Srinagar: “Kuch toh log kahegey, logon ka kaam hain Kehna. I was made to believe I won’t survive. The word “cancer” held many meanings for different people. I was overwhelmed by questions: Will I need chemotherapy? Will I lose my hair? Will radiation hurt or burn? Will I need surgery? Will my body shape get disfigured? Will I be able to take care of myself and my family? Will I die?” 36-year-old cancer survivor Nazima (name-changed) recounts.
Two months after delivering her baby, Nazima was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chemo lasted for eight cycles and was put on Trastuzumab (a targeted therapy drug – to treat her breast cancer) for one year followed by surgery.
However, despite the various emotional and physical upheavals she battled against the disease with determination and acquired the lessons of surviving and thriving.
“The predictions of people regarding her cancer were proven wrong. Surviving meant she was still alive. While she was progressing slowly from the diagnosis part to treatment, the hope of positive results was alive. She was striving for a cure. She wasn’t meant to die,” Dr Ulfat Ara Wani, Medical Oncologist at Government Super Specialty Hospital Shireen Bagh said.
Six years down the line, the patient has improved considerably and is religiously following up on her treatment plan. “Initially, I wasted a lot of energy in thinking what might happen to me and what people said. Eventually, I tackled the deadly disease and lost all my fear. Now I can tackle anything,” Nazima said.
Dr. Ulfat emphasized the former cancer patients should be portrayed as survivors, not victims. “The latter carries disempowering connotations. Also, most importantly, women must be encouraged to look for signs of cancer, have regular mammograms, and seek professional support. But there is also a need for more campaigns teaching husbands how to support their wives. A good support system can do wonders,” she said.
For instance, in the case of 75-year-old patient Razia (name-changed) diagnosed with colon cancer, the family said “she is too old to survive the disease, and it’s surely a stroke of bad luck”
“After getting diagnosed, she feared abandonment. Who was going to take care of her at such age? Nobody who is facing the challenge presented by cancer should have to face this sort of emotional pressure as well,” Dr. Ulfat said.
Again, with early detection and the right treatment, the patient is on the road to recovery. “I was told that this diagnosis has every promise of cure by my doctors. They helped me find grit and determination through painful moments. Since then, I haven’t given up hope or the will to fight and live a meaningful life. So, I went into survival mode,” Razia said.