The Survivor

– From the Editor’s desk

This is the story of a married young lady Mrs. S from Bangladesh who fought cancer and was attending Cancer survivors’ meet at CMC-Vellore.
Mrs. S was leading a normal life of a homemaker until 2017. Her hubsand is a government officer and they have a 15 year old daughter who is preparing for her class 10 board examinations. Her day was busy taking care of her mother-in-law who suffered a stroke recently. She single-handedly managed the household as they couldnot afford a maid. She enjoyed a healthy life and the only time she was admitted in a hospital was for her delivery 15 years ago.
She reports that one day as she was taking her bath, she felt a small lump in her right breast. She hesitantly revealed this to her husband after few days, who scheduled an appointment with the doctor the very next day. The doctor asked them for some routine tests including imaging and a biopsy which confirmed breast CANCER and advised them chemothearpy followed by surgery and radiotherapy.
She remembers the first time she heard the word ‘cancer’ from the doctor. She never heard her heart beat so loud, she said. The images of her daughter studying for her exams, her old mother-in-law ran before her. She felt blank, shaken and pale – her life now shattered. Her family was supportive but they too refused to believe that it could be cancer as no one in the family had suffered with cancer and S is so young and healthy. It was during these discussions that through word of mouth, they first heard about CMC-Vellore from a distant relative who herself survived breast cancer.
The journey hence began. It started with applying for passport, then visa, taking loan for medical treatment and finally coming to India. The couple recall this as a pilgrimage, hope that came alive as soon as they entered CMC. The Tamil, the blood tests, the patient rush, visits to Surgery, Oncology, Radiotherapy etc., all happened in a breeze. The diagnosis remained the same but their strength, they said, was renewed and they were ready for the fight. After about 8 cycles of chemotherapy and a major surgery, she returned to Bangladesh with lesser hair, weight (she apparently hated our South Indian food) but with an indomitable spirit. She returned to CMC after 2 months for radiotherapy. The fight with cancer was going well but their finances and other psychosocial issues were getting worse and that is when the psychologists and social workers stepped in to help! The doctor finally declared that her cancer was cured with no metastasis only requiring regular follow-ups!
I could not help wonder the trauma she has undergone, both physically and mentally. What must have truly gone through her mind when her cancer was confirmed and she learnt that it could sometimes be non-curable. Their middle socio-economic status probably has made treatment accessible but the difficulties they faced were no less! Surprisingly, she doesnot give the credit to herself at all. Mrs. S rather is filled with gratitude. She is thankful that her husband managed to get leaves and retain his job by working whenever they returned to Bangladesh. She is all praises for her daughter who has been a good girl when she was away for treatment and cleared her board exams. She is filled with tears when she speaks of her family who supported her mother-in-law and her mother-in-law who took care of her, like her own daughter. When I said, ‘hats off to you’, she simply replied saying, ‘no, hats off to my family!’ Now, she regularly visits CMC for her check ups and has remained free from cancer!
She struggled. She made a lot of compromises for her treatment. She fought against her fate. She managed life in a foreign land with a possibilty of dying in a hospital bed, some 2000 km away from home. She now eagerly lives to continue her happy family life and to see her daughter grow. She may have lost her beauty and hair under the surgical knife and chemotherapy but she won over fear and death.
Yes, she is a survivor!

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