Cancer is characterised by uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells. Sometimes due to some faulty mechanism or due to factors which are unknown yet, the divided cells are abnormal i.e., their structure is not the same as that of its parent cells. They cannot discharge the functions like the normal cells but requires the same food as the normal cells. These cells start dividing and a large number of abnormal cells are produced. These cells cluster to form lumps, swellings, and sometimes produce ulcers in the respective organs.
The most important feature of cancer is that the cancer cells can breakaway from the tissue or organ of origin and starts spreading to other parts of the body. This is known as the metastasis.
Because of this unique characteristic it becomes difficult to cure or to control cancer when it has spread.
The exact mechanism of transformation of normal cells to become cancerous is still not known. However, several factors are known to produce cancer-like tobacco in the form of smoking and chewing, alchohol, radiation, asbestos, certain chemicals, excessive fat consumption, viruses etc.
In our country, almost 50% of all cancer in men are caused by heavy tobacco chewing and smoking; rather it is worse. The bidi contains more toxic harmful chemicals than in cigarette which produces cancer.
Passive smoking also predisposes to a high risk for developing cancer of various organs.
No. Every lump that appears on the body is not always cancerous. Some of these lumps may grow to large sizes and produce ulcers. However, it will not cause death and they can easily be removed by surgery and usually will not recur.
It doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. Such tumours are known as Benign tumours ie. Harmless tumours.
In our men, the majority of all cancers are found in mouth and throat, lung, stomach and in women, they are found in large numbers in uterus [cervix], breast, mouth and throat.
Yes, it is true that the incidence of cancer is rapidly rising in our country. As more people live upto old ages and with control of other diseases, more people would get cancer. Further, change to a Western life style and environmental pollution due to industrialisation etc. are also likely to contribute to an increase in cancer.
According to available Indian statistics, around 80- 90 new cancer cases will develop per 100, 000 population. This may appear to be a low rate as compared to the West but due to our huge size of population, this will amount to a big number of patients.. Based on these statistics, it is estimated that almost 1 million persons will develop cancer every year in the country and in any given year there will be almost 2-3 million cancer patients. As the population increases, this number also will increase.
Certain cancers are seen to occur in families. This does not mean that the disease has been transmitted from parent to children through genetic material. The same life style usually run in families and this could as well be the reason. Scientists believe that if there is a hereditary component, its effect is indeed very little.
A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends
A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends
A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends
Cancer happened most unexpectedly. It happened one day and changed my life forever. My world was turned upside down. ‘Not Me’, ‘Could it be a mistake’, my initial reactions and sometimes even now if I allow them to surface.
I was healthy, both physically and mentally and for cancer to happen just didn’t seem fair. But in retrospect I feel it was this health aspect of mine that helped me cope with the disease. Questions that came up, time and time again were questions regarding my:.
Body image: Will i be disfigured, would chemotherapy make me bald and ugly. Will my hair ever grow back? .
My Family: Will I be able to have a normal relationship with my husband. Will the disease affect our intimate relations? Will my children get it? .
My emotional Self: Am I ever going to be happy again. Why am I so negative? Why is everything around me dark and sombre? .
My Social self: Will people accept me. Can I make friends again? Will people be able to relate to me?.
Through my treatment I often was dejected and at times even depressed. At this time I became inclined to search my answers through spiritualism. I started by developing a personal relationship with God. I read a lot, meditated on what I read and slowly absorbed the calmness that came from my new relationship with God. I changed my attititude, my thinking and thereby my living. I developed a new philosophy in life..
I don’t say that this process of finding me has been easy. Cancer has changed me. Initially I became a recluse, shutting myself totally from people. I didn’t want their pity or their suggestions. I tried to stay away from people – a state I have slowly overcome..
I was always bold and independent and this has helped me fight cancer and especially cope with chemo.
Now that I am cancer free I feel that I have evolved as a person, I had became since my diagnosis. I have become more open to sharing my experiences; the only difference is now I choose to share it with the people who understand me. Through the support group I have been able to meet new people, develop relationships. At the support group you find friends who understand and accept you totally as you are. Friends who travelled the same path I have lived.
I am a housewife and lived a normal life, caring for my family & home just like any other housewife. One evening in August 2009, while I sat down to relax after completing all my chores, I felt a small knot in my left breast. It was tiny and I told myself that it could not be anything serious. All the same, I decided to meet my doctor. She suggested an ultrasound and subsequently a mammogram. It was a very small mass and I was advised surgery. I underwent lumpectomy and waited what’s seems like eternity for the result of the biopsy.
‘Malignant’ was the verdict….I was devastated; my world just stood still. Paralyzed with an intense fear, I truly believed I was going to die as a result of my cancer. I started to panic; I had so many plans & dreams for the future and thought I might not get a chance to do the things I always wanted to do. My kids were young and I wanted to see them grow. That night I tossed & turned, emotionally exhausted; too miserable to sleep. My mind was flooded with questions….How can a good God let this happen? How did this happen to me? Why ME? There were no answers and I became a nervous wreck, limp with fear & grief and could not accept it.
My family was supportive; my husband stood by me, supporting me and assuring me that with so much medical advancement today, I would be fine soon. When the news spread to friends & acquaintances, some expressed shock; some consoled me; a few tried to avoid contact with me – may be they were frightened for me and there were some others who sympathized with me. They looked at me with pity and made me feel as though they were speaking or seeing me for the very last time.
