The well-equipped medical team takes over for a specified amount of time, lasting from one month to one year or more.
Although we live in a country that is now almost fully equipped with treating cancer effectively, which begins with preventative measures of detecting cancers to diagnosis and treatment, there is yet a major gap in this cancer care spectrum in India. We have healthcare facilities adopting cutting-edge protocols for treatment of cancer, however what happens to this patient post treatment? The well-equipped medical team takes over for a specified amount of time, lasting from one month to one year or more. But as quickly as they come in to treat the cancer, they exit even faster. The patient feels abandoned, the family members lost and helpless. Everyone affected by the disease is now ridden with fear of its recurrence. This gap between post treatment care and starting your life over or returning back to normalcy, is wider and deeper than ever before. Rehabilitation of cancer is limited and holistic recovery and rehabilitation, non-existent.
But why is this important? After all a patient has been treated and should now be ok to move on, right? Wrong! Cancer is one of the most challenging diseases, physically and mentally. The treatment initiates fatigue, hair loss, soreness, weight gain or loss, chemo brain, neuropathy and so on. Along with major emotional and mental disturbances, such as stress, anxiety, fear, anger and depression. This does not disappear once treatment is done but continues to grow if not dealt with in the right manner. Yes, some of the physical challenges do dissipate but it’s often filled with more emotional baggage. A cancer patient who then becomes a cancer survivor is not the same person and this is something that we need to take very seriously. Now is the integral time to provide the right measures and protocols to support him/her and the family. This is when the healing takes place, and not only during treatment.
Due to the over-emphasis on conventional treatment and nothing on holistic post treatment care, many jeopardise their recovery to a great extent. They go back to smoking, drinking, living an unhealthy lifestyle, ignore or suppress their emotions, desperately trying to fit back into a normal life but struggling severely inside. This is causing more damage than ever and also contributing to an increased risk of relapse. One of the most crucial elements to fighting cancer and healing through recovery is immunity. The focus needs to be on re-building a battered immune system post the cancer and the treatment. Immunity is your first line of defense and protects you from not only cancer but any other major or minor illnesses. When the treatment is completed, immunity is probably at its lowest, hence the measures taken to recover effectively is imperative. Unfortunately, however, the non-existence of proper integrative rehabilitation during and post treatment leads to lack of knowledge, fear and helplessness.
We live in a country in which cancer is severely stigmatised. There is immense amount of shame, guilt and non-acceptance that comes along with it. This affects recovery even further. Most don’t want to face their cancer or deal with the repercussions it brings after it. Getting back into normalcy is a task. We find many relationships also ending due to cancer. The way people even respond to a cancer patient or survivor is shameful. It comes with so much sympathy that cancer patients/survivors feel worse about their situation than need be. This is all stemming from lack of knowledge. It’s very important to change the narrative of cancer in the country, by spreading awareness, de-stigmatising the illness and openly accepting and understanding what cancer entails.
By providing holistic measures in treating patients mentally, emotionally and physically, cancer patients and survivors now know what they are actually dealing with and how to manage the physical and mental challenges of it. Sole emphasis on treatment, treats the cancer but not the patient. It focuses on the physical symptoms of the disease and leaves the patient physically and emotionally destroyed. A suppressed immune system, physical, mental and emotional challenges is what most cancer patients feel during and after treatment. This is not a healed person but more so a recipe for disaster. Hence, India might be rapidly advancing in its cancer treatment measures and protocols, the basic necessity of achieving optimal health of treating a patient as a “whole” is amiss by leaps and bounds. Therefore, the major areas that India needs rapid transformation are the following:
-Changing the narrative of cancer by openly talking about the disease and encouraging people to not suppress their feeling and emotions
-Enriching knowledge about health and healing of cancer
-Providing the right measures in treating patients in a holistic manner that targets physical, mental and emotional well-being
-A comprehensive rehabilitation of cancer patients that weens them off medical care into a healthier lifestyle
If these matters are addressed seriously, is when we will witness a change in the course of cancer care in this country. What was once known as a deadly, dreadful and dangerous disease, is actually not the end of the road but a beginning to making the appropriate changes to your life which includes you mental and physical state of being. Enabling you to actually live more fully than ever before.
This article is written by Ms.Samara Mahindra, Founder & CEO, CARER Program