‘Gowramma!Eshtu sathi helodu ba amma olage!’
[How many times should I call you?Come inside!]
These were the usual words of despair in the dressing room during my days as an intern in the obstetrics and gynaecology department.A time when I had to rush to the hospital in the wee hours of morning to meet three Lakshmammas, two Gowrammas, two Venkatammas and the many other ladies with similar names admitted through the medical camps conducted in the rural areas.We especially the female interns were assigned the job of placing tampons for patients with prolapse before our professors started their daily rounds. The good obedient ones that we were or behaved so since it was our first posting,our postgraduates gave us the liberty of taking all the PAP smears too whenever new admissions happened.Back then I always wondered do these women know what actually is happening with them,what is it that makes them put up with everything.
Few months later we had a lady admitted in the surgery wards with a diagnosis of breast cancer,her name I do not remember,my bad.But what I cannot forget is the wound dressing we did on her chest for an hour or so in the morning,the breathlessness that did not let her lie down and made her land in the ICU,the helplessness on her face when she passed away within that little while.What struck me was she worried not because she was about to die but because there was nobody to see her go.
Most of these women are illiterates who toil longer than their men folks.Health care is not something they obviously worry about.They suffer from what is called as ‘Social Illness’,a cancer by itself.On the other hand there is an increasing awareness of signs and symptoms of various illnesses among a certain group in the urban areas,courtesy the world wide web.Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment have increased the number of people living for five years or more after the diagnosis,what is called as the five year survival rate.
The term ‘Cancer Survivor’ is common these days,these are the people with the will and courage who battle it out.It is not just the illness that any patient dreads.A variety of economical,physical and psychosocial issues come tagged.Thanks to the different modalities of treatment-surgery,radiotherapy and chemotherapy,each bring a pain of a kind along with the cure.
Prevention can only be done by women empowerment,health education and better access to health care.Rehabilitation and counseling is an important part of treatment as well.Cancer as an end of life,is a thing of past.But even with all the advancements in medicine I am sure when every doctor has to diagnose and treat a patient he/she prays and hopes each time that it does not turn out to be one.
Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops...at all-Emily Dickinson.