Cancer Survivors Day Special
CancerJust the name is enough to scare anyone. During the whole process of cancer treatment apart from physical trauma patient goes through an entire roller- coaster of emotions. Death is the first word that comes to patient”s mind when diagnosed with cancer. But as the medical science has advanced, the chances of surviving with cancer have also increased and total cure is possible if diagnosed at right time. Obesity and lack of physical activity are associated with increased risk at various cancer sites, including breast and endometrial cancer. In India, increase in the rates of obesity, central adiposity, and waist-hip ratio associated with urbanization are seen in every region. Also direct and indirect relationships between micronutrients and health have been described in experimental, epidemiological and clinical trials, as a determining factor
According to India cancer statistics, cancer rates in India are lower than those seen in Western countries. But are rising with increasing migration of rural population to the cities, increase in life expectancy and changes in lifestyles. India based cancer, rates for oral and oesophageal cancers are some of the highest in the world.
Compared with 2011 cancer statistics, cancer statistics in india are as under:
India Cancer Statistics: The Type of cancers in India
Incidence rates for oral cancer in India are among the highest in the world. Most are associated with diet, weight, and other lifestyle factors. A significant lifestyle risk factor is betel quid (paan) chewing, a practice that is highly prevalent in India. Betel quid contains a variety of ingredients such as lime, catechu, and areca nut and is often mixed with tobacco.
In India, the incidence of oesophageal cancer is moderately high and is associated with certain diets and lifestyles., oesophageal cancer is the second most common cancer among males and the fourth most common cancer among females according to combined data from cancer registries in India.
Endometrial, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancers
cancer of the female reproductive tract has a high incidence amongst Indian women. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most prevalent risk factor for cervical cancer and has been associated with cancer of the ovaries and endometrium.
In India, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing, with an estimated 80,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The incidence of breast cancer increased by approximately 50% between 1965 and 1985. Large epidemiological studies have identified a possible association between increased dietary fibre and a decreased risk for cancers of the colon and breast
With these India cancer statistics, compared to other countries, stomach cancer incidence rates are moderate to low in India, although certain populations, such as those in the Chennai area, have very high rates.
As free as many Americans might think they are free but there are certain glaring aspects of American life for which individuals are not free to make their own choices, and cancer treatment is one of them. In the sobering documentary Cut Poison Burn filmmaker Wayne Chesler brings to light the sinister nature of the multi-billion dollar cancer industry, its suppression of any real pursuit of a cure, and its stranglehold on medicine that restricts individuals from choosing their own personalized, alternative forms of treatment.
Be sure to watch the official trailer for Cut Poison Burn at the following link, where you can also get a downloadable copy of the film: http://cutpoisonburn.com/
Cancer Prevention : Steps to prevent cancer.
- Avoid tobacco use As already discussed, tobacco is the major risk factor for cancer. Hence, it is important to avoid tobacco in all forms, like both active and passive smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods It is important to consume plantbased foods, rich in fruits and vegetables, reduce the intake of fat and alcohol.
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight Regular exercise should be an integral part of ones daily routine.could lead to liver cancer.
- Get screened Regular screening and self-examination for certain cancers helps in early detection of cancer and improves the prognosis.
Effectiveness of any treatment depends upon the mental attitude and emotional adjustment of patients: fighting spirit was associated with better emotional adjustment.Subjects with low fighting spirit, high hopelessness/helplessness and moderate anxious preoccupation also had high levels of emotional distress, if cancer is diagnosed at a stage when nothing much can be done. The patient becomes dependent on his family for even the most basic of care like feeding and maintaining of hygiene. The family is under emotional and financial stress due to the long drawn out nature of the disease and treatment. In such a scenario patients usually go into depression. To help such patients and to make life of these fighters easy, nowadays hospice and home palliative care for cancer patients are available. These are non profitable institutions intended to maintain quality of life of patients with progressive, incurable malignant and non malignant diseases like Cancer Aids etc In cases when the family is destitute or living in strained conditions or when the medical condition worsens, it always helps to move patients to a hospice where they can get expert palliative care and medical attention. Therefore home care and hospice care bring the best results when used together, and both services complement each other.
This is one more story of a cancer survivor.
Cancer brought both pain and self-awareness in my life. I never thought I would be grateful for this disease but it has opened up a possibility of a whole new life for me. The disease and treatment made me realize that I have to live one day at a time and life doesn”t really give you many alternatives.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46 when I was climbing the ladder of success and for the first time in my life I was gradually becoming financially secure,and probably happy. Life had always been tough for me and whatever I have achieved; it is with great difficulty, and by surmounting numerous problems.
I sometime wonder how was it possible that I could not understand the commands of my own body which was telling me how stressed out and overworked I was. I was always a very competitive child and took active part in school and college sports and painting activities, won numerous prizes and was a damn good high jumper of Delhi state. Despite parental opposition I took up academics and struggled to make ends meet. In meantime I lost my father and in quick succession I was married and then divorced.
Instead of grieving about my life, I immersed myself in historical research and did my doctorate. I secured many national and international fellowships including University Grant Commissions Minor Research Fellowship, Shastri-Indo Canadian Doctoral Fellowship and Fulbright fellowship. I was beginning to be recognized both at national and international levels and at least my professional life was looking up.
