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FARE YOU WELL, MY FRIEND! Yesterday I lost a dear friend, Sherin and the pain is almost physical.We were friends in school and then we parted ways to study in different medical schools. I was oblivious to her existence till Facebook brought us together. To be connected again brought back a flood of memories from school. She was born to a Christian father and a Muslim mother. Christmas and Id were celebrated with equal fervour and the cakes and biryani at her house were to die for. In this multicultural space, she held her own. She was an epitome of grace and love personified! She laughed with gay abandon and had a good word to say to everyone. Since the time we connected again, I got to know she had married an ophthalmologist, a Hindu. She was truly more evolved than most human beings could ever aspire for. We would talk when the years turned. I would resolve to meet her every year, but I didn’t!I would revel in her success as an ophthalmologist, her zest as a toastmaster and admire her commitment to her husband, children and her extended family. She packed more into every moment! Yesterday, she bid her final farewell after a sudden, brief illness. My remorse at not having met her wrenched at my heart. I cried for the beautiful human being she was and for all those who loved her deeply. Never postpone meeting your friends.. they are a sure source of joy! Don’t hold back! Go out and appreciate your loved ones, say you love them... Help without being asked... Live everyday like it is your last!! Life is fickle and you may never get that one opportunity that you keep looking for. My prayers are with her beautiful family- her husband, her lovely daughters and parents!May you rest in peace my dear Sherin and may you always know that I love you!😢😢💕

LOVE ALL!!! Cancer is an expensive disease. Budgeting for treatment is never accurate as whatever you may do, it is more than likely to go haywire. Add to this, the apprehensions of a patient on the verge of surgery, ’ Doc, what do you think should be my room preference? Single would be good or maybe double? General ward? Will I get the same kind of treatment if I were to get operated on the general ward? I have run this information in my head several times and come up with the same answer. The patients’ attendants may have it a little rough depending on the type of bed they choose. It is their space that shrinks with the lowering of the bed category. Nurse to patient ratio may be less than ideal. What remains unchanged is the surgeons’ commitment, as I see it. Does the bed category change the way I use my skills? I exercise the same caution and use the same surgical skills irrespective of whether the patient under the knife is ill affording or well heeled. So then, where is this question coming from? I attribute it to this deeply entrenched VIP culture in our country and this huge divide between the haves and the have nots. By endless repetition, we have shown that the rich and famous get a better deal, whichever space they occupy! There are no queues for them, no waiting times, an entourage of staff for carrying papers, holding the door open and almost summoning the doctor to see them.Sad, but true and worse still, we accept it! However, for me, it is still, ‘ Love All..Play!!’

Today is World Cancer Day and I recall fondly each one of my warriors who battled cancer valiantly! I consider myself fortunate that I could be a part of their journey, because with them, I learnt life’s best lessons! I learnt to be patient, to listen to them when they spoke... that is all they wanted I learnt to appreciate the smallest of things in life, as I saw them struggle with simple acts like swallowing their own saliva I learnt to be strong, as I saw them smile while chemotherapy took its toll on their frail bodies I learnt to be hopeful in adversity, as I saw them rise from a seemingly hopeless situation to adorn their lives with positivity, happiness and joy, creating miracles along the way. Thank you for teaching me this and more!!!

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SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT!! I recently operated upon my colleague’s aunt for breast cancer. She was discharged uneventfully and went home in a baby pink tunic with her drain in a floral pink sling bag, that goes with each patient after breast surgery. That is when my colleague pointed out that the film ‘Sui Dhaaga’ was based on a concept I had created 8 years ago.I was taken aback! I had not seen the film. So, he explained to me how that film was based on creating comfort and practical clothing for patients after surgery.That idea catches on and goes on to become a successful business venture, in the movie. I had seen my patients after surgery for breast cancer, especially those with mastectomy (breast removal) struggle with their clothes to expose the wound while at the same time struggling harder to cover their loss.It was not easy to carry their drain( tube) boxes around and they were always scared of the drains being pulled at and dislodged. I wanted to come up with a solution. My dear friend, Mamta Goenka, had already worked on a pink bag with a smiley ball, peppermint, Vaseline and a soft pillow. I wanted to add something to this and that is when I set about designing a baby pink or floral post mastectomy knee length tunic with Velcro tapes holding the front and Velcro tapes on the sides to allow the drain to slip imperceptibly into the sling bag. To this was added bras with pockets to hold the external prostheses and restore body image, even as the lady walked out of the hospital. I got a vendor to design it and it was welcomed by all patients. Like in the movie, there was a potential business opportunity in this thought.However, I am no businesswoman but the idea caught on with the vendors.Now, there are many vendors in the fray and this kit is being supplied by them to most of the large corporate hospitals in Delhi. For me, patients’ positive feedback is my reward. I am happy that I have been able to make a difference in the lives of those who have had a brush with breast cancer, in a small but significant way!

