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This blood cancer survivor runs 20 kilometers every day
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This blood cancer survivor runs 20 kilometers every day

Undeterred by the physical and emotional toll incurred from diagnosis to remission, Ashraf MA is training for forthcoming marathons to be held this year
This blood cancer survivor is training for forthcoming marathons to be held this year
Post-remission, Ashraf MA participated in a 55-kilometer marathon to spread awareness about cancer.

It was racing long distances that brought Ashraf MA peace and contentment. Hailing from Muvattupuzha, Kerala, the 58-year-old TV mechanic started long-distance running in the year 2000, a habit he developed while going for jogs with his friend. The avid runner started participating in marathons in 2016, where he won many titles, earning him the nickname Ashraf Marathone. However, as he was preparing to take the next step, life threw a curve ball at him — he was diagnosed with leukemia (blood cancer) following an unfortunate incident on the track.

Diagnosis of blood cancer

In 2017, Ashraf suddenly collapsed during a marathon held in his hometown. While he did not pay much heed to this incident, he developed a high fever the following day, which persisted for two weeks. He then decided to consult his family doctor, who prescribed a blood test. “The reports showed that my white blood cell count was high and platelet levels were abnormally low. My health was deteriorating,” recalls Ashraf. “The doctors suspected cancer, which was devastating. They asked my family to take me to a specialized center for further tests.”

Additional testing was conducted at another hospital and Ashraf was diagnosed with stage IV leukemia. “I was not scared for my health. Instead, I was more worried about whether I would be able to run again,” he says.

Beating blood cancer and running marathons

Based on the doctors’ advice, Ashraf began chemotherapy. During the course of treatment, he developed pneumonia and even coughed up blood. “As the infection spread to my heart, the chemotherapy was stopped and I was shifted to the intensive care unit [ICU]. I became a bit stable after a few months of treatment, following which chemotherapy was started again,” shares Ashraf.

After nine months of intensive treatment, the symptoms subsided and he achieved remission. The physical and emotional challenges of the entire ordeal (from diagnosis to remission) did not bog Ashraf down. Undeterred, he participated in a 55-kilometer marathon held at Muvattupuzha Municipal Stadium in 2019 to spread awareness about cancer.

A healthy lifestyle post-treatment

As is the case with anyone, Ashraf was prescribed certain dietary changes after treatment to avoid complications; he was initially advised to avoid red meat and increase the intake of leafy greens. “Although my doctor says I can eat everything now, I try to limit chicken and red meat in my diet and eat more vegetables,” Ashraf says.

He works out daily, opting for low-intensity exercises such as push-ups. He runs from 6–8am in the stadium every day, covering 20 kilometers. Having participated in over a hundred marathons in his lifetime, Ashraf is currently training for the same to be held in the country this year.

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