Cancer. It’s a word with the power to elicit fear in the hearts of all those who hear it.
Be it you or a loved one, cancer is a diagnosis that no one wants to hear. It makes us all stop in our tracks and life seems to come crashing down around us. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am going to share my family’s ongoing experience with this disease and how to deal with it.
When we first heard that my Dadi has breast cancer, all of us were extremely grim… all of us except my Dadi.
She took the news as well as humanly possible. She is so positive in the face of such adverse circumstances that she gave us the strength to cope with the news.
My first advice to you would be to try and have a positive outlook towards the future. I know it’s incredibly difficult and seemingly impossible but happy vibes can do wonders! Even if you don’t feel positive about it on the inside, make sure you try and create a positive environment around the patient. They are grim enough without us adding our sadness.
Talking about it as a family is EXTREMELY important.
Communication in the face of a chronic and (unfortunately) frequently deadly disease, is key. Small things like who is going to attend the doctor’s appointments, who is going to be accompanying the patient during chemotherapy or who is going to be in charge of care at home are practical things that need to be worked out.
On top of that, of course, talking about the emotional aspect of it all is also incredibly important. My dadi made sure she talked to me about how I was feeling about the whole thing and now I do the same with her. We are there for each other, which is very important.
Take good news as it comes…even if it seems tiny and insignificant.
ANY good news is GOOD NEWS! When we found out my dadi’s tumor was the kind that does not require chemotherapy but can be treated using oral medication, I was over the moon. Yes, she still has cancer BUT at least now she won’t have to go through the pain of chemotherapy and for that, I’m so grateful.
Understand that your life will also change significantly.
When living with a cancer patient, it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible. So if YOU are sick with let’s say the flu, then it is vital that you stay away. Wear a surgical mask and stay as far as possible from the patient so as to protect them from it because their immune systems are severely suppressed due to the treatment.
Encourage your loved one to see a psychiatrist.
Aside from being a physical illness, being diagnosed in itself takes a mental toll. So it’s important that patients see a psychiatrist throughout the entire process (all the way through treatment) so that they can be provided with the mental and emotional support they need to fight this disease.
Prevention is better than cure.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in females in Pakistan and early detection saves lives. Please encourage your loved ones to perform self-exams once a month until the age of 40 and get a mammogram done once every 3 years after the age of 40. If you notice anything different, DO NOT IGNORE IT. It’s always better to go and get checked by a doctor. While not as common, males can also get breast cancer so this advice is for everyone.
Stay happy. Stay strong. May we all find the strength to battle this demon.
I’ve learned how to stay strong in the face of adversity, all thanks to my Dadi. I hope her story inspires others to stay resilient, too.
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Cover image via Sahar Basit