Having been closely associated with the care of cancer patients, I do certainly know that we cure some and we lose some. There is nothing like a 100%. However, when I see patients who have undergone alternative treatments and were assured 100% cure, I can only wonder where this confidence comes from.The number of times I have seen a Stage 1 or 2 Breast cancer on alternative treatments, going on to become Stage 3 or 4 is quite substantial.Anecdotes call for applause but that is not the entire story. And that brings me to Mrs U’s story. I met U, a retired teacher, 10 years ago accompanied by her husband and her daughter, a doctor herself practising in the US. During my conversation with U, she would not make eye contact. She was angry because she did not want to come to see me and her husband and daughter had almost dragged her to the hospital. She had a lump in the left breast of 1 1/2 years duration and was on alternative medication offered by a popular seer.I examined her and was shocked to see a large mass in the left breast occupying about 3/4ths of her breast and bleeding from an ulcer on it.I advised a biopsy and U got up and walked out of my room, explicitly declining my proposition. Her daughter said she would bring her around and went after her. She returned after 4 days and got a biopsy done on her daughter’s insistence and the bleeding from the ulcer was getting her worried too.She muttered and mumbled throughout the procedure, accusing doctors of doing tests to make money and deriding alternative medicine practitioners. The biopsy confirmed cancer and her staging work up fortunately did not show cancer anywhere else in the body.She was offered chemotherapy followed by surgery, radiotherapy and hormonal treatment.Her daughter and her husband stood ground and got her through treatment. It was not an easy ride but she completed treatment. The chances that disease would come back was pegged at 50-60%. Two days ago, she came for her 10th year follow up. Her husband has been rock solid in his support for her. He has ensured she is very regular with her follow up. She continues to be disease free. However, this time was slightly different. She held my hand and apologised to me for her bad behaviour 10 years ago and was grateful for how life had panned out since. I did not know what to say. While what I offered as treatment did help her recover, her husband played an equally important role by ensuring she took her medication on time, ate well and led a healthy life. I complimented him on that and could see tears roll down his cheeks. We do what we can!Blind faith may have serious consequences. Sincerity of purpose, backed by evidence and the support of loved ones can truly move mountains!

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I am not a much awarded person in the conventional sense but today was different as I became the proud recepient of the CEO’s award at the annual function of Max Healthcare. I have never hankered after awards because everyday, I get rewarded in more ways than one. As I have evolved as a person, the acknowledgement that comes from the doorman to the coordinators to the nurses, to my colleagues and most of all from my patients, inspires me to do more, better than before! When they smile at me, hold my hands entrusting their lives to me, bless me with the best in life and get their children to meet me..I have truly earned my reward! The responsibility that comes with these offerings are huge and my deepest respect for all those who sincerely feel for me. The CEO’s award has been overwhelming in many ways. I do what I do, with a lot of passion and the very thought that I was considered deserving of this coveted award, is very humbling.I am truly grateful to this wonderful organisation I work for, with immense pride, and dedicate this award to all those who walk alongside me, day after day, pushing the singular agenda of offering the best to patients! The journey continues..... #CEO Award #Breast Cancer #Max Patparganj and Vaishali

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BLESSED TO KNOW MAMTA GOENKA! It had been long since I had met Mamta Goenka.Yesterday we met again!From the time I met her for the first time 7 years ago, I knew I had bumped into a remarkable woman with a heart of gold. She had an openness about her. Her warmth would embrace you much before her physical hug.Her smile would never leave her face. She was a woman in control of herself. She had flown down to Delhi to conduct a Lymphedema workshop for our patients in Max Hospital, Patparganj, on the request of my Radiation Oncology colleague, who had interacted with her in the past and spoke volumes about her selflessness, dedication and commitment to help women cope with difficulties they faced after surgery, for breast cancer, at the TATA Memorial Hospital. Mamta has herself been through the journey of dealing with breast cancer twice, in the last decade.She knew the routine like the back of her hand. She knew what Lymphedema ( arm swelling) was (having dealt with it herself)and how it was an imminent possibility in 20-30% women who underwent axillary surgery for breast cancer. She also knew how debilitating it could be if it was not dealt with correctly. Mamta made it her life mission to teach and train women with breast cancer the exercises, the application of compression sleeves and bandages, drainage not only deal with Lymphedema but also to prevent it. To make sure she was doing it the right way, she trained herself in the US and Europe. Her passion has helped many a woman steer clear of this unwelcome problem. I call Mamta the ‘Champion Of Champions!’I had the pleasure of meeting her again yesterday as she came back to Delhi yet again to interact with women who needed her expertise. All that was required to bring Mamta back was a phone call. What makes it even more awe inspiring is that Mamta was struck a third time by cancer 2 years ago. Despite this blow, she remains unfazed! She takes it in her stride and is back to doing what she does best- helping women deal with Lymphedema and inspiring each one of them to take charge of their lives and take good care of themselves. She has touched about 15000 lives so far. There is no stopping her as she goes about life with a radiant smile on her face and a song on her lips. I salute you, Mamta and wish you a happy and healthy life!! #Lymphedema #Breast Cancer #Max Hospital Patparganj and Vaishali

