Survivor’s tale of courage

The Asian Age.  | Ruth Prarthana

Life, Health

As part of the ongoing Breast Cancer month, survivors speak of the need for early screening and awareness to tackle the taboos of the disease.

Breast cancer survivor model and actor Lisa Ray with Malaika Arora-Khan.

There are many things we Indians don’t like to talk about. Especially matters we consider taboo. Breast cancer is one of those issues that rages behind the scenes. As women, one does not feel comfortable sharing about the disease, and this many experts feel can be a bigger killer than the disease itself. Experts feel that opening up about breast cancer and early screening is the only way to beat the Big BC. In a conversation with breast cancer survivors, we explore this taboo topic during the ongoing Breast Cancer month.

Not talking about this taboo topic can prove harmful and early detection leads to early treatment and can aid full recovery. A breast cancer survivor on condition of anonymity says, “Being a women and living in India, anything to do with the breast is a very private matter, and many women will not want to open up about it. I think this is the killer more than the disease itself.”

When it comes to breast cancer, there are some good cancers that are clear cut like in my case: chemotherapy-surgery-chemotherapy and radiation. It took time for me to accept the fact that I was diagnosed, and also the physical changes I went through like hair loss was something that stressed me out emotionally. Getting it detected early, and going to the right hospital for treatment I think is the key to beat this disease.”

All of us are always on the run to either finish something, to get somewhere etc. We never stop and try to live each moment. It is only when we go through something life-changing, do we realise that just running through life is not the way to do things. Chef and mother of two Farah Iqbal says, “Being a mother two small children, the word cancer for me was like a death sentence. The treatment was long, life threatening and mentally stressing. During this perilous journey, I met some really genuine people and understood how beautiful the world is. Going through something like this and experiencing all the things that cancer entails has made me really appreciate life and live it to the fullest.”

Rev Jessie Ranjan says, “The first time I noticed was the lump. I did not give it a second thought, which I think is a mistake that we make. When we find something unusual, we need to open up about it to family and get it checked immediately. The first thought that struck me when I got diagnosed was that I have to stay positive. Having gone through so much in life already, this was just like any other problem and I would overcome it. Chemotherapy made me lose the hair that I had adored all my life. But outward beauty is something that is temporary. Chemotherapy brings along weakness, loss of appetite, tiredness and much more, but staying positive and not losing hope helped me heal.”

Senior oncologist Dr Amit  Rauthan says, “We are encouraging people to get screening done early so that it is easy to catch the cancer in the early stages. This will give the patients much higher chance at cure. I have seen that people in recent years are getting screening done, self examinations and regular mammograms done. People are opening up about breast cancer due to awareness.”

He further adds, “Chemotherapy has its part to play in management of breast cancer but due to increased support and care, the effects have drastically come down. There are also newer ways to treat like hormonal therapy and targeted drugs. Where we can delay the need for chemotherapy in patients and also reduce the effects of chemotherapy.”