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To most people, the dreaded “C” word is like getting a death sentence. But, it has been proven time and again, that given today’s advancements in medical science, early warning systems and a positive approach to the disease, more and more cancer victims are becoming cancer survivors. There are many stories of people who have triumphed over cancer.

Take the story of young Ms. S. Driven, go-getting and ambitious, this young lady is a very successful entrepreneur who owns and runs a wildly successful Indian fast food chain in New York City. Over five years ago, she was diagnosed with first stage breast cancer. Given her youth and strength, she was put on an accelerated chemotherapy program. Within the year she was free of the disease and in remission. Today, she is a mother with a toddler son and continues growing her business in the USA and UK. For her, life after cancer is a non-negotiable deal.

The importance of having a positive mindset

As reported in www.yourstory.com/2016/10/cancer-survivors-self-v/, Uma Pai, a 72-year-old entrepreneur and cancer survivor, says, “The word Can-cer starts with three letters CAN. With so much positivity in the word, how could I not overcome it?”  In Uma’s opinion, a positive approach is essential. This mindset helps to fight cancer. Uma showed her fighting spirit when, just after her mastectomy (she still had the bandage around her chest), she decided to go on a Central India trip. Her positivity has stood her in a good stead… even at her fairly advanced age of 70+.  Amar Bhaskar, another cancer survivor, said: “Fighting cancer is a battle and one needs to be positive.”

Potential for cure after early detection

The importance of detecting cancer in the early stages can’t be emphasized enough. A number of common cancers, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, oral cancer, and colorectal cancer have high rates of cure when detected early and treated according to best practices.

Correct diagnosis and treatment

The correct diagnosis, backed up by relevant and effective treatment, is of life and death importance to every cancer patient.  Every cancer type involves a specific treatment regimen that incorporates one or more modalities, which could include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Defining the objectives of treatment and palliative care is an important first step. The primary goal is usually to cure the cancer or to prolong life significantly. Improving the patient's quality of life is also one of the primary objectives. Cancer care health services should be integrated, holistic, people-centered and provide psychosocial support. All this works towards ensuring that cancer survivors lead a healthy, happy and fulfilling life – after cancer.

Emotional and psychological support

To most cancer patients, knowing they aren’t alone in their battle against cancer, is half the battle won. From diagnosis and through treatment, if a patient has a support group comprising people who have been through the same struggle and emerged triumphant, then the will to fight becomes stronger. Support groups help cancer patients and caregivers to overcome their fear of this dreaded disease, and cope with the treatment – which more often than not – is difficult and debilitating. Support groups act like surrogate family members who are there to provide encouragement, emotional support and physical help.

Reach out. And share your story.

Social media and the Internet has given cancer survivors the opportunity to talk about their fight against this disease. Ruchi Dilbagi, a cancer survivor, has shared her story, showing how relevant it is to speak up, and the impact the stories have on other cancer patients. Ruchi recounts how at a mall…” a woman walked up to me and told me that she saw my video and shared it with her sister who is suffering from cancer. She also said my story has inspired and helped her sister a lot. That showed me how important it is for survivors to share their story. If you can speak up and help someone in their fight against cancer then you should not hold back.”

Dr. BS Ajaikumar, the Chairman and CEO of HCG Cancer Hospital, says that, “Cancer is a complex disease and it needs a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment. When outcomes through a focused treatment modality are achieved, there would be more survivors. I am happy to note today that survivors are coming and talking about their journey in the battle against cancer and how they have overcome it.”

Cancer is NOT the end of the road

Here are some wise and supportive words from cancer survivors…for whom the end is still not in sight. They agree that cancer is not the end of the road. It is just a bend in the road.

Delhi based home-maker Shweta Sinha (name changed) is one of the many cancer survivors who celebrate life after cancer. Sinha complained of persistent abdominal bloating and pain. She was diagnosed with Stage-III ovarian cancer. Immediate treatment was started. She was treated with ‘Neo adjuvant’ chemotherapy. After three cycles of treatment, a response evaluation was conducted. Based on the results, she underwent a major surgery.

“It was a difficult time for the entire family, especially for my two children,” says the 55-year-old Sinha. “After the surgery, I received three more cycles of chemotherapy and am doing well now. It has been almost two and a half years since I was diagnosed and I am on a regular follow up schedule now.”

Uttrakhand resident and cancer survivor, Malbika Kundu (name changed), 36, a mother of two, says it was the support of her family that helped her fight back. “I was detected with cancer at 32 years of age. What I felt is really hard to describe in words. I just went numb when I came to know that I have been detected with ovarian cancer.” She says her family’s courage pushed her to keep fighting. Kundu says, “I can’t thank God enough to be given a second chance to life. Looking back at those times made me realise that besides proper medical care you also need abundance of support of your close ones for surviving. I have been asked often what advice I will give to those who are fighting cancer. Frankly, I have no answer. This is a fight that everyone deals with in their own way and hopes to be a winner…” But apart from the support of family and friends, it is also important to cultivate and nurture other interests and hobbies, to help you channelise your energy into something you love, helping you to look beyond the disease. And enjoy the life that definitely lies after cancer.

BY THIYAGARAJAN VELAYUTHAM, FOUNDER, IHHC | 8TH FEBRUARY, 2019

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