Mid of September 2017, was my first volunteering session with ICS’s Emotional Support Group at Manipal Hospital, Old Airport Road. As we went visiting the Cancer patients in the Day Care ward, I was overwhelmed by the problems of the patients. Very rarely the patients complained about the pain of Chemotherapy… there were so many other problems the patients were dealing with. We as ICS volunteers tried to give the patients and their caregivers emotional support and it was evident they felt much better when they shared their woes and problems with us.
Here is the story of a patient which really touched my heart. About 6 months back a seventy year old lady came to visit her son in Bangalore and came to Manipal for a general health check-up. While speaking to the doctor she casually mentioned about a swelling in her left breast. The doctor examined and immediately recommended surgery. A 5 kg tumour was removed which was diagnosed to be malignant. Her initially planned 10 day stay turned into a long 6 month stay as she was put on a sixteen cycle Chemo treatment.
She was an aged woman, who seemed to belong to a conservative, traditional family. She looked courageous. There were no caregivers with her and she was alone while she was undergoing the Chemo dosage. After a brief chat she gradually started pouring out her heart to us. In Bangalore she is staying with her son’s family. But her daughter-in-law and other family members do not come near her as they feel they too will get Cancer. She stays isolated in a room without anyone to talk to. If she walks out of her room people move away, if she sits on a chair no one else sits on that chair after that. They don’t have the time to cook for her nor do they allow her to enter their kitchen. They even turned down her proposal to hire a cook to make her food. So even at the cost of hygiene, she has no other option but to get her food from outside.
I was so surprised to hear her story. With so much awareness about Cancer and with great advancements in Medical Science, well-educated, professional people like her family members still have such wrong notions. They feel Cancer is contagious and they will get it if they come in proximity of their mother. The lady was in tears while she narrated her story. She had completed thirteen cycles of Chemo and was waiting for the balance three to get over so that she could go back to her home town and enjoy freedom and better quality of life. The pain of Chemotherapy seemed to be fading in the midst of the neglect and ill-treatment she was enduring.
We held her hands and told her to hold her patience for the next few weeks. She should eat well and take care of herself so that the next three chemo cycles are done without any hindrances. We could understand after sharing her story with us, she was feeling much lighter. Even though we could not speak to her caregivers, but as part of the ICS Emotional Support group, we gave her a platform and space to express her feelings.