World Cancer Day: Be diagnosis-wise, treatment smart, cautious

When Team India won the World Cup in cricket in 2011 and Yuvraj Singh was declared ‘Man of the Tournament’, it was double celebrations for Yuvi.

Not many know that the all-rounder struggled with bouts of breathlessness while delivering those winning shots. Once he kissed the Cup, he took on the dreaded C-word - cancer - and fought it like the way he played. Fearlessly. And bounced back in the squad too!

Today, he is on a mission to make diagnostics-driven wellness the new health mantra. “Having gone through a life-threatening disease, I want to promote preventive healthcare in India,” says the cricketer, who is now backing Healthians, a leading health test at home brand.

Post her tryst with cancer, actress Manisha Koirala can’t stress enough on how important mental health is to be physically healthy. “Our body and mind are interlinked. If you are hurt and carrying that grudge for long, it will manifest in disease, as disease can strike us at our weakest emotional moment,” she says. Adding, “I urge people to be mindful about suppressed emotions, anger or hurt to heal and be healthy.”

Actress Sonali Bendre on her Instagram post, post her cancer treatment, said, “It requires days of strongly believing in oneself. It is not a fight against negative thoughts. It is taking a stand to not give in, no matter what.”

For Yuvraj, Manisha, Sonali and all those who have survived/ are surviving cancer, the journey can be described as nothing short of life-changing. From being diagnosed with the disease to fighting it, every single step has been laced with fear, pain, hope and infinite lessons. So, what exactly does surviving cancer mean and how can one get there post a cancer attack?

Clinically, a cancer survivor is someone who is free of any symptoms of the disease post treatment for five years.

While getting there may be tough, it is possible, depending on the stage of cancer and treatment options. “The first thing to understand is that cancer is not synonymous with death. You can fight and win,” says Dr Mandeep S Malhotra, HOD, Head, Neck and Breast Oncoplasty, Fortis Hospital, Delhi. He elaborates by breaking down the healing process into three phases:

Be diagnosis-wise

Surviving cancer begins at the moment of diagnosis and continues through diagnosis and beyond… Here are a few guidelines to make the process smoother:

  • Finding the right doctor and having family support are the key components to fighting cancer.

  • Once the diagnosis is made, it is important to understand the phase of cancer you are in and do what the doctor says.

  • Take second opinion if needed. But don’t Google the disease all the time; it will only confuse you.

  • It is extremely vital to be mentally strong, brace the disease and keep telling yourself that it can be cured.

Be treatment smart

  • The treatment phase is very crucial; the way you embrace it, the better will be its outcome. However, remember:

  • Treatment options vary. Some cancers respond better to radiation; others to chemotherapy or hormonal treatments.

  • Treatments have side effects. Understand what side effects to expect and what benefits the treatment offers. And keep in mind that not all side effects are horrible.

  • To keep yourself healthy and hearty. Eat right and think positive at all times. It will help you get through the treatment.

Be cautious post treatment/ recovery

Once the cancer treatment ends, a new chapter begins. While there is hope and happiness, fears and worries are not far behind either. Here are a few factors to take care of:

  • Regular follow-ups and care are important, which include periodic visits to the doctor, appropriate cancer screenings and healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise and proper nutrition.

  • If you know the root cause (smoking, drinking alcohol or other bad habits) of your cancer, stay away from it.

  • Life after treatment isn’t easy. You may experience a rollercoaster of emotions – anger, sadness, fear of recurrence. See a counsellor if needed. And keep an eye on your body for any symptoms of recurrence.

Today, survival rates have drastically increased thanks to earlier detection and better treatments. So take the longest leap of faith if you are there, as someone has rightly said, ‘Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death’.

Diet Dose

Khyati Rupani, Head Nutritionist, balancenutrition.in, prescribes diet tips to incorporate during/ post treatment:

  • Diarrhoea, a common side effect, can be treated by hydrating with fluids, lean meat, fish, chicken, oatmeal and hot cereals. Avoid high fibre vegetables and fried, greasy food.

  • Constipation, another side effect, can be treated with 12-15 glasses of fluids per day comprising prune juice, lemonade and decaffeinated tea. High fibre foods are allowed.

  • Weight gain can be a side effect which increases the risk of cancer recurrence. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and lean protein such as chicken and fish. Avoid high calorie snacks such as cookies and sweets.

  • Fatigue is common too. Consume nutrient-rich food such as nuts, cheese, oatmeal, peanut butter etc. And drink plenty of fluids.

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