Sijan Bhattachan : A Survivor Story
Text by Abish Shakya
Photos by Satyan Shrestha
An ace model and choreographer, Sijan Bhattachan has inspirited many to dominate modelling industry as an incontrovertible success indeed. But her greatest achievement till date is the successful victory in her great battle against a brain tumor.
Sijan Bhattachan laid the first stone in modelling in 2000, and although opportunities were scarce, the then 16-year- old beauty progressed sooner than others. Starting her photoshoot for WAVE Magazine’s centrefold poster, the then fresh face of modelling industry transfigured into a wanted personality when the exquisite beauty won Kathmandu Model Competition in the same year.
After obtaining affiliation with the Ramp Fashion, a modelling agency, Sijan appeared in various modelling events and products’ endorsements at the drop of a hat, and later, appeared in ‘People United’, a French Magazine.Without wasting her time and talent, Sijan co-founded Bijoux Fashion with make-artist Sakil Kunwar and later, became an active member of Fashion Kraft Group along with fashion designers Tenzing Bhutiya and Rishant Bipaswa Rai. The escalating heights of Sijan soon guided her to ascend the throne of a judge for Mega Model Season 2.
When Sijan was accepting uninterrupted successive events, she came across a condition. In 2010, first symptoms of her sickness arrived. Every year somewhere around August, September or November, she would get terribly sick, and she would faint on random occasions. “I underwent numerous health check-ups but never got the right diagnosis,” says Sijan, “Doctors would always conclude that I was suffering from migraine.”
Despite her recurring health problems, Sijan continued working for next two years, but in 2012, her health problems worsened. Before one of the preliminary events of Trendsetters, a fashion event organized by Vooto Entertainment, Sijan fell unconscious in her room.
Upon finding her in an epileptic condition, her family rushed Sijan to a hospital and admitted her in ICU. When multiple tests diagnosed a tumor in her brain, she was transferred to Neuro Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed, and need for an operation was advised. Not getting convinced with the diagnosis and doctors’ advice, Sijan and her family members decided to proceed the treatment in Delhi.
At this point, Sijan recalled a challenge ahead: a challenge to choreograph Trendsetter Fashion Show which was slated to happen two weeks later from that day. Sijan thought for a while, and the lady who always worshipped her work and profession, decided to wait for 2 weeks before proceeding her treatment in Delhi.
“I was already working on choreographing the event, and if I would have left all of a sudden, it would have been difficult for the organizers to find out someone else,” explains Sijan.
After the event, Sijan travelled to Delhi to get optimum health care.
“I WAS STRONGLY TIED; MY BRAIN WAS NUMBED AND THE DOCTORS WERE SENDING A CAMERA-FITTED PIPE INSIDE MY BODY. I COULD SEE THEM TOUCHING PARTS OF MY BRAIN, AND THIS WAS THE TIME WHEN I SUPPOSED SOMETHING TREMENDOUS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.”
At the hospital, Sijan left everyone surprised because despite being a patient, she was surging herself energetically to every place, making payments and gathering reports, and did notleave an impression that she was sick. The bold and strong lady was now informed that previous reports are true and shehad a brain tumor.
“I was very nervous while undergoing brain scan required before an operation because for 2 and half hours, I was strongly tied, my brain was numbed and the doctors were sending a camera-fitted pipe inside my body, while almost 15 health professionals were assisting him,” recites Sijan, “I could see them touching parts of my brain, and this was the time when I supposed something tremendous was going to happen.”
“If I was to be paralyzed, I asked the doctors to send me to euthanasia because I didn’t want my sickness to affect anyone else,” explains Sijan, “It is always tougher for caretakers who do not go through the same predicament but they’ll suffer more emotionally.”
Sijan recalls and adds, “However, I felt that I would be okay, and understood that everything that happens, happens as it should, and no one has control over it.” She questioned to herself, “Why to have fear onto something that cannot be changed even with best efforts, while you can still make the best out of the moment by staying strong?”
She went through brain surgery which lasted for 9 hours. Infected parts of skull were replaced with ceramic skull. Though the surgery was successful, she had to go through severe circumstances. “I couldn’t move, get off my bed and walk, and my vision was blur,” recalls Sijan, “For 12 hours, I couldn’t move while I was kept awake to keep my brain alert. All I would hear was tickling of the clock, and it was so loud that I felt it was right next to me. At times, I would often blackout.” At that time, she had nice pipes installed, while her body weight was reduced from 74 kgs to 54 kgs.
It wasn’t easy for Sijan even after the successful surgery. “I was partly bald and my hair would fall even with a gentle pluck due to the side-effects of few fractions of radiotherapy,” shares Sijan, “I was weak, and I couldn’t stand on my feet for even 5 minutes. Since I couldn’t speak for 2 weeks, the janitor who was deployed to clean my room everyday thought I was dumb.”
After a month, Sijan was discharged from the hospital but kept going back to Delhi in every 3 weeks to receive radiotherapy which lasted for 28 weeks. But 6 months after the surgery, the brave Sijan resumed her work. In 2014, Sijan travelled to the US with her family. Sijan continued her work by joining TGIF Fashion Week as a choreographer.
Sijan didn’t put in extreme efforts after the surgery, not because she couldn’t but because the stress was bad for her health. She’s been selective about her work because everything she does had to be worth her time. “I have limitations now. I can’t wander off or travel with ease, and I cannot work heavy duty,” evaluates herself.
She isn’t still fully cured, and has to go through MRI scans every year to make sure the tumor which couldn’t be fully removed hasn’t grown back. Despite this, she strives to do what she does best. Sijan, who recently worked in the TGIF Fashion Week, works as a freelancer and works on projects she feels is worth her time to put stress at bay.
Sijan feels she’s fortunate for being financially strong enough to cover her treatment expenses. At such harrowing times, she feels that the support of family and friends was of the greatest importance. “The sickness let me segregate true and fair-weathered friends. I know the people who felt my pain as much as I did.”
Life is worth so much more to Sijan now, who cares less about the materialistic things in life. She lives life at the present and parties hard to treasure every moment in her life. She feels lucky that her tumor hasn’t grown into cancer. She’s staying positive with her never give up attitude and has final note for us.
“Perhaps I’m alive so I can tell you my story,” says Sijan and smiles.