Nireshan Naidoo is a Doctor, specialising in Neurosurgery in Durban. Shortly after losing his mother, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumour at the base of his spine which was inoperable.

Nireshan’s sheer tenacity and faith forced him to rehabilitate himself in the most dramatic way.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been, in one way or the other, exposed to the human and psychological effects of illness and disease, and somehow, subconsciously it transformed my feelings of sympathy to empathy.”

“My aunts suffered from Epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, so it was incredibly sad to watch them fade away, however later on, when my mother fell terminally ill, if there was anything she taught me in her final days, it was that you can’t die with dignity, but you can live your life with it – the vitality, the courage and the resilience the human spirit can endure”.

Already in-tune with the malevolence of illness, the transition into medical school was easy albeit life changing.

“Medical academia is essentially a business, and a cut-throat one at that. It is laden with unnecessary politics and antiquities from a bygone era, controlled by dinosaurs that refuse to become extinct. There is no room for fresh blood (in the form of younger, fresher researchers), as we are perceived as a threat to a system that has been built upon a hierarchy”.

Nireshan perceived the system to be far from patient centric and more about the glorification of doctors. Specialising in neurosurgery, Nireshan forged ahead with the intention of providing optimal care to his patients without an ego attached to it.


A few months after his mother died, his own health took a turn for the worst. Writing it off as physical manifestations of his emotional state, it was only when his ability to walk became stunted, that he sought intervention. Following a battery of tests, it was discovered that he had a degenerative tumour at the base of his spine that was inoperable.

“I lost my ability to walk and used a walking stick, at much mockery from people around me. I was eventually confined to bed, undergoing intensive chemotherapy.”

“I lost everything I had taken for granted. I started to wither away in bed, my muscles atrophied, I lost my hair, I lost weight and I lost my will to live. I could not even walk to my bathroom which was a metre away.”

“The woman with whom I was in a long term relationship left for a man with a longer lifespan.”

“At the time I had seen a prestigious spinal surgeon, whose words sounded like the final nail in my proverbial coffin. He told me to go home and get my affairs in order. So I did just that and prepared to die. I stopped going to work knowing that I was unable to give my best to my patients and that would have been tremendously unfair to them. I think that killed me the worst.”

“I had no support system, no one came to visit. I had only myself in a dark room, with my tainted thoughts to keep me company. I vacillated between anger and sadness and wondered why I was not extended the same courtesy that I had given patients whom had died in my hands; the last gift of company”.

Still mourning the loss of his mother, facing his own mortality with no support and still reeling from the loss of the relationship, the will to live become unattainable. The pain was all encompassing and depression reared its ugly head every moment of every day.

A random video proved to be the motivation he needed to make the change that was necessary.

“I randomly came across a YouTube video of Freedom the blind husky who despite losing both his eyes behaved in the exact same manner as he did whilst he was able to see.”

“I am an animal lover, specifically of huskies – having owned a special one myself – so this moved me. I made the decision to make myself a priority, for the first time in my life. I took whatever money I had and booked myself into an intensive physical rehabilitation centre. In order for me to become better, stronger, faster, I had to be totally destroyed first.”

“After two months of rehabilitation, proper nutrition, muscle building and most importantly mental sharpening and positive thinking, I traded in the bed for a stick and eventually I was buying new gym shoes.”

With a newfound sense of humility and gratitude for life, he freed himself from the superfluous things, simplified his life and moved forward with an appreciation that can only be attained after devastation.

“I recommitted myself to God, to being positive and to never allowing a shred of negativity to enter my life again. I started investing in myself, making myself look good again which did wonders for my self-confidence. And when I felt I was ready, that I could do more than my best for my patients, I went back to work”.

Nireshan discovered that his ex-lovers became his greatest teachers. Having the relationship end in the midst of all of the turmoil served to set in motion the culmination of events that ended with him finding a woman who made the others pale in comparison.

“After having had my journey of discovery, I ended up getting the best”.

Nireshan attests to the fact that a man’s character is defined by his integrity and his ability to inspire. He quotes a line from his favourite book, To Kill a Mockingbird:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Story supplied by Tivania Moodley… a good things correspondent.
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

1 comment

  1. Wow!

    I am inspired by Dr Naidoo’s story. I thought I had problems compared to what you went through!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.


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