“In fact, my quality of life has turned better after treatment''

:News of noted cricketer Yuvraj Singh being diagnosed with cancer comes as a shock to his fans. While almost all cases of cancer evoke responses of shock and fear, people who have fought a successful battle against it tell us that it is completely curable. Sharing their reassuring stories of recovery, cancer survivors in the city explain how they never let memories of the disease cast a shadow on the normal lives they lead.

On February 9, it will be 14 years since she underwent surgery for breast cancer. “After the surgery I remember asking my doctor how soon I can drive, and she said I could drive back home. At that time I could hardly move my hand. Though I started driving only after three months, the kind of confidence Dr. Shanta gave me was amazing,” says Ramamani Ravi.

Now completely cured, she leads a very busy life with little memory of the ailment or the tough times it gave her. Mother of a person with special needs, she says cancer did not seem big to her. “I have no time to think of that because there are bigger things in life. If you have a formula to cure a problem in six months, then it's no problem at all. My quality of life is, in fact, better after treatment. I remember the annual check-ups only when it is close to the dates,” says Ms. Ravi, currently involved in activities of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of India. Once a year, she undergoes ultrasound scan, ECG, X-ray, mammogram and physical examination to rule out recurrence or the possibility of it spreading to other parts. Emphasising the importance of family support during treatment, she recalls how she was worried about her son Niranjan.

“I asked my doctor how long I should be away from regular daily work. My son was 12 then. However, Dr. Shanta said I could continue with whatever I was doing. My mother, mother-in-law and her mother were there to support me. They would take care of my son. I could eat only in limited quantities but the food had to be high in nutrition. They took care of that as well. More than just offering support, they radiated positive energy and kept my morale high,” recalls Ms. Ravi. Family members vividly remember the challenging years. Her mother-in-law Jayalakshmi Kannan says: “At that time, she went on her own to meet the doctor. My mother, who was in her 80s then and I were so scared because it was something new to us. We could only pray and think positively that she would come out of it. And she did.”

Life is, after all, not hopeless

V. Shanta, chairperson, Cancer Institute, Adyar:

With our present knowledge, we have the possibility to cure two out of three common cancers, which are cervical, oral and breast cancers. But we are achieving only one out of three as they come in at an advanced stage. But things are improving. In the 1950s and 1960s we used to see only 10-15 per cent of early cases. However, at least 40% of them come early now. Once cured, the survivors need not be on medication. They can lead a normal life. ‘Life is for living and there is life after cancer' is what we tell our patients and survivors.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012

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