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2018-11-04T13:54:37

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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 etc.to 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
2018-10-02T12:25:48

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
2018-09-13T03:04:32

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!
2018-08-19T16:16:37

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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!!!!
2018-08-02T16:02:32

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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!!
2018-07-27T16:06:52

REFLECTING WITH GRATITUDE Today is Gurupoornima and I am blessed to have had amazing teachers in my life...heartfelt gratitude to all those who held my hand and taught me to walk, to those who saw me trip and fall but let me pick up myself, to those who pushed me so that I would not get used to the comfort of an easy ride, to those who laughed at me so that I could learn to laugh at myself, to those who ridiculed me so that I could start believing in myself! I am grateful to my patients-my awesome teachers-who have taught me how transient life is and how to make life bigger and better every single day. They remind me how minuscule I am in the larger scheme of things and how acceptance is the easiest way to avoid disappointment.May you all live happy, healthy and meaningful lives. Loads of respect to all my Teachers!!!🙏🏻🙏🏻
2018-07-21T18:36:57

THE ART OF SELFLESSNESS OF PURPOSE Three weeks ago, a thin built lady from a remote village in UP walked in with her sister and her nephew, who lived in Delhi. While they poured her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer, I could sense an underlying anger. The sister burst forth with the information that her elder sister’s husband is a farmer and had thrown her out on knowing the diagnosis. He refused to get her treated and had said that she was as good as dead to him. The sister was vehement and was certain that she would get her elder sister treated. That is exactly what she did. I operated upon the lady. On receiving the pathology report, I shared with her that her sister would require both chemotherapy and radiation. The patient’s husband also came for that consult and asked me if he could take his wife home before she started chemotherapy, to which I said he could. Hardly had they left the room, that the younger sister returned to my room, furious. She said, ‘ How did you even suggest that he could take her back home? He will not spare her. How could you undo the effort that I am putting in, to treat her?’ I was stumped!She went on to say that she would look after her and make sure she had her complete treatment. She told me that she was a person of modest means with a one room flat but she would arrange accommodation for her sister and get one of her nieces to look after her while she underwent treatment. There was that intense look of determination in her eyes when she said, ’ Doctor, no way am I going to let her go- I take her full responsibility!’ How many times do you come across such unsung heroes in your life? This young lady is a hero, championing the cause of her older sister who has no voice. Her sister has a husband who has only used her but refuses to stand by her as she readies herself for her biggest battle, yet. She has found an unlikely knight in shining armour in her younger sister, who, I am sure will brave the storms lying in store for her. It is not the money in your pocket that makes the world go round but it is the desire and the will to help that makes the world go round. I love the spunk of this lady and have loads to learn from her. Selflessness of purpose is what makes her so inspiring and restores my faith in humanity!!
2018-07-16T11:28:56

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!
2018-06-30T02:09:25

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Bliss Foundation launches its unique ‘Touch Feel and Do’ Workshop to create breast and cervical cancer awareness! All things, big and small, begin with an idea. Touch Feel and Do workshop was conceived as we sat across a table. It started with the questions Are we doing enough? Are we doing right? Do the ladies we talk to understand what we are trying to tell them? Do they know what to look for? What should alert them? And then the realisation dawned, that when we talked to them, they absorbed a few things here and there. They surely could not piece it together. We had do something different to create a lasting impression....while the thoughts flew back and forth, the idea of a dummy with all possible presentations of breast cancer came up. The dummy was acquired by the tireless efforts of Reva and what started as a thought began to take shape.We wanted the ladies to touch the dummy breasts, to feel what cancer may be like and to do it on their own selves. A pre lecture questionnaire followed by the lecture, a post lecture questionnaire and then a Touch Feel demo completed the workshop The results quite amazing... from ignorance to empowerment in a matter of an hour and a half- the duration of the workshop. We are on a roll after the stupendous success of yesterday’s program where the Touch Feel and Do Workshop was formally launched with the blessings of BK Sister Shivani. We have done 10 and with more doctors and volunteers joining us, we hope to complete 30 this year. With the kind of love and support we are receiving, there is no stopping us now! A big hug to the Crusaders who made this happen- Nidhi Agarwal, Reva Kumar, Meenu Madan, Dr Swasti, Dr Neerja Gupta, Dr Mallika Agarwal, Dr Smriti Neha, Ms Payal, Vijayaji, Ruby, Saloni, Anju, Kalpana, Shivani, Smita, and the young Turks Navya, Ansh and all the volunteers .....you have every reason to be proud of yourself!💖 Jaadoo ki jhappi for the unsung heroes who work selflessly for the cause- Karuna, Esther, Deepta, Rituparna, Archanaji and Mrs Solanki. You help us dream bigger!💖 A big thank you to all those who attended the program and believed in us!
2018-06-25T17:42:31

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LETTING GO During my years in medical school, it was always tough to lay your hands on the best books available. They were outrageously expensive for a middle class student like me. My dad would still want me to have the best. He would put aside his needs and my mother would spend less on the essentials so that I could have expensive reference books in medicine and surgery. I devoured on Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine and Schwartz’s Surgical textbook. They were hard to reproduce in the exams but were succinct in their explanations of the various diseases that plagued the amazing human body. The last I read from these books is more than 20 years. They occupied a corner on my bookshelf and gathered dust. They would catch the corner of my eye, occasionally and I would clear the dust as a sweeping sense of nostalgia overcame me. With my daughter’s books jostling for space, I decided to make space for her while the house was being painted. I brought these old books down, turned a few pages with a lump catching my throat. I realised, there time was past.All the information I ever wanted was just a click of a button away. A lot has changed since the time they were the only prized possessions I ever had. They had to go... the new had to make space for the old. Their life had come one full circle!
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