Cancer – Still a Synonym To Death Sentence?

It was a sunny day of October 2004, at the age of 11, when I tripped while playing cricket in the courtyard of my home. After the initial X-ray, my family orthopedic doctor tried to suppress the swelling and limping in the left knee through pain killers for a week but it didn’t work out. Without wasting much time, he asked for Total Blood Count (TBC) and an MRI scan which showed that it was an initial stage Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

My next ten months were spent with nine chemotherapy cycles, where each cycle consisted of heavy medicines injected through a catheter tube in my right hand. Each cycle was of 4-5 days and induced severe side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of hair, lack of appetite etc. After the third cycle, I also underwent a Total Knee Replacement (TKR) surgery which essentially involves replacing infected knee joint bone with an artificial joint.

Every chemotherapy cycle led to a decrease in White Blood Cell (WBC) count which decreased immunity, making prone to any infection easily. Anything which I ate or drank (including fruit juice) was cooked and boiled to avoid any chances of infection in the body. After every chemotherapy cycle, injections were given for next one week to increase the WBC count, so the body can eventually prepare for next cycle. The support and motivation from my loved ones helped me to cope - up with the side-effects of treatment and join back my school and studies, after completing my treatment.

During the treatment, it is important to do things that make you happy. As an 11- year old kid, I enjoyed reading comic - books and watching cricket which helped me to overcome physical and mental pain during the treatment.  My parents, doctors, and friends always encouraged me and urged a positive approach. They never let me feel lonely or down in the dumps. Accepting facts and situation is one of the essential traits required during the battle with cancer. At many times, patients and their caregivers refuse to accept the fact of getting diagnosed with cancer or develop a reluctance to such harsh treatment. It is essential to accept the moment and deal with the situation accordingly. During the initial diagnosis, every second counts for the cancer patient and hence avoid making things worse by not accepting the reality.

Throughout the treatment and years - after, I observed there is a lot of taboo around ‘cancer’ in our society. There is less awareness about the advances in medical treatment which has led to high curable rates of this disease. Every cancer requires a different combination of chemotherapy/radiotherapy or surgeries and it is essential to discuss the same with your oncologist. It is suggested not to break any treatment protocol in the middle of the treatment without consulting your doctor, as every therapy has its own purpose.

Even today, there are lots of myths associated with cancer among people. Before getting diagnosed, I believed that cancer doesn’t happen to young and healthy people. But unfortunately, it does happen. During my treatment, I have witnessed kids of age less than a year to adults of age 80+ undergoing treatment to beat cancer and winning the battle successfully. One might feel that any presence of such disease in the body might end up showing severe symptoms. However, there are many cancers which don’t show any symptoms or very mild symptoms until they reach advanced stages. Hence, it is essential to get yourself checked once you notice something wrong in your body.

Many people synonym cancer with death, which is not completely true. There are many incredible and miraculous stories of survival where people successfully defeated cancer against all the odds. Unfortunately, it is portrayed very differently in movies and TV serials. They tend to provide the impression that anyone who suffers from disease dies at the end. We should always remember – Not every time cancer is a death sentence.

Many organizations, NGO’s and support groups are working at the ground level to increase awareness about cancer in our country. Today, the treatment of cancer brings physical, emotional, and financial strain on patients and family members. Hopefully, the coming decades would witness cancer treatment becoming more affordable and scalable, just like any other disease’s treatment.

While fighting with cancer, it is important to understand that apart from medicines; a positive mindset and strong willpower have equally important role in the prognosis of this disease. Even if odds are in not your favor, just never ever give up because miracles do happen!