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Breast cancer should not incite fear. With improvements in treatment, breast cancer is not only curable in early stages but has become like any other chronic illness in advanced stages! Dr Geeta Kadayaprath, Associate Director and Head, Breast Surgical Oncology, Max Superspeciality Hospital, Patparganj
ANOTHER STEP IN AN EXCITING JOURNEY!! It has been an exciting journey as a surgeon spanning over 21 years.... from an unsure, rebellious senior resident to a muted mature version... Director, Surgical Oncology- Breast Cancer.The journey has been anything but easy but I look back with lot of pride. I chose to take up surgery for my post graduation, a decision certainly emerging from the heart. To step into a male dominated world could only be a prompt from the heart. The brain would have screamed, “Harakiri”! I soon found that out as my immediate senior with my being in residency for a week declared with impunity, ”You will never make a surgeon”!I was discouraged but was not one to give up. I was labelled ‘The Rebel’! I carry that tag still. I am never one to back away from voicing my opinion, which may be uncomfortable but many a times the truth. I will agree that one art that I am yet to master from my male counterparts is their innate ability to be at their diplomatic best in the worst of situations. I have been promoted to Director, Surgical Oncology! I must have done something right to get here but I have been fortunate in several ways as well. The good fortune of having an amazing mentor in Dr Harit Chaturvedi and his confidence in my abilities, a supportive family and the ‘bug’ in my head which keeps pushing me to do more, have got me here.For me, this is an opportunity to lead, to mentor and to leave a legacy.It is also time now to shift gears from not just treatment of breast cancer but to prevention and early detection. I have taken baby steps in that direction but there are miles and miles to go before I sleep.... and the rebel in me is still alive and kicking. All that I can say is that the landing punches are just that much softer!
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!
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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