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Leaps of faith

Pink emotionsFighting cancer is no different from winning a battleiStockphotoThitareeSarmkasat  

Nothing can affect a person as deeply as cancer. The disease that brings the patient face to face with mortality transforms their life as well their loved ones’ too.

Yet the dreaded ‘Big C’ need not sound the death knell; it can be treated, controlled and, in many cases, completely cured. That’s the message medical researchers and doctors the world over have been reiterating, a message that is validated by 108 stories in the book I am a Survivor. Renowned medical and radiation oncologist and director, Apollo Cancer Hospitals, Dr Vijay Anand Reddy who conceptualised and anchored the book, had successfully treated all these cancer patients and many more.

The book is an extension of the Freedom from Cancer Club he founded in 2004 for cancer survivors. Dr Vijay Anand says, “Cancer can affect anyone at any age and it can manifest at any stage. The first thoughts when a person is diagnosed with cancer are ‘why me’ and ‘how long will I live?’. However, the fact is, on an average around 66 % of all cancers at all ages and stages get cured. “That being an average, it implies that people diagnosed at an early stage of cancer stand a higher chance (say 90%) of recovering from the disease, but in advanced stages recovery is less than 50% .

More importantly, dealing with the disease in the right way would help the patient more. When cancer survivors share their trials and tribulations with those newly diagnosed with the disease or undergoing treatment for it, they provide hope to the patient who is most likely to be full of fear, despair, doubts and ill-informed.

Dr Reddy says candidly, “Cancer drugs are expensive and is most cases treatment protocols are spread over a long duration; it is tough. So it’s important to stay positive. If you have doubts about the line of treatment advised, take a second opinion or a third. Don’t rush into treatment in panic. Understand that if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, you have time to take an informed decision. If it is in the last stages, nothing can help much. Cancer doesn’t kill suddenly like a heart attack.”

He quickly clarifies, “That doesn’t mean you can postpone the decision indefinitely; getting treated before it metastasises is the way to get cured. However, you can plan your time, finances, dietary changes, support systems and take the treatment peacefully.”

Dr Vijay Anand offers a word of caution — avoid friends and relatives during treatment; many so-called ‘well-wishers’ offer negative inputs and some others give advise that can confuse and mislead patients to even give up treatment in favour of alternative therapies. No matter what, stay focused and positive, he says.

I am a Survivor (Penguin, Rs. 399) recounts 108 heartfelt journeys of filled with hope, grit, courage and strength, complemented by advances in medicine and family support. Cancers in all parts of the body, and of all ages and stages have been covered here. The first person accounts of the survivors are accompanied by Dr Vijay Anand’s take on the case. The clinical, matter of fact narration disguise the battles the patients and their families faced with courage. Some come out with battle scars. For instance, Bhakti Ghatole was afflicted with retinoblastoma in her childhood and underwent various modes of treatment first at Chennai and then Hyderabad. Ultimately she survived but lost her vision, all at the age of nine. She has since learnt Braille and stood first in SSC and HSC of Maharashtra in the handicapped category.

Truly inspiring, like many other stories here.

As Dr Vijay Anand says, the book demonstrates “What Cancer Cannot Do – It cannot cripple love, It cannot shatter hope, It cannot corrode faith, It cannot silence courage, It cannot invade the soul, It cannot steal eternal life, It cannot conquer the spirit.

It [Cancer] cannot cripple love, It cannot shatter hope, It cannot corrode faith, It cannot silence courage.