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WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN.... There are times when one feels trapped, not knowing which way to turn. All spaces close in on you as if to smother you. That is the kind of feeling which had crept into this young patient from Kenya. She had undergone two botched up surgeries on her leg for a tumour, which had now, returned with a vengeance. She is to have more surgery but her spirits are dwindling. She is away from home and only has her twin brother for company. The money is drying up quickly and she, an accomplished dancer, is confined mostly to the bed or the wheel chair as the leg fails to take her weight. Today, she was particularly distraught and her tears flowed freely. Our physiotherapist came to me and asked if we could cheer her up by bringing her to the Breast Support Group meeting, where a troupe of youngsters was coming to get our Champions to perform Zumba. I thought it was a great idea and she was carefully shifted on a wheelchair to the building next door where the program was to be held. And right in front of our eyes began the transformation. The girl could not stop clapping and moving to the beat on the chair while her brother kept pace beautifully with the trained Zumba troupe. The 25 odd Champions, doctors and support staff all got going, only stopping to catch their breath or a sip of water.This little girl got caught in a whirlwind of foot tapping music and an all pervading gush of positive energy. She laughed and spoke to the Champions and believed everyone when they said she would be fine. She left with the promise that when she recovers from surgery and is back on her feet, she will come back for a Theme party and she would lead the dance! So when the chips are down.... DANCE!!
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!
Breast cancer is a growing problem in India and all of Asia and threatens to deluge our health services by 2030.What is worrisome is that we do not have the resources to match the growing incidence. We have to start looking for indigenous solutions to our problem of breast cancer. We do have a good pool of talent especially in the autonomous institutions and the private sector, doing good work but there is very little support to encourage them to pool together data and make sense of it. The numbers that we see every year should, ideally, have provided us with a lot of answers, had we pooled our data and presented it to the world. In an attempt to push this possibility, I brought together like minded surgeons and created a group, the Delhi Breast Oncology Group (DBOG), on 6th November, 2014.We are in the process of giving it a formal shape and the first step in this direction will be taken on the 3rd of January 2014, when we meet again. Max Cancer Centre will host this meeting and the first CME(case discussions) as well on 3.1.15. All clinicians with an interest in breast cancer ( Surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists etc.)are cordially invited to attend this program. For further information, please contact Dr Geeta Kadayaprath, Head , Breast Surgical Oncology, Max Cancer Centre, Patparganj, Delhi, India
Cancer is often viewed as the end of the road in many ways, especially for the young afflicted with cancer. While the diagnosis of cancer, in itself, can be devastating for them, the consequences of treatment can actually push them further into a corner. One such situation arising out of treatment is infertility, a topic which was rarely broached with the young and old alike, till the recent past. With due care and sensitivity to these needs of the patients, it is possible to reverse a lot of wrong that treatment can bring in its wake! That brings me to the story of this young Champion I wish to share with you.The main protagonist of this story is a young Doctor diagnosed with breast cancer aged 26 years about 6 years ago. She was devastated! She was engaged to her sweetheart- a young Doctor training to be a surgeon. She was looking forward to a beautiful life when she was struck by breast cancer. This was more than what any girl her age could take. But she was different!She had spunk and was not willing to let go, of the life she had dreamt of. She soon collected herself to ask the right questions of her doctors. She wanted to preserve her fertility and after consulting an infertility specialist, had her ova preserved. She underwent treatment, thereafter and had breast conservation surgery followed by chemotherapy, radiation and 5 years of hormonal treatment, supported by her fiancé who stood by her like a rock.She was married to him soon after treatment. She is on follow up and all is well. The story doesn’t end here. She called me last week to share a piece of good news. She had given birth to a healthy baby boy two months ago. I was besides myself with joy and both of us laughed merrily over the phone. She came over two days ago with her bundle of joy cradled in her arms, her eyes overflowing with the selfless love of a mother. I could imagine what it meant to her. And this had happened naturally!! However bad the situation, life does turn up trumps on many occasions. These Champs give a new meaning to hope and I am wiser for it. If I am optimistic, you know where it comes from!! #health #breast cancer # breast conservation surgery #infertility #Max Hospital #Patparganj
Today I complete 22 years of marriage and I thought this an opportune time to look back at my life with satisfaction. My marriage was arranged by my parents through mutual friends. My husband is an engineer and the one time we met before the process began, he had decided and I was still unsure. I was trying to peer into the crystal ball, hoping to figure out how this arrangement would work for me. I was training to be a surgeon, not a choice many sensible women at that time made. The questions kept me awake- would he understand the demands of my profession, the late hours, the middle-of-the-night zipping to hospital to deal with an emergency etc? Would he understand my need to study further, maybe go abroad and work hard to give myself a full fledged career? His being an engineer did not help the cause at all. And then I stopped thinking and gave in to the wishes of my parents. When I look back at those 22 years gone by, I have plenty to be grateful for. For a woman to pursue a full fledged career is never easy anywhere in the world.What you make of it has plenty to do with the support you have. The support I had was truly unconditional. I completed my post graduation after marriage. My in-laws wanted me to carry on, unhindered, with my studies.FRCS soon followed with my parents chipping in to look after my little daughter. I went for a year long fellowship to London, leaving my daughter behind with my husband and mother in law. And did I stop? And did he stop me from pursuing my dreams? Not once! We are all imperfect in our own ways but valuing people for their strengths is what sustains relationships. His presence in my life has been the star and I can only wish him the very best that life has on offer!!
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