Canadian-American dentist Dr. Parul Dua Makkar (right) commemorates the life of her beloved late sibling by publishing a compilation of his eloquent meditations on life and loss.
DESPITE A BIT of an age gap, and the fact that they lived in different countries, the Dua siblings had long bonded over dentistry. Dr. Parul Dua Makkar
and her brother, Dr. Manu Dua, grew up in Calgary, Alberta; she practiced in Jericho, New York, and he in their native Canadian city.
“We took Dr. Arun Garg’s implant course together, and we went to the Dominican Republic together and worked on cases,” Dr. Makkar says. “He loved doing root canals and would send me cases at least once a week that he’d be proud of.”
Tragically, Manu was diagnosed with oral cancer in July 2019 and passed away at age 34 on March 14, 2021. In November 2019, he was featured on the cover of Dentaltown magazine, and inside penned “Doctor, Heal Thyself,” in which he shared his story. Before his diagnosis, he wrote, he was sure the only way to live was in “constant fear—fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of staff issues, fear of clinic issues, fear of life in general.”
That August, Dr. Dua had undergone surgery in which half his tongue was removed—yet he looked ahead with positivity. “[Cancer] has given me a sense of perspective I would never have had,” he wrote in Dentaltown, “and has given me strength and fortitude to live in the best possible way—full of kindness and without fear.”
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, he learned his cancer had reappeared. Before his second surgery, he was placed in quarantine and, two days later, suffered the passing of his grandmother. It was then he decided to leave dentistry, sell his practice and focus on his health. At the time, he started writing a series of blog posts musing on mortality, the importance of early cancer detection and life lessons for dentists.
Published for the last time in Dentaltown posthumously, Dr. Dua wrote “Leaving Dentistry: This Way Out”: “The dark but beautiful side of facing your mortality at an early age is that you realize death is the only ever-present factor, and it respects no boundaries. The sooner we come to terms with this fact, the faster we can embrace our inner self and take full advantage of the precious years we may have left.”
Because of pandemic travel restrictions, Dr. Makkar wasn’t able to travel to Canada to say her final goodbyes. Last August, wanting to continue to share her brother’s legacy and promote oral-cancer awareness, she compiled Manu’s posts and published them as Life Interrupted: Dr. Dua’s Survival Guide. The book is meant to encourage readers “to live life to the fullest, doing the things that bring you joy,” she says.
Dr. Makkar has also raised money through the Oral Cancer Foundation Walk in honor of her brother—nearly $1,500 overall, with more to come this year. She hopes Life Interrupted will help “create greater awareness of oral-cancer screenings and early diagnosis, so that no other parent has to [lose] their child.”