When I discovered a lump in my right breast, for some reasons I knew it was cancerous. My mother had a benign lump in her left breast at the age of 82 and I was in high risk category due to my age and being childless. Fine needle tests confirmed what I already knew and thus began my long journey of treatment, hospital visitation and round of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. I opted for radical mastectomy and distinctly remember going through various stages of grief, frustration, agitation and then acceptance. Initially I went through the period of grief asking questions to God, why me? Haven”t I suffered enough? Of course there were never any answers. People asked me how come I did not detect this lump earlier, they questioned my lifestyle and some blamed my single status. Then there were those who started patronising and advising me about what to eat, which god to pray to, to stay away from people, to stop teaching without ever asking me how I was to afford this expensive treatment if I stopped working. All these human emotions and questions crowded my mind and generated more agitation and grief. This was followed by period of complete silence and gradual acceptance of this disease and my gradual disassociation with people who told me that in case I require their assistance I should call them but they never visited me even once. I became an outcaste to the extent that a colleague of mine told me not to inform others about my disease as I would become a social outcaste.
When I was being wheeled into the operation theatre, I prayed to God to give me death. But that wish was not granted. I thought post operation pain was enough not knowing that chemotherapy will surpass all my previous experiences with all the other types of illnesses. My first four rounds of chemotherapy were as dreadful as they can be. I experienced all the side effects and had to be shifted onto a new drug which was expensive but with fewer side effects. I was given three rounds of this new chemotherapy. Radiation was simple procedure and only scarred my skin but by then I was already a different person. I never bought a wig and nor did I ever try to hide from the world what I was going through. I remember even when I was administered chemo drug; I would either be correcting answer scripts of my college students or filling numerous medical reimbursement forms and later submitting them. I even remember driving on my own to AIIMS and driving back home, as my brother was busy looking after my mother who to due to old age had to be hospitalized quite frequently.
Extraordinary life of an Ordinary Woman
How did I keep my balance during this time? I devoted myself to studies and believe it or not, I continued teaching, except for a period of two months when I took medical leave. I used to run all the errands, go and buy my own medicines, go for long walks, talk to trees, birds and dogs in my college. My friends supported me all through my treatment including my brother Rajiv and doctor friend Dhananjay who made all the arrangements related to my operation and treatment. In the meantime my mothers” health began to deteriorate and she succumbed to old age. It was indeed a very difficult period for me, I was undergoing radiation treatment at that time and I remember my friends taking me for radiation session even during the day my mothers body was cremated. My brother Rajiv continued to be a pillar of support, immense strength and courage. In the course of six months duration of my treatment, I lost many friends and relatives who abandoned the sinking ship and made some wonderful new friends including support volunteers. Some of my old friends like Vedwati Vaidik, Aparna, Anil, Sharmila, Anuradha and Albina stood like rocks behind me as they helped me to maintain my mental balance and equilibrium. I also embraced Buddhism, not out of fear of impending death but with limited time I wanted to do things I always wished to be done. I was always attracted both spiritually and intellectually towards Buddhism and cancer gave me the push to become more enlightened!
What experiences I have gained from my long treatment! It does not matter who supports or abandons you, what matters is how you are going to face the world. I accepted the situation as my destiny and thought to myself that God wanted me to become a better person in the process. I no longer get involved in unnecessary arguments, I try to keep it all at a distance, and I have become more silent and a bit withdrawn from the materialistic world and people who believe more in status, money and materialism. I now watch people more closely than ever before and instead of getting angry at people I just prefer to look the other way. I do work at my own pace, continue to follow my Buddhist chants, teaching, walking and enjoying nature.
I learnt that I have to be gentle to myself and use humour in difficult times. I have learnt the hard way that one should not allow crisis to rule one”s life. Cancer has made me aware of myself. I don”t want to be known as a walking dead person. I don”t want my life to become a dump yard. I have stopped becoming addictive to work and have begun to use more of my creative processes like intuition, attention and awareness. I have begun to live in the present moment and not in the past or the future. I now firmly believe in the power of healing based on being honest with myself and others. I have learned to respect myself and be more focussed. I have also learned the hard way that financial security is a static concept and it is not only illusionary and makes one lose focus.
I now pay attention to commands emanating from my body. Cancer has offered me the opportunity to reflect on those who supported me so much and to be grateful for their gift of giving. I have learnt the hard way that I have the right to create a space for myself, if only to enjoy the rising sun or sit in balcony and watch the world go by. I also learned that people who left me loved my image not the real me. I think I am emerging as a more humane person as I accept and integrate all that I have been and all that has happened in my life. As someone has rightly said that “living is a gift of wonder” and one should live every moment peacefully and share it with others.
Dr Archana ojha
Kamala Nehru College
A Survivor”s Tale:
Survival is a strong word, evoking ideas of struggling for life. I was 65 when diagnosed with Infiltration Carcinoma (breast cancer). I had healthy eating habits, no family history and don”t smoke or drink either – then why?” but soon I changed the question from why? To what”s next? Apart from treatment, which went on for 3 years, great family support made things easier. They arranged a driver and a maid for intensive care, besides providing me full care and support, almost round the clock I underwent surgery/treatment which cost around 2.5 lacs for which I was granted reimbursement for upto 60 % under the Central Government Health Scheme. Today I am a survivor but it definitely changed my understanding of life. Now I value my life more than ever and never skip my hormone therapy pills (Which need to be consumed for the next 3 years) costing around 6-10 thousand per month and without fail I get my blood profile test done. Life is not the same, but I have survived! I don”t have the same level of energy, but then I am now 68 years of age, as against 65, when I was first diagnosed. The networks of doctors and specialists who came forward to support and advice me through tough times has been amazing. I consider myself lucky and blessed to be so cared for and supported by a loving and caring family through a disease, considered to be unconquerable.