Here’s a Man Who Runs Half Marathons and Climbs Mountains with Just One Lung!

Kanishka Lahiri’s right lung had to be removed completely because of cancer. With half the lung capacity of a normal human, he still runs and treks in the mountains.

Bangalore-based software professional Kanishka Lahiri had, by the age of 39, run several marathons and ultra-marathons and trekked extensively in the Himalayas. But, in the second half of 2013, Kanishka developed a dry cough. Attributing it to Bangalore weather and pollution, he ignored it. But the cough persisted even when he was away from the city. He went for a running trip to the mountains of Uttarakhand but the exercise proved more strenuous than ever before. Finally, Kanishka decided to visit a doctor. The doctor didn’t suspect anything serious either and put Kanishka on antibiotics. But the cough was unrelenting. Three months into this condition, Kanishka had an X-Ray done and it became clear that he had a patch in the right lung. Was it pneumonia or tuberculosis or Wegener’s Disease? The doctors struggled to diagnose the cause of Kanishka’s worsening health. Medications for all suspected conditions were given but no one really suspected that a person as physically active as Kanishka would have any serious illness. It turned out to be cancer.

In the middle of this crisis, Kanishka’s wife delivered a baby boy. The baby was barely two months old when the doctors delivered their verdict for Kanishka – his right lung was severely damaged. He had to have surgery to remove the cancer affecting his lungs. His right lung was removed completely. Post-operative biopsies on the lung tissue confirmed classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Stage 4A. He then underwent chemotherapy to salvage the left lung, which had started showing signs of damage. The surgery and the chemo took their toll – Kanishka was on the ventilator and then in the ICU for over six weeks.

Thankfully, the bad times began to recede soon after that. Slowly and steadily, Kanishka started recovering. He started learning to breathe and live with a single lung. He started regaining the weight and strength he had lost.

Kanishka says “Medical science played a great part in my recovery but what helped much more was the positive attitude that my family and friends brought to me. My doctor said that I would not just recover but be able to run as well. And I wanted to believe in it and make it happen.”

“I did not want my son to have a sick father. I also, wanted running to remain a part of my life.” - Kanishka Lahiri

“I did not want my son to have a sick father. I also, wanted running to remain a part of my life.” – Kanishka Lahiri

Four months after the treatment began, Kanishka started going for walks. Two months later, he began to attempt running. “I started on a very light running routine and slowly started rebuilding strength and endurance,” says Kanishka.

He gradually ramped up to reach milestones of 5k and 10k. And now, two years after his treatment, Kanishka has started running half marathons, that is, 21 kilometres!

"Being diagnosed with cancer is not the end of the road. Things have improved dramatically these days in terms of knowledge of the disease and treatment options. I recall my friend telling me to just banish the thought of the movie 'Anand' from my head", says Kanishka Lahiri.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is not the end of the road. Things have improved dramatically these days in terms of knowledge of the disease and treatment options. I recall my friend telling me to just banish the thought of the movie ‘Anand’ from my head”, says Kanishka Lahiri.

“Soon after I was back on my feet, I was yearning to see the mountains again,” says Kanishka, who has restarted his mountain treks. This October, Kanishka scaled a height of 14,000 ft in the Himalayas! Before his illness, Kanishka was a coach at Runner’s High, a community of running enthusiasts in Bangalore. He has restarted his coaching sessions now and regularly trains aspiring runners.

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“None of this was easy. It all happened thanks to the encouragement of my pulmonologist, the team of oncologists, my group of friends and coaches at Runner’s High, and my wife. It was a team effort that put me back on the running track. I’m not able to run as fast as I used to or endure extreme treks with my reduced lung capacity. But I can’t rule out a full marathon or more arduous treks in the future,” says Kanishka, beaming with positivity.

You can draw inspiration from Kanishka by writing to him at kanishka.lahiri@gmail.com.

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