This Chartered Accountant is Fighting Cancer Everyday While Transforming Lives With His NGO
- Cancer hit him when he was at the peak of his CA career. It has been 8 years now. He still has it. But, he is NOT ready to give up. He is fighting it. And living his best life.
- Presently, he runs his own tax firm “Tax Mavins” and is transforming the lives of thousands of people fighting cancer - with his NGO “Win Over Cancer”.
- This is the story of CA Arun Gupta who is fighting cancer everyday and “doesn’t have the time to die".
How I Started My CA Journey
I had three uncles in my family who were very successful Chartered Accountants so choosing the field was not a choice. In short, CA just happened!
I put in all the hard work and finally qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1995 and immediately started working for a CA firm.
Within just 11 months at my first job, I took up a new offer as the head of the corporate tax division at a conglomerate valued at ₹3,000 crores in 1995 (actually my senior quit so I was promoted to this role!).
I was young. I was new. And I didn’t know how to handle such a big responsibility. That was when my Director gave me a life-mantra: “Never be afraid of anything new in life. Every expert was once a fresher.”
Working Hard and Working On
Over the years, I worked tirelessly and expanded my work portfolio.
In 2006, BMR Advisors (the 3rd largest tax advisory firm in India) were impressed by my ‘diverse experience’ and I was selected to set up their ‘automated tax compliance practice’. Within 3 years our practice vertical achieved a turnover of around $2 Million.
Unfortunately, the global recession of 2009-10 gave me my first pink slip when our vertical practice was dissolved.
I was a little upset but unfazed by the setback, I did a diploma from ACCA UK and started IFRS online training in 2010.
The following year, I was back as the CFO of a mid-sized cash surplus group, helping them expand and diversify.
Life was going on amazingly well, when suddenly ...
Diagnosed By Cancer
In 2011, I was admitted to the hospital due to food poisoning. Only to discover that is was more. I was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer - ‘Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia’.
When the doctor informed me about it I was really scared, my wife broke down but later she gathered courage (she is one strong and supportive woman, I must say!).
The most difficult part was telling my parents as they were heart patients already. As expected the news was a terrible shock for them. More so because I had a slow-growing cancer - its treatment would start only after reaching stage IV. So, all that we could do was wait and watch.
The cancer was growing every day. “This was like a time bomb ticking inside my body which I knew would explode one day. But I could not do anything but wait for it to explode. And I had to live with this.”
But, as they say, it is all about the perspective. We could do nothing about it. It was beyond our control. What was in our control was changing our reaction towards it. That was when me and my wife promised something to ourselves:
“We accept what has happened. But, we would remain positive through everything and try to lead a normal life. And teach our kids to be the same too.”
Getting Ready To Fight Cancer
“We had to fight back. So, we didn’t focus on the problem. We focused on the solutions.”
We (my wife and I) set short term targets to overcome the challenges and resolved to work on them.
Death was never on our minds. We had accepted that it was a constant and one could not be afraid of it. We decided to keep living with ‘dignity’.
Finances was a prime concern. We had a few years before the treatment started. So, we planned the finances accordingly - for my treatment, children’s higher education, emergency funds, investments etc.
My kids were informed about my chronic illness. Me and my wife prepared them for the worst, instilling necessary strength in them to go through every phase of life.
Work-front, I also had to prove continuity to my employers. I worked on external stakeholders for my employers and colleagues, to give them the confidence that I could continue to work.
I also tried alternate medicines to push back my treatment for the maximum possible time.
During the ‘waiting’ time before the treatment, I got time to think deeper about cancer, the treatment, related costs, etc. - which gave birth to a significant initiative in the future.
“Nothing was easy. But, I gave it my all. And kept going on …”
Cancer Doubles Up. I Double My Strength
2015, September. After almost 4 years of being diagnosed by Cancer my blood parameters indicated that I had reached stage IV of CLL and finally, I could start my treatment.
During the course of the treatment, I took a sabbatical because the strong chemotherapy would render me unable to work.
In fact, during my treatment, the doctors told me that I would be drained out of my life long savings in a matter of a few months. All this for just a 3% chance of survival up to only 5 years (imagine the stress!).
Luckily we worked with the doctors to reduce the cost of my treatment by up to 40%.
2016. My Leukaemia developed a rare complication - Richter’s Syndrome. This complication transformed into another cancer: DLBCL (Lymphoma).
According to the doctors, patients with Richter’s have a survival time of just 8-9 months. Yet, here I am - living, and fighting, and winning at it.
