Cancer was the most vital fight for this athlete.
Girish Gowda started working as a delivery boy at the age of 18, to shoulder the responsibility of his family, which comprises of him, his mother, and four sisters. Life had been tough for young Girish, who was just 12 years old when his father passed away.
Time passed, and Girish continued working, till one day, an incident took place which changed his life forever.
Walking home from work, Girish happened to step on a political banner. He soon discovered that it was a gross mistake, as the person concerned, who happened to be present, immediately started an argument with him, which ended in Girish getting slapped on the road, in public.
Humiliated and dejected, a stunned Girish went home and cried buckets. He wanted revenge but realised he was responsible for his family’s well-being. He decided to focus his anger into something productive.
Girish enrolled in boxing classes unbeknownst to his mother.
He would sneakily attend classes either before, or after work hours. His mother eventually found out and wasn’t happy. She opined that Girish had to either study, or work, and not waste time pursuing pointless ventures. Girish understood the need to support his family, but, did not want to give up his dreams. He promised his mother that he would stop boxing, but instead, joined karate classes as well.
His labour bore fruit, as two years later, he was awarded a black belt in karate. Girish recalls how the feeling of vengeance against the politician had disappeared and was instead replaced by the self-discipline of a fighter.
Soon, thanks to his prowess and sheer hard work, Girish was fighting professionally.
District and state-level opportunities presented themselves, and Girish went on to participate in more than 20 state-level championships.
In 2009, Girish got a chance to kickbox in the ring. Until now, he had participated in karate-style kickboxing bouts. Naturally more success followed for the fighter. His kickboxing bouts were successful, and he won many tournaments. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, but soon, things were about to take an unexpected turn.
Girish started feeling unwell during his training sessions. He visited several doctors, who dismissed it as the flu. Later, Girish discovered that his gums were bleeding. He visited a dentist who told him that it was due to a minor infection, and like the doctors he had consulted earlier, prescribed some generic medicines.
However, when Girish collapsed on the floor after a training session, he realised that something was seriously wrong.
He drove himself to a hospital and informed the doctors about his symptoms. After some blood tests, the doctors found out that his platelet count was dangerously low. A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood—Girish’s platelet count was 4,000 platelets.
The doctors immediately referred him to a larger, well-known private hospital, where further tests were conducted, and Girish was diagnosed with acute blood cancer. Girish was asked to stay in the ICU, for a while. At the same time, his sister contacted Dr Hari Menon, a well-known hemato-oncologist,
Girish decided to seek treatment from Dr Menon.
Dr Menon and his team, worked hard to get Girish back on track. He pushed him to walk, and go out and enjoy nature and not be cooped up in a room 24X7, awaiting treatment.
Painful chemotherapy sessions followed as well, with Girish braving through them with no complaints. In fact, Dr Menon correctly observed that it was Girish’s prior commitments to physical fitness, which held him in good stead during his treatment.
After a month of treatment under Dr Menon and his team, Girish got discharged. At home, life was tough. The diagnosis of cancer is devastating news not only because of nature of the disease but also because the costs of the treatment, pose a continuous financial drain.
Girish found himself in debt and realised that to repay the money; he would have to do something fast. He decided to concentrate on training people and earn a living.
Slowly, he went back to his old routine. His coach and guru encouraged him, pushing him to follow his dreams. The chemotherapy required Girish to have a needle in his arm all the time. That prevented him from weight-training. Once the needle came off, there was no stopping him, and once his debts were cleared, he started practising rigorously to revive his sports career.
After successfully winning the bout against cancer, Girish tasted victory in the ring again.
Girish won the win the gold medal in the light heavyweight (-81 kg) category at the National Federation Cup 2017-18 held in New Delhi. This was his 9th gold medal in the national championships.
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Girish’s grit and determination through all the twists and turns that life has thrown his way never faltered, and he has vowed never to stop throwing punches. He seems to echo the words spoken by Muhammed Ali—
“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”