After my surgery I had to start on chemotherapy followed by radiation. Those were the darkest days of my life. I had a rough time with Chemotherapy. My blood count stayed low. I experienced nausea, dizziness, lost my taste buds, weight & hair. Comparatively, radiation was easier. Except for some burning sensation & tenderness of the skin in the last week of my treatment, I sailed through the radiation.
How did I get my strength through all my treatment?
I prayed a lot, confident that God was in control of the situation. Spiritually I grew beyond measure; in a way I am grateful to cancer for that. Emotionally I feel strong but I still struggle with the fear of recurrence. May be this is due to the post-traumatic stress involved. Chemo made me sick. But It also made me bald & brave. Cancer made me guilty. For a long time, I felt like I had done this to myself by not eating right, working too hard, using a microwave, using cosmetics & dyes, etc. Even now, sometimes I am resentful, sometimes I am grateful. Most days I am afraid it isn't over. I just want to know it is gone for good. I think its fine to feel that way; it’s only natural for a human being. Cancer changed my life forever. Today, I am a 3-year cancer survivor and have been able to pick up the threads of my life where I had left off. While going through the treatment it seemed like it would never end. However, it did and eventually it became a distant memory. Today, I can barely remember the nausea, dizziness, weakness and all the other side effects associated with chemo. At that time I thought I would think about my side effects every day for the rest of my life. I barely remember them now. Healing is not just about the disease but involves our whole being in confronting the disease. Being at peace about the illness, which believe me is no easy task, and being in tune with our whole self is essential if we are to battle breast cancer successfully.
Life is short and beautiful and I learnt to value it. So I have begun taking better care of myself. I thought my life was ending on that fateful day when I was told my diagnosis. I told myself I can never smile or find any reason to be happy again. But today, I have learnt to enjoy life. I have learnt to laugh and smile again. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence. For me, it was a giant wakeup call! I needed to take better care of ME for a change!" I thank God I have been given a second chance. Now I "listen" to my body's needs, embrace life with appreciation and thankfulness. Fortunately, I am surrounded by my loving spouse, family and friends.
I am married and the mother of two beautiful, grown children. I have always been healthy. Eating well and exercising moderately has always played an important role in my life. My journey with breast cancer started in December 2010. At the time, I was 50 and thought that I was healthy. I had never had any major illnesses nor was I on any kind of medication. One fine day, a day I can never forget, I found a pea sized lump near my collar bone. On my husband’s insistence I went to a gynac who then referred me to an oncologist.
He ordered a battery of tests. But my FNAC and mammography were both in conclusive. Tru cut biopsy also did not reveal any malignancy. As a result he suggested we do a lumpectomy to remove the lump completely and send it for biopsy. Till this time I was sure it wasn’t Cancer. But the test results of the biopsy were positive for cancer. It was with absolute shock that I received the news. It was, to say the least, unexpected. To my knowledge there was never any history of cancer in my family. I was absolutely devastated.
My husband was completing the formalities of the settlement of the bill. I was crying my heart out. As the tears rolled down the deserted waiting rooms, empty chairs they were suddenly symbolic of my life to come.
My Oncologist suggested that we remove the lymph nodes to be on the safe side. Then started the series of chemo therapy. I underwent 6 sessions of chemo. That was the most painful part of the treatment. My oncologist had talked to me about the side effects of the treatment and had prepared me for it. But no amount of counseling and moral support could have prepared me for what Chemo therapy did to me and my body. One day after the third session of chemo after the bath my towel showed me what chemo could actually do to a person. The shock and realization that I had cancer hit me when I saw chunks of hair in the comb.
Following the chemo I had to undergo Forward IMRT. That is when I met the councilors and they helped me realize that I was not the only one going through these emotions and pain. I being from an orthodox family didn’t have much of a social life. My life revolved around my family. But it was during these times that my family and the support group helped me and encouraged me to come out of my shell and be proactive.
In all of this my family was the support system. During the chemo therapy I was irritable and my husband used to remain calm even though he had to bear the brunt of my anger and bitterness. My kids helped me to get over the emotional stress and cope with the changes that the chemo caused in my body.
Cancer changes the way people look at you. When they find out that you are a cancer survivor, sympathy is the only feeling they have towards you. And when the “Breast Friends Support Group” accepted me and encouraged me to join them without being judgmental and sympathetic I was over whelmed.
This group has shown me a new aspect of life. They have helped look at things positively. All that I haven’t been able to do so far, they have helped me and pushed me to do it. We have had so many sessions of various fun activities like dance, trekking ramp walking, outings. It has helped me rediscover myself. I can discuss not only my medical relevant problems, but also emotional problems. My counselor has become our best friend. She has a gift that she can find out what is going in our heads and by simply taking to us she can make out what is bothering us.
This group has gone out of the way to make life easy for survivor victims. They have organized sessions with doctors from various specialties who focus on cancer and chemo related issues. This is where I found out about alternative medical treatments for cancer. All that my oncologist and radiation doctor did not or was not able to tell me, I learned from this group.
It has given me new identity and a survival instinct. It has helped me push at my limits and set new goals for myself.
I am grateful to God that he has helped me survive Cancer and given me this support group.