2017. I had a relapse. I may have it again, sometime in the future. But, that’s life. Nothing can be planned. And I’m prepared to give it a tough fight.
That same year I also started my own Consulting - Tax Mavins.
Doctors call it a miracle that I survived and am able to work for more than 12 hours a day.
I know why? Because ‘God’ selected me to ...
“Win Over Cancer"- Starting the NGO
While waiting for my treatment to start, I got a chance to interact with other patients, survivors and care-givers.
We interacted about the illness, life before-during-and-after the treatment.
On discussion we realized that the key challenges faced by Cancer patients and their families were related mostly to finances:
- High Cost of Treatment, coupled with low medical security.
- Loss of Income, coupled with significant depletion of assets in a short duration of time.
Both these factors cumulatively make cancer a disease with the biggest socio-economic cost against any other disease. (Source: Livestrong Foundation and American Cancer Society)
At that time, I knew that I had to do something to help reduce the cost of treatment for other cancer patients, raise permanent funds for families fighting cancer, and create alternate earning capabilities to support them.
That was when I started counselling people and wrote extensively about cancer and different aspects related to it.
I wanted to make the society more aware of Cancer, and help Cancer Patients, survivors and their families in their struggles. Thus, in 2013, was born “Win Over Cancer” (WOC).
Luckily being in the Finance Industry for more than 20 years, I had built a good network over time. This helped me earn clients for my practice (which funded my treatment) and also CSR partners for running programs at the NGO.
“Cancer is a friend - this helped us devise our plan of action. Our programs are based on our experiences with cancer. We believe that cancer, as a disease, impacts the entire family. So, any support program for cancer must be designed keeping the patient’s family in mind.”
Launching an App to Tackle Financial Problems
To tackle the problem of finances during cancer treatment, our NGO wanted to create sustainable long-term earning capabilities among cancer-impacted families.
One of the best solutions was to upskill other members in the family, so they could earn while the treatment was on.
For this, we created a mobile app, Survive, listing over 65,000 skill development centers across the country to provide them training sponsored by Win Over Cancer. The app was launched in 6 languages.
People came forward to offer scholarships to beneficiaries for training as well as covering lodging expenses. We have 56 beneficiaries from the program till date; 22 of them have become employers.
We also launched Asia’s first job portal for cancer survivors.
Taking The NGO Forward
If you are honest and persistent in your approach, your efforts are bound to get noticed, respected, and appreciated. Many organizations came forward to collaborate with us.
Through this, we availed discounts on medicines and medical investigations for cancer patients. This helped our beneficiaries save up to 40% on the cost of treatment. Our donors have helped us raise over ₹38 lakhs as treatment support for over 22 patients.
My wife designed a low-cost, prosthetic bra to assist and support breast cancer survivors. It was approved by 11 government hospitals including AIIMS and CMC Vellore. More than 2,200 patients across 25 states have benefitted from this - helping them save over ₹3.8 crores.
Our initiative started getting recognition in electronic as well as print media. This has helped us expand our reach effectively in a short span of time.
Keeping Up The Tough Armour...With A Smile
Cancer. One has to fight it. Or else, it eats you away. But, to keep the motivation going is tough. In low times, we always remind ourselves and others, this:
“The situation in which you are … you have nothing to lose. You have to fight. There’s no other option. So, why not fight with a smile? Cherish the moments. Celebrate every inch. Keep the hope up. Live life. Love life. And fight hard.
Win over the fear of cancer. And then, let’s Win Over Cancer.
Cancer is a beautiful disease. It changes your perspective towards life and everything.
I have stopped fearing cancer. It is like an old friend that keeps coming back to me. It has learned to live with me and so have I.
And I am grateful to God. He gave me cancer. But, he also gave me the spirit to live with it, learn from it, the power to fight it and most importantly, to help others in their journey with cancer.
I am fighting. I am living. Each day. Every day. And I got so much to do.
I don’t have the time to die.”
How Can You Contribute
We are working on creating a sustainable strategy for rehabilitating cancer survivors. There are countless others who need our support. And we need your support to continue our efforts.
Yes. We need help! We require funds to expand the outreach, create a sustainable model for running the NGO and to keep the mission going - with Arun Gupta or without Arun Gupta.
You can be part of the team too. You can transform a life too. Do your bit.
Reach out to us at www.winovercancer.net (for details about our programs and mission)
Contact me directly on email@example.com
Or follow me on CA Arun Gupta.
Now It Is Your Turn...
What did you like the best about Arun’s story? Were you inspired? Do you feel motivated? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to share it with your friends.
(Edited and revised by Simran Doshi)
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