Episode 16: Insights on negotiating with cancer as a South Asian students in the USA with Sanjay Deshpande (Part II)

When we think of a cancer diagnosis, we focus on the physical ramifications of the disease. But a cancer diagnosis also leads to major financial costs. Today we are speaking with Rosie Cunningham, COO of Family Reach, about financial toxicity, health inequities and tips for patients and caregivers on how to navigate the financial landscape of a cancer diagnosis.

Key highlights:

1.Intersectional experience as a cancer survivor across age, sexuality and culture.

2. Nuances of the cancer stigma in South Asia and insights on negotiating with it. 

3. The need for creating resources by the South Asian YA community for the South Asian YA community.

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About our guests


Sanjay is a Learning Designer who currently leads L&D at Pride Circle. He has previously worked as a part of the Founding Team of Harappa Education and the skilling team of NASSCOM Foundation. He is passionate about mental health, queer rights and cancer advocacy.

He got diagnosed with incurable brain cancer at the age of 29 the day he landed on Harvard University's campus to start his Master’s program in September 2021. He's currently leading an effort to write & publish a first-of-its-kind book on Adulting with Cancer called ‘Don’t Ask Me How I’m Doing: Life, Death and Everything in Between’ -- to chronicle the experiences, raise awareness and create a resource for Indian and South Asian young adult cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.

He is an incoming graduate student at Harvard University, a postgraduate of the Young India Fellowship program at Ashoka University, and a Valedictorian and Student of the Year from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. 

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 2 mins and 3 second:

    So my understanding of privilege was very different. Because even if I identified myself as a queer person, it came with a lot of safety nets around me. That went away when I got diagnosed with cancer. Now not not only was I disadvantaged because of my sexuality, but I was at a disadvantage because of my cancer experience.

  • 6 mins and 23 seconds:

    So there is this generation of queer people who have just realized that they can be themselves. They are in that phase where they're trying to explore things. They're trying to be openly themselves. There's that frog in the pond syndrome, there are so many fishs in the sea, why do you want to settle for one, so everyone's trying to experiment and like, you know, like, find their own feet.

  • 25 mins and 32 seconds:

    The worst thing is when you reveal in a public sort of space, and that public, I don't even mean like a huge stage or like in like a large audience, even when it's like a bunch of five people together and you just say that. No, I'm sorry, I can't do this because I'm a cancer survivor.

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