Cancer is a deadly disease, but life does not end with it as it can be defeated with timely treatment, strong willpower, one’s desire to live and a little bit of awareness. Here, meet some of the truly brave Cancer Survivors who reveal how they have beaten the disease.
Minati Pati, 44, hail from Bargarh district, a treasury officer, with the Government of Odisha. Singing is her passion since childhood and she is also an empanelled B grade singer in All India Radio. It was a heartbreaking moment for her when doctors revealed to her that she could not sing anymore because she has mouth cancer and her tongue got affected badly.
“When I heard this, for a moment I got blank, speechless and felt shattered. I thought why this happened to me? But in the very next moment, somehow, I control myself and get prepared to face it,” said Minati.
Six years ago in 2015 when Minati was performing a song on All India Radio, she felt mouth numbness. After, returning home she discovered red patches on her tongue. She visited a couple of doctors but none of them could diagnose properly. She was having pain in her tongue throat. Finally, she visited a doctor in a private cancer hospital in Cuttack where the doctor did her surgery and sent it for biopsy. She later started recovering and went back to her hometown. She thought that it was just an infection which has gone with the surgery. But after six months, the same complication reoccurred. She had no clue that she was suffering from cancer till she visited the same doctor who conducted her operation. After much confusion, the doctor confirmed it as mouth cancer.
“It was like the sky has fallen on my head; I refused to accept the fact. But I had to. I not only accepted the fact but decided to fight this disease. Immediately we went to Tata memorial cancer hospital, Mumbai. The doctor at the TMH told me that I have squamous cell carcinoma (tongue cancer) and it is in an advanced stage that needed to be operated on as soon as possible. But in TMH, there was a long queue of patients waiting for the operation. We did not know when my turn will come. It was already delayed by six months due to the negligence of the doctor who did my operation. So we got the operation done in another private hospital in Mumbai. With the aggressive treatment including seven cycles of Chemotherapy along with 30 days of Radiation, I recovered,” Minati said.
“Every day was challenging, but I and my husband decided not to give up. The only regret I had that time was that I could not sing which was my childhood day’s passion. But with time I am getting confident that one day I will back to my track and could do the recording at the All India Radio,” said a hopeful Minati.
Another such survivor is, Pushpanjali Behera, 45, from Parmaanpur of Attabira block of Bargarh district. Her husband died of Blood Cancer in 2006. She did not know anything about Cancer disease at that time. It was very difficult for her to cope up with the situation and to raise her son alone. When her life was just getting into normalcy in 2014, she was detected with breast cancer which was in an advanced stage.
“Hearing that I have Cancer, the ground slipped from under my feet. The doctors said that it is difficult to say how long I will be going to survive. I was worried about my son who was just 7 and half years old at that time. I did not want to take my child to the hospital but I had no option. Seeing me in pain, my son used to cry and asking me so many questions like when will we return home? When will you be fine? I had no answer to his innocent questions. I was scared thinking that who will take care of my son if something happens to me? Then I made up my mind that I have to fight this disease. I have to live, not for myself, but for my child. Maybe it's because of the strong willpower that I have been able to come out fighting Cancer,” she said.
"I am fine now but have to go to Mumbai for a checkup every six months. I am working at a Panchayat office. My son is grown up now, pursuing his MBA. I have defeated Cancer but the struggle for life is still going on but I have no regret with life,” she sounded optimistic.
“It was shocking for me when I was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2012. The doctor said that 50 percent of my tongue has to be removed due to the spread of the disease. My wife started crying. I was clueless about how to cope up with the situation, and then I thought to be brave and face this. I console my wife every time, saying that don’t be disheartened, I will not die. Yes, my face might get disfigured but will survive. And I think this confidence of mine has given me strength to fight with the disease," said 53 years old Biswajit Barik, another survivor who works as Sub-Assistant registrar of Cooperative society with a brimming eye but brightened with hopes and confidence.
52 years old Aswini Kumar Darjee, a journalist by profession, calls himself not just a survivor but a fighter. After surviving Cancer, he has founded a 'fighters group' to help the cancer patients in his area and provide them moral and physical support in different ways.
In 2007, Aswini was diagnosed with Cervical Adenopathy with unknown primary. He had absolutely no idea that a small swelling in his gland appeared to be as a normal infection later turned to a Malignant Tumor which was in an advanced stage.
"It was hard to believe that I had Cancer. But it was a fact and I knew that I had to go through the rigorous procedure of treatment. My operation date was decided. As per Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital's (TMH) Standard operation procedure, few hours before the surgery, a team of doctors came to apprise me of my situation and the risk factors involved in it. I was to be operated on the very next morning. The doctors explained that as the surgery will involve a very important vein connecting to the Brain, the risk factor was very high. If the vein /artery gets even a little cut, there would be profuse bleeding. Then they would have to stop the operation mid-way and that could be fatal too. After listening to the doctors, my wife, my brother broke down with tears. Despite trying to be normal, I could not sleep the whole night. A thought was coming to my mind if it was my last night. I may or may not survive. Still, I knew that I had to face it," Aswini said.
Aswini’s operation was done followed by seven cycles of Chemotherapy accompanied by 30 days of Radiation. The post-radiation period was very critical. There were a lot f side effects like his saliva glands get destroyed due to Radiation, with some other complications that would be going to stay forever. He finally recovered after one and a half years.
“I have seen death very closely, I fought and survived. Now I want to live for others and help other patients to create a fighting spirit on them to become a fighter ‘’.
But not every cancer patient and survivor emerges as a fighter. Why many of the survivors could not cope with their situation and got collapse in the mid-way?
“Cancer patients are always victims of stress. Cancer survivors are always under continuous stress and face many psychological issues. Psychological stress is related to immunity. If the immune system becomes low, the fighting spirit will be gone. Those who are surviving should always be in a positive frame of mind. Stress management is very vital for Cancer Survivors. But unfortunately, barring some of the big medical centers in our country, no one considers this aspect while treating Cancer patients or maybe, they are not trained to deal with this aspect,” said Prof. Manoj Sahu, HOD, Psychiatric, Pt. JNM Medical College, Raipur.
"There should be a holistic treatment in every Cancer hospital in the country," he added.
“Apart from the treatment, a human touch from a doctor is needed for the Cancer patients because in this disease, the doctor is one who can only boost the morale of the patients as well as feed them with relevant knowledge to handle the stress. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not happening. Every doctor, who is dealing with cancer patients, should be trained in this respect as well,” senior Oncologist (Radiation) Dr. Sanjeev Mishra echoed.