Courage, conviction and faith in the capabilities of the doctor could do wonders to a patient- this was the message that participants conveyed at the National Cancer Survivors day on Sunday.

Survivors of gastrointestinal cancers and their relatives spoke of fear, shock and desperation when they were first told of their condition at an event organised by the Surgical Gastroenterology department of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here.

After the initial shock wore off, the survivors and their family members learnt to fight rejection and discrimination, relying on friends and family who helped them back on their feet.

Indira Jagannathan, who survived oesophageal cancer, credited her survival to family support.

Hannah J., who survived cancer, recalled that her maid refused to wash the vessels and clothes she used but her husband stood by her. “I am a singer and it was the congregation which first noticed a change in my voice. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, my only fear was loss of voice. After chemotherapy and radiation, I lost my hair and teeth but I remind myself that I have survived,” she said.

Ramesh was a marketing executive whose hectic lifestyle resulted in stomach cancer. “I missed lunches and lived on tea. This led to ulcers and then to cancer.” Recalling the nausea he experienced during chemotherapy, he said, “Do not postpone the date for chemotherapy for fear of side-effects. It will only lead to further complications.”

Resolute struggle

When Shahjahan admitted on a television talk-show that he had cancer, it destroyed his daughter's marriage proposal. But he remained resolute in his fight, he said.

Some came from other parts of the State hoping to convince their dear ones to go for treatment. Venkatesan said his brother had refused treatment for fear of pain. “We are willing to spend up to Rs.15 lakh on his treatment,” he said.

S.M. Chandramohan, head of Surgical Gastroenterology said: “Chemotherapy is not painful. Have confidence in your doctor. Each doctor has a philosophy while starting treatment modalities. No medical treatment is without side effects. Even an elderly person can undergo surgery provided the family stands by the patient. When you suspect a problem, please seek medical help immediately.”

Senior hospital authorities including the resident medical officer N. Muthurajan and medical superintendent V. Palani and Madras Medical College dean V. Kanagasabai, who participated in the programme reiterated that though the cancer posed a challenge to doctors, understanding the treatment modalities and seeking medical help without delay will help prevent its spread.

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