masterminds, Ironman Nidhin Valsan, IPS – who is currently posted in Goa as SP, Crime Branch and head of SIT for land grabbing cases – revealed what kept him going, when did those steely nerves form, and how he prepared himself for the strenuous Ironman triathlon.
MY CHILDREN’S FACES WERE THE BIGGEST MOTIVATOR
After he was detected with cancer, it was natural for Mr. Valsan to experience depression and anxiety. But, he didn’t stay there! Just as fast as he had gone down, he was quick to get up also, choosing to fight the disease and emerge victorious for the sake of his family. The beautiful innocent faces of his two young children kept appearing before him as he lay awake in the general chemotherapy ward in a government hospital in his home state, Kerala.
“At that time I made up my mind to defeat the cancer. I love my children and I cannot bear to part with them. I have to live for them. The love for my children gave me all the strength and motivation I needed to fight this battle, and I was ready and raring to go!”
MOTIVATIONAL SONGS, NETFLIX HELPED ME TO DISENGAGE FROM NEGATIVITY
But, like any battle, it was fraught with danger at every turn, and having to constantly negotiate with dangers can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. It especially takes a toll on the mind, as it goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. However, the officer, who is a post-graduate in Psychology, guided himself successfully through this challenging period.
The moment he felt negativity trying to overpower him was the time he switched off his mind from all negative thoughts by switching on to recreational pursuits, like listening to motivational songs, going on a Netflix binge, etc. “This took my mind off negativity and helped me to refocus and reset,” he said.
I WON THIS BATTLE, BUT THE WAR IS FAR FROM OVER
With focus, commitment and sheer will, nothing is impossible, Mr. Valsan said. But, in the same breath, he also said that cancer is like the sword of Damocles, hanging over one’s head. One cannot be really sure it’s gone, as there are chances of relapses. So one needs to be prepared to keep winning battle after battle to win the long war. For this reason, he doesn’t let his guard down for even a moment.
After coming out of the hospital, as soon as he could, he started hitting the roads to lose the extra kilos that he had put on because of steroids used during his treatment. He was touching 90 kilos and he needed to lose weight fast. So, he stared running, something that he had, again, picked up from his SVPNPA days when he used to run 5-10 kms regularly, and had even run two half marathons.
But, this time, it was very difficult, as he soon found out. So, he started out slow, gradually increasing distance and pace, giving his body time to adjust. It worked, and he started running like a pro, doing 21 kms with ease.
This filled him up with a new-found confidence that, if his mind believes, his body follows. However, as road running daily can be hard on the knees, he alternated with cycling, and went for the occasional swim, too. And, it was while following this routine that he started entertaining thoughts of giving a shot at the Ironman triathlon.
WHILE TRAINING HARD, I MADE SURE BODY GOT ADEQUATE REST TO RECOVER
And, once his mind was made up, the fighter in him took over, and he started training hard, getting up at 4 am in the morning and going to bed at 9 pm. Being, a cancer survivor, he knew how important sleep was for the body to recover, as does any pro athlete.
“I made sure my body got seven hours of rest every night. I made it a point to finish all my office work and return home by 7-7:30 pm, have dinner, and go to bed along with my kids at 9 pm sharp. Ironman is not just a triathlon event, it’s a way of life. To become one, you have to build your lifestyle around it.”
And, with some guidance from another inspiring personality – former drug-addict turned certified Ironman coach Neil D’Silva, a four-time Ironman 70.3 finisher, Mr. Valsan finished the Ironman 70.3 Goa 2022 race held on 13 November!
LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED ON THE WAY
While winning this race gave him inner satisfaction, winning the fight against cancer had mellowed him down. People say overcoming a life threatening disease makes one tough, but, in Mr. Valsan’s case, cancer seems to have softened him up.
It filled him up with gratitude. Gratitude for the gift of life. Gratitude for today. Gratitude to be able to run, cycle and swim. Gratitude to be able to make memories with his family. And, he preferred to show it by bowing before the Almighty. He turned more spiritual, deeply religious, choosing to offer thanks to God every day for the ‘little big things’ in life.
“A deep sense of gratitude is what I am filled with nowadays. After having experienced the lowest of lows, every little achievement gives me a high, and makes me grateful to be alive,” he said.
The irony is, people take party drugs to feel high, to feel happy, to feel alive, but, here is a person, for whom, being alive is the reason to feel happy. And he gets high on life!
MESSAGE TO CANCER FIGHTERS
The conversation ended with a message for cancer fighters. To all people battling cancer at this time, he had this to say: “You all are fighters. Keep up the fight. Lead a disciplined life, eat healthy, up your protein intake, and give your body adequate rest to heal. Look around you, there are so many reasons for you to come out of it. Every time you feel you are buckling under the stress, remind yourself that all that you love and cherish await your return. This should be motivation enough for you to brace up and fight!”
END OF THE ARTICLE