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Updated: February 18, 2013 18:36 IST

Tales of survival

PARSHATHY. J. NATH
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A cancer survivor lighting a lamp to mark Cancer Survivors' Day.
A cancer survivor lighting a lamp to mark Cancer Survivors' Day.

Never lose hope, cancer survivors told each other during the annual Cancer Survivors’ Day organised by Vasantha Memorial Trust

One morning in 1991, 58-year-old Subbaian woke up and realised he had lost his voice. He consulted an ENT specialist. In a few days, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He did not inform his family, fearing they would break down, and went to Chennai, all by himself, for treatment. Twenty-two years later, Subbaian, fully recovered now, spoke at the annual Cancer Survivors Day organised by Vasantha Memorial Trust (VMT), at Hotel Annapoorna. “My will power gave me strength. All of you should be brave. Cancer can be cured,” he said.

Around 90 cancer survivors shared their experiences of battling cancer. Sara Joy, a school teacher from Palakkad, said faith in god helped her survive. “I never lost hope. I used to cheer up the depressed patients in hospital.”

Sarada Suresh, 57, a Carnatic music teacher, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45. “My 11-year-old daughter was my greatest support system. She always told me to be brave and positive. We did not treat it like a tragedy but like any other disease that can be cured with medication.”

The gathering saw everyone — from an 82-year-old survivor to a 12-year-old one. Surendar, 17, was diagnosed with blood cancer when he was nine. “It was a depressing period for our family. I did not go to school for two years, because of my treatment. I want to be a doctor so that I can bring happiness into the lives of people such as me.”

Some survivors who were under the care of Ramanathan Jayaraman, oncologist and founder of VMT, recalled how he helped them stay positive. R.P. Narmada, who teaches in a college, was diagnosed with cancer at 15. “I was depressed when I lost my long, thick hair, due to chemotherapy. He reminded me life is more beautiful than hair.” E. Kuppuswamy was diagnosed with cancer in 1995 and given no chance of survival. He spoke of how Dr. Ramanathan provided him expensive medicines, free of cost.

Dr. Ramanathan said that through the annual meet, they want to establish that cancer can be cured through better awareness and early diagnosis. “There is still a prejudice that cancer is incurable. The survivors’ day establishes that there is life beyond cancer.”

There were also cultural programmes presented by Edwin’s Footloose, Aavarthan Group and students of Sakthi Engineering College. Prizes were distributed to all cancer survivors and all of them lit candles — to signify their rebirth.

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