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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
Never too old to make choices Last week, I met this lovely lady, pushing 80 years. I’m reluctant to call her old for her lively demeanour would put the chronologically young to shame. How I met her was because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately for her, she had early breast cancer. This is a delight for a breast surgeon like me, who is used to seeing advanced breast cancer. After going through the investigations, it was decided that she should have surgery. I started discussing the surgical options and just as I would do with all my patients amenable to all the options, I discussed breast conservation surgery, mastectomy ( surgical removal of the breast)and mastectomy with reconstruction. She was quick in making her decision and said she wanted to have a breast conservation surgery. I liked her firmness but her daughter was not so sure. When the time came for her to be admitted, the daughter came up to me and said that she and her brother thought it would be better if she went ahead with mastectomy. It was surely concern for their mother. They wanted her to be disease free and also thought that at her age, it did not matter if she lost her breast. At the same time, they were not sure that breast conservation and mastectomy yielded the same results. I spoke to her again and said that her mother had made a choice, which was scientifically tenable .Ten years ago, my warped mind might have encouraged her to go for mastectomy. Now I know, choice has nothing to do with age.The instances when husbands, brothers, parents, relatives and anyone else( read neighbors!) influencing surgical decisions have been too many and every time, my heart has gone out, especially, to the young ladies who have had no say in the choices imposed on them.Losing a breast is a self esteem, body image issue- the loss and its impact is borne only by the one who loses it.The lovely dame stood by her choice and it was executed. Choices are not about being right or wrong. Choices are about the freedom to make a decision and stick by it. The comfort of having made one’s choice is a confidence booster and can bring about unexpected results. I do know that, for a fact!
RISING TO THE OCCASION Yesterday, this beautiful young lady of 33 walked into my room. I could see she had had chemotherapy as a smart bandana adorned her bald head. She was accompanied by her mother and her husband. Her dazzling smile and her confidence as she took me through the journey of nursing a 6 month old baby, of discovering a lump which was labelled benign at first, of the lump growing in a month and she, of her own volition going for a biopsy and discovering she had breast cancer, shook me! She had visited 3 or 4 hospitals for various reasons and is on the verge of completing chemotherapy. She had come to meet me to discuss the surgical options and the implications. She told me that she was scared of needles and pain but her composed demeanour conveyed something else. I could see, I was having the privilege of interacting with a woman of utmost strength, resilience, poise and maturity way beyond her years. Her smile never left her face. Her mother contributed positively in equal measure but the sadness in her eyes of seeing her little girl suffer did not escape my notice. She required to have an injection to up her white cell count. She went to the nurse in the treatment room for the same and showed her a prescription for the same on her mobile, from a different hub of the same centre as ours. She refused without thinking what she could have done to help her-a cardinal mistake! The nurse was following a process, which said no medication without prescription, which was fine. What she did not do, was figure out a method to solve the problem. She could have got a print out, on our institute’s letter head and cross checked with the prescribing doctor and administered the medication. What happened next was no surprise. The mother was outraged. She had accompanied her daughter across half of Delhi for a consult and this Nay from the sister, truly rocked her frail boat. She truly took the nurse to task for being unhelpful and uncaring. The situation was brought to my notice.The matter was sorted out, a printout of the prescription was taken and the injection was done. However, the bitter taste in the mouth remained! I know for a certainty, that the only people who go to hospital, happily, are doctors and the staff at work. The ailing come, as they don’t have an option. They entrust us with the job of sending them back, cured or relieved of their ailment. We, as caregivers, should never forget to look beyond and see the footprints that they have left behind, as they walk the difficult path to meet us. There is a story, sometimes, most heart rending, that we need to know- a story that should only raise our level of empathy. Each one of us has to walk that extra mile, go beyond our call of duty to ensure that we do our best for the person sitting across the table, entrusting us with making some of the toughest decisions of their lives. We, as professionals, have to really rise to the occasion, every single time!
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