Interview: Premal Shah on the loss of his cousin brother

Written by Suraj Shah.

“We talked at home openly about him, shared memories of him, laughed at the things he used to say and do.”

Premal Shah is a 37 year old Chartered Physiotherapist, married with two children aged 9 and 6. He is currently preparing to participate in the Everest Basecamp Trek in 2012, in memory of his cousin brother who recently passed away due to a brain tumour.

In this interview, Premal talks about the loss of his cousin brother, how he discussed the topic with his own children, and preparation for his trek to the Everest Basecamp.

You recently lost your cousin brother. Tell us about him.

Amit was 45. He ran his own very successful pharmacy business in Hackney, and also did a lot on work with the NHS in improving the lives of local people. He was married with two boys.

What were the last few months and days of his life like for him, for you, how did he die, and how was that for you?

Amit died because of a brain tumour that was diagnosed last year after a sudden downturn in his health. The family was devastated, but somehow he always managed to look at the funnier side of life. After his diagnosis, he committed his remaining time for his wife and children. We didn’t really see him, but communicated via phone and email. Time was precious to him, so it was important that he spent his time with those closest to him.

What were some of the biggest challenges for you, and how did you manage to deal with them?

For me personally, the biggest challenge was dealing with the idea that his life was soon to end, and that the treatment he was undergoing was unlikely to help him. I had no problem in explaining to my children what was happening. Honesty and frankness is vital. Sometimes the truth is painful.

What did you do to bring about peace within yourself at the time of Amit’s declining health and eventual death?

We talked at home openly about him, shared memories of him, laughed at the things he used to say and do. He was an amazing character, and one that should be celebrated.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from his life, his illness, and his death?

Life is precious, time can be short. Family and close friends should be valued.

You are planning a trek to Everest next year – tell us a bit about that.

In February 2012, I am going to trek up to the base camp on Mount Everest. I will be reaching an altitude of around 18,000 feet and trekking 8 hours a day for 10 days. I will be sleeping at times in temperatures close to -15. This is all in aid of raising money for Brainstrust, the charity Amit wanted to be supported. Amit was an amazing person. I want to do something amazing to honour him. I am out of shape and lazy, so the challenge will be that much more for someone like me.

Editor’s note: If you wish to support Premal’s trek in memory of his cousin, and through him donate to Brainstrust, Amit’s chosen charity, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/premshah

(Photo caption: Premal Shah proudly supporting the charity Brainstrust)

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