Caregiver Speak: Believe in yourself and your decisions

by Team Onco
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When tragedy strikes, I have noticed that everyone has similar advice to offer you: have faith in god, have faith in your prayers, have faith in the doctor, have faith that good things will happen. 

There is one other thing they need to add to this list: have faith in yourself. Although it is difficult advice, it is also the most crucial advice that I can offer you from my own experience. 

The Diagnosis

In 2016, my mother, Bijoya Devi, was diagnosed with Central Nervous System (CNS) lymphoma. This is a type of lymphoma that affects the brain and spinal cord. 

My parents live in Agartala, Tripura, while I live in Hyderabad. After the diagnosis, I was in a dilemma about what steps to take next. There were a lot of questions in my mind about which doctor I should consult, whether we should seek treatment in Hyderabad or somewhere else etc. 

Even though I had a lot of questions, I knew I needed to act fast. Timely treatment is as important as finding the right treatment. So, in the name of God, I made my first major decision about the treatment: my parents would have to move to Hyderabad. 

My relatives were unsure of my decision. They asked me why I had selected Hyderabad and not any other city like Bangalore or Delhi which might have better medical facilities. 

For a moment, I began to doubt my own decision. Was this the best choice for my mother? Should I reconsider my decision? But considering the situation and the limited time, I felt it was better to be in a city where I had some friends and colleagues to help me during the treatment. 

My second decision was to zero in on the hospital to go to for the treatment. Since it would be intensive and long, this would prove to be an important decision. 

I went to a leading hospital in the city with all my mother’s reports. The oncologist and neurologist there explained the reports to me and advised me that treatment would have to begin at the earliest. 

Again, doubts creeped up over my choice of hospital. I chose a multi-speciality hospital while some suggested I should consult a cancer speciality hospital. I realised that not everyone would agree on all matters. Difference of opinion is natural and even necessary. 

But I was making the call with the best interest of my mother in mind. A hospital with advanced equipment and highly-skilled technicians would be a big asset to us. Having all the necessary testing and diagnostic facilities within our reach would help my mother as she would not need to be taken to different places for different tests. 

Making the journey as comfortable as possible for my mother was my priority. I was putting a lot of thought into my decisions. So instead of second-guessing my choices at every step, I decided I must trust myself.

Another point of self-doubt was when the hospital asked me to sign a piece of paper just before the surgery. It said on the paper that it was our decision to go ahead with the surgery. At that moment, pen in hand, I remember I was very scared to sign. But it was a decision I made and I had to follow it through.

The Treatment

The treatment was a difficult period for all of us. My mother underwent a biopsy, a surgery, seven rounds of chemotherapy and 21 cycles of radiation. We had to visit the hospital several times, sometimes with a gap of six hours within the same day. 

All of this made my mother very tired and she lost about 37 kg. Some days, I would fall asleep while cooking because I did not get much time to sleep. 

But my father and I both knew that we have to keep going until the treatment is completed. My sister applied for all the leave she could get and joined us in Hyderabad. 

If we had been in our hometown, we would have had a lot more help from our relatives and friends. We did not have that here but some of my seniors and colleagues did lend their support to us. Instead of pondering over how tiring it was for all of us, I chose to focus on how best to improve my mother’s overall health. 

I decided to consult a dietician. She helped us understand my mum’s nutritional requirements. Cutting out sugar completely from my mother’s diet was another decision I made, as we were advised to do so. 

We included a lot of fibre and antioxidants in her meals. Foods like quinoa, vegetables, muskmelon and other fruits became a part of her daily diet. Our doctor also suggested certain supplements to include in her diet. 

To take a 360-degree approach to her well-being, we also looked at ways of cheering her up so that her mind also stayed strong. Over time my mother regained her strength and health. 

Get Educated

From my experience of fighting my mother’s cancer an important lesson that I have learnt is that even though most people wish us well, we cannot act upon everyone’s opinions on every matter. 

A certain amount of research and consultation is necessary before we make a decision. Instead of being indecisive and second-guessing your every move, you also need to place some trust in yourself. 

In conclusion, I am very thankful to everyone who I came across during this journey. Friends, relatives, doctors, and also strangers have shown us love and support in ways I never expected. This is what gave me and my family the encouragement to keep striving, seeking and winning. 

*This article portrays the thoughts of Doli Karmarkar who attended the Talk Your Heart Out event organised by Onco.com. If you have a cancer story to share with us, please write to us at community@onco.com

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