On Monday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH), 44-year-old M. Mohanrangam had a story to tell an enthralled audience.
Clad in a lungi and a checked shirt, Mr. Mohanrangam, a native of Vallipuram near Namakkal, had come to the hospital for a monthly check-up, after having successfully recovered from a surgery for a brain tumour some months ago.
“Cancer does not mean death,” Mr. Mohanrangam told the audience, comprising cancer patients who had gathered for a public awareness meeting marking World Cancer Day. “Look at me. I’m very much alive. So do not avoid your medicines or dread taking them. Do not think that cancer equals death,” he exhorted.
Twelve years ago, Mr. Mohanrangam said, he had shifted from Vallipuram to Thirukazhukundram, a town about 60 km from Chennai. He worked there as a daily wage labourer. In 2011, he began getting terrible headaches that lasted for six months. He often resorted to over-the-counter medicines and alcohol, to numb the pain. In the last week of November 2011, he left with 60 others on a trip to the Sabarimala temple. On the way there, he fell unconscious. When he woke up, he was unable to speak or move his limbs. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where a doctor treated him briefly and then told him he was fine. Soon after the pilgrimage, he went to Courtallam with his friends, where the same symptoms once again plagued him. With great difficulty, he was brought to Chennai and admitted at a private hospital, where doctors told him he had a brain tumour.
“I was soon operated upon,” he said, pointing to the area of his head that had the tumour.
“My wife Muthulakshmi and my three children were very upset when they heard about my condition. I vividly remember my wife crying all day long until I was discharged,” he said.
After the surgery, Mr. Mohanrangam began radiation therapy at the GH, and was also given medication, both of which he continues to date.
“This is a rebirth for me, a god-given gift. Things have changed for the better as far as my health is concerned. But I don’t work, since doctors have advised me to take a long break. So now my family is troubled by financial problems as I used to the sole breadwinner,” he added.
Around 50 patients attended the meeting, and clarified several questions they had about the disease with the doctors present.