The cancer support group Talk Your Heart Out met online on the afternoon of Sunday, 5th July 2020. Since most parts of the world are still staying indoors owing to the pandemic, these online sessions have become a much-awaited opportunity for cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors to socialize and learn more about coping with cancer.
This time around, the participants eagerly looked forward to hearing Debarati Sarkar of Kolkata share her cancer story. The 34-year-old sales professional has been in remission from fourth-stage ovarian cancer for the last 7 months.
She has been busy catching up on work and taking care of her two ‘babies’; her pet dogs whom she adores and pampers.
A carefree, fun, and adventurous person by nature, Debarati loves to ride her motorbike along with her group of bikers who’ve traveled the length and breadth of the country together. The bikers share a close bond and stand by each other through thick and thin.
Debarati’s cancer journey
Debarati shared how she has had cysts in her ovaries before and has undergone multiple operations on this account. This time around too, she expected just an operation and was looking forward to going back home after her surgery.
But the oncologist informed her that this time, the treatment would take longer. She would have to go through chemotherapy. It was not something she was expecting and that made it all the more difficult for her to come to terms with it.
The days that followed were gruesome, mentally, and physically. Chemo brings its own set of infamous side effects with it. From vomiting to hair loss, Debarati went through it all.
What separates Debarati from the average person is her clarity of thought. She is very clear in articulating how she managed her cancer.
Tip 1: Debarti advocates keeping yourself engrossed in what you are passionate about. For her, it was her work. While they ran the chemo drip through one of her arms, she used the other arm to pick up her phone and keep networking. Keeping herself occupied and productive helped immensely in her recovery process.
Tip 2: Learn to have fun. Debarati makes it a point to do the things she loves, from biking to hanging out with her friends, she ensures that she gets her share of fun. Cancer treatment can bring your spirits down. Remember to be good to yourself and off-set the moodiness by doing something special for yourself.
Tip 3: Form healthy habits. Cancer was a sort of wake-up call for Debarati. Previously, she cared less about what she ate or drank. Post-treatment, she has set up a system of healthy eating and fitness. She ensures she gets sufficient sleep. She also keeps away from all tobacco and related products.
Response from participants
The participants were overawed by Debarti’s natural enthusiasm and humour. It’s hard to believe that this cool, young person has been through so much in life.
There were a lot of questions from the participants. Some wanted to know more about her side effects, others asked about her family and support system. An interesting question came from one of the participants who asked her how she copes with knowing that she can’t have biological children of her own.
Debarati confided that it didn’t bother her too much. She knew it would come to this when she had her first ovarian surgery years ago. At that time, her doctor even warned her that her time for having biological offspring was running out and she should do so within the next couple of years. But for Debarti, life had other plans. She also takes solace in having two furry babies, her dogs, who give her comfort when she is low. One of them is a little sick right now, and this preoccupies her greatly.
Krishna, another regular participant, pitched in that pets do play the role of offspring to many of us now, and those without pets need to understand this special bond and respect it. This made Debarti a little emotional.
Debarati confessed that the admiration that the group was bestowing on her would help her in any further hurdles she might face in life. She would look back to this session and remember how it felt to be a source of inspiration for others.
Online support group provides validation
This sharing of mutual experiences, thoughts, and aspirations is what makes the TYHO group a very close-knit family. It’s very validating when someone else voices your opinions.
They say humans are social animals. We need company and solidarity. We thrive better in packs than alone. The intention of TYHO has always been to ensure that no one faces cancer alone. It’s not surprising that the number of attendees has been growing from session to session as the participants can vouch for the benefits of sharing in a safe environment.
If you or your loved one is going through cancer, join our online sessions to hear from others who’ve been there before you. Even if you are not comfortable talking about it, just listening to others sharing their own cancer stories can bring you closer to making sense of what you feel.
To attend our next session, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.