I was talking to this gentleman who sat across me in the OPD a month ago.His mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I was going over the details of treatment with him. He wanted to know how much the entire process would cost and how his mother was morbidly scared about the whole process, considering the fact that his father had recently completed treatment for Cancer of the voice box.During the conversation, I gathered he was their only son, working as a lecturer in an Engineering college and taking care of his parents. He had a sister, who lived in another city. What amazed me was his cool demeanour, his highly organised approach to the problem, his intense concern for his parents and the urge to get things done at the earliest. I could not help but ask him if this situation did not stress him out.He had a job to perform, his own young family to look after and if that was not enough, two ageing parents with cancer. His response was, to say the least, like a whiff of fresh air, in times where many old parents are left to fend for themselves in Old People’s’ Homes. He said, ‘Doctor, I look at this as my good fortune. I see this as a blessing as not many get the opportunity to serve their parents. I feel no stress’. He meant every word of it as I saw him handhold his mother lovingly throughout the process of treatment. I am honoured to know this gentleman. I thank him for restoring my faith in humanity and epitomising the real meaning of ‘Sevabhav’! #Breast Cancer #Max Hospital #Patparganj #Vaishali #East Delhi #Sevabhav

WHEN YOUR HELP GOES OUT OF ACTION..... The joy of becoming Director, Breast Surgical Oncology, dissipated into thin air when my help did not turn up for work citing an excruciating back ache. And then all hell broke loose, at least for me, as I realised that a whole new vista of mountains of work had piled up in front of me. My mother in law who is past 75 did her best to restore order but at that age, speed is not on your side. The morning hours between 6 and 7.30 am is nothing short of high speed roller coaster with three people with contrasting needs, rushing off to their respective places of work. One of these people is also me but I was the only one riding the roller coaster. Now I know why the goddesses have multiple arms, symbolic of the multitasking geniuses women are. I had exactly an hour and a half in which to don the cape of Superwoman! I would have to conjure up six dishes. Each of us would eat a different thing and carry yet another thing for lunch. Spoilt brats, each one of us 😯but blame it on the ever complying help. If this variety in dishes was not enough, my obsessive mind with a fetish for cleanliness would go about setting the house right, ironing out the last crease on the bed and cleaning the bathroom, till the tiles gleamed and the arms hurt. 😱My husband and daughter would look on trying to tell me that my obsession was not their problem-meaning, they would not help!🤨 Out of breath and sweating, I would now get ready for that job, I am trained for and love doing.I would arrive in hospital, without a trace of the battle that I was embroiled in not too long ago. Nobody wants to know that you have just completed a day’s work before coming to the hospital. I am not looking for compassion but this is my tribute to all the women who strive endlessly to make the lives of their loved ones better and then go to work and excel there as well. Breathe ladies and take good care of yourselves!While I love being a woman, I really hope my help comes back soon!

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ATTITUDE IS TRULY EVERYTHING The picture one would conjure up on seeing this beautiful old lady is that of a loving ‘dadi’ or ‘nani’ full of stories, weaving magic with her deft fingers as spools of thread became exquisite pieces of crochet art.She is all of 86 years old and continues to do all her chores without any help. She does not believe in stopping. And believe me she is quite extraordinary! I have known her for the last 8 years and every meeting with her is inspiring. At the age of 78 years, when many would will themselves to die at the simple pretext of a minor illness, this lady was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She had deep jaundice and she needed a Whipple’s procedure to get rid of the cancer. This surgery is one of the most challenging to even an experienced surgeon. She and her family were explained the pros and cons in view of her age and frail self. She was determined to see this through. The surgery went to plan but the postoperative period was stormy. She had a bloated abdomen, for which she was re-explored and found to have a twisted bit of intestine. It took her a month to recover and finally, she walked out of hospital, recovered fully.She refused any further treatment and said she felt fine. She would meet me every 3 months for a year and then she stopped coming. I had almost forgotten all about her, when she resurfaced again after almost 1 year. This time she came with an ulcerated mass in the right breast. She was 80 now. She did not want any other treatment except surgery. She had a surgery to remove the breast and the lymph nodes in the armpit. Fortunately, the disease was hormone sensitive. She said no to Radiation and accepted hormonal treatment. What does one say to this except that I was fortunate to witness this most wondrous display of an old lady’s grit and determination, willing herself to live on, in the face of not one but two cancers! She came to meet me five days ago. She is disease free. Her smile lit up her wrinkled face and her eyes sparkled as she said she had come to bless me. I, honestly had nothing to offer her. Did she even realise how inspiring she is? She wanted me to share her story with everyone and so here I am! Important lesson learnt..Attitude is truly everything!!!!