A book that documents a cancer survivor’s “whole new journey” after the illness

It takes a very brave person to take on the ‘dreaded C’ and survive it. Cancer survivor Anagha Ghose, went one step further and wrote a book about it, describing her brush with it.

Documenting the survival of a person after a close encounter with cancer, Anagha’s book, ‘Face to Face with Cancer’, is not only a riveting and in-depth look into what happens in the minds and bodies of cancer patients, but also what goes on in the lives of their families and friends when faced with the disease.  She talks about the initial numbing fear that overwhelmed the family when she was diagnosed with cancer, her surgery by noted onco-surgeon Anand Koppiker, who runs the Prashanti Cancer Care Mission in Pune and her slow journey to recovery.

During recuperation, when the disease went into remission and her family went back to their normal lives, she was still struggling to find her earlier energy levels. This is when the book formed in her mind from the realization that she was lucky to have been up-close with a disease widely known to be a killer and survived it. She says. “I wanted others who might encounter it to know that cancer is not the end of life, necessarily. Sometimes, it can be the beginning of a whole new journey.”

Spending countless hours on the internet surfing for information about survivors in other parts of the world and talking to doctors, experts and cancer charities in India, Anagha’s well-researched book talks about stuff that helped her beat the disease.

While the most important factor is early detection and treatment, Anagha says there are other equally critical factors that might help prevent it or keep it from spreading fast.

“Coming face to face with cancer has given me time to introspect and take stock of things. I am learning to live each day with greater appreciation. Once a cancer patient, always a cancer survivor. One will never know if there is going to be a relapse. I am in the process of getting rid of my negative feelings by forgetting and forgiving various negative issues and people in my life. Daily affirmations and visualisations are beginning to be a part of my life. If you want to live better, then celebrate your life, appreciate and honour it. Appreciate the people around you, moments and events in your life because you never know what the future holds for you!”

A post-graduate degree holder from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Anagha set up and headed the Medico-Social Welfare unit at the medical division of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur and says her long years in the field made her sensitive to human suffering. In the latter part of her career, she also worked on community-based projects with various government and non-governmental organizations. When cancer happened to her, she realised that most people are so unprepared for such an eventuality that they do not even know what to do for everything from finding the right doctor, surgeon, care giver to the patient support groups and cancer hospitals. The book has detailed chapters on all of these and a detailed glossary about all medical terms associated with the disease.

This is particularly useful considering that most doctors today have little or no time to go into details and explain it to their patients.

The other stuff that matters -- the right diet, exercise, a positive attitude, life after cancer and how to handle it, also finds space in the book. All these form part of a detailed Q&A section where an attempt has been made to address fears in the minds of cancer patients and survivors.

Anagha says her own encounter left her transformed, made her more tolerant and patient, more appreciative of life and less critical of herself. It also left her with a hunger to accomplish all the stuff that she always wanted to do in life, including dancing, gardening in her tiny balcony and getting herself a pet. “This book is the first step in the direction of self-discovery,” she signs off.

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