How these two women found support from family and friends in their battle against cancer
The term ‘cancer’ brings a sense of dread among most of us. Despite the steady advances made in medical research over the years, we still feel cancer is an incurable disease. Surprisingly, cancer survival rates are much higher today than we all assumed.
Reports suggest that among all cancers, breast cancer affects women the most. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), about 1.6 lakh women are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer in India every year. However, the average five-year survival rate for women with invasive breast cancer is 90 percent, while it is 83 percent for 10 years. This translates to eight out of ten women.
While these facts sound promising, how does one survive cancer? The Voice of Cancer Patients, an online community for cancer patients that brings together messages and conversations surrounding the illness, has interacted with numerous cancer patients in India, and identified a few determined survivors who had gripping tales to tell. Here are two real life stories of breast cancer survivors that are infused with hope.
How Kulwinder Lamba overcame the dread of wrong diagnosis
Two decades ago, when Kulwinder Lamba was a middle-aged mother, she felt a chickpea-sized lump in her breast, after which she approached her family doctor. The lump was operated and removed, and the samples were sent for lab tests. When the results came, her doctor assured that it was not cancerous. But after a few months, another lump appeared, and she was alarmed. This time, she approached a cancer specialist, which confirmed her worst fear –breast cancer.
Kulwinder was just 38 years old, and she had two young children. She lost all hope and cried her heart out for a few days, but eventually got her wits together. Since her earlier diagnosis was wrong, she had already wasted six months of her precious time. This left her with no option but to go for a breast removal surgery, which could have otherwise been a breast-conserving surgery.
After undergoing many months of chemotherapy, her life gradually came back to normal. She was on medication for eight long years. And, at that point in time, she joined the Indian Cancer Society as a volunteer, and started helping other cancer patients by providing moral support and prosthesis.
As time flew by, her health improved steadily. Both her daughters got married, and her eldest daughter was expecting her first baby a few months ago. However, during her pregnancy, she complained of pain in her breast. The doctors identified something abnormal in her breast through ultrasound and soon, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Her chemotherapy sessions began, and she had to undergo the same agony that Kulwinder had gone through.
Nonetheless, it has been three years now and her daughter is coping well with the treatment.
Today, after going through all the tumult, Kulwinder says, “I believe that a strong will power is crucial to win over cancer. I am not afraid of the unknown anymore, and I have tried to impart this to my daughter too”.
Finding support within family and elsewhere: Satinder Kaur Rayat
When Satinder Kaur was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she felt like her whole life was collapsing. She immediately went for a surgery, but her health started to deteriorate due to the side effects of 12 chemotherapy sessions, and a radiotherapy session. She felt like someone had sucked the life out of her and could hardly eat anything. She even had a couple of anxiety attacks before every chemotherapy session, coupled with nausea and vomiting.
Besides, Satinder’s family was under financial strain due to the heavy treatment expenditure incurred for the treatment. Despite all the hardships, her husband and children proved to be a great support system. Though they were very young, her daughters did all the household work and managed her boutique along with their academics, and her husband obtained a loan to fulfil the treatment cost. He even ensured that she was following a balanced diet to keep her healthy. Satinder feels her family was the only thing that kept her going during the difficult phase.
Just when Satinder had completed seven to eight chemotherapy sessions, there was another blow to her family as her husband suffered a heart attack. Doctors found that it was mainly due to stress and anxiety.
It was a testing time for all the family members. Her children suffered a lot as she shuttled between her husband’s hospital treatment and her chemotherapy sessions. Fortunately, for Satinder, her relatives and extended family came forward to pitch in and took care of some of the household chores. Today, she says, “Both my daughters are happily married, and my husband is doing well. Most of all, I have gained my lost confidence back, and I am an independent woman now”.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)