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Breast cancer is not a battle that is fought alone, if the goal is to win. Victory comes to those who are supported by family, friends, doctors.....and a positive attitude.
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It is not rare for me to see patients presenting with locally advanced breast cancer or metastatic cancer. Many times, I would wonder why they came in late. Till a few years back, I would judge the educated ones more harshly and enquire in my mind what education had done for them. I stopped judging them a few years ago especially after scratching their tough exteriors a bit! Six years ago, this elderly lady, speaking in impeccable English almost stumbled into my office. She was pale and weak and her daughter informed me that she had a bleeding ulcer in her left breast. I examined her and found a 15 cm large bleeding, ulcerated mass in her left breast. Her blood tests showed she was awfully low on Hemoglobin. I quickly arranged for a biopsy and also had a PET CT done, almost certain, that her disease would have spread. Thankfully, I was proved wrong. She was given blood transfusions and chemotherapy was started. She was an epitome of courage and went through her chemotherapy, surgery and radiation with a quiet resilience. During the course of her treatment, I asked her why she had presented so late. What she said shook me!She said she had a paralysed husband to look after and she had been doing that for the past 4 years. She knew about the lump and that it was growing. It is just that her husband’s need was greater. That is when the judging stopped. We may boast of a secure social fabric but many times we see these lone wagers, fighting their own battles. Their health becomes secondary. Life is not easy for many. Bless her!She is well. Her dear husband passed away 3 years ago and she runs an NGO to promote forgotten skills among women in rural Haryana. I am truly proud to have known her!
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I am a big fan of Angelina Jolie. So what is the big deal about it? Half of the human race is possibly her fan..her looks and her acting prowess has had the world swooning. I am her fan for a different reason. I haven’t followed her movies, her drop dead gorgeous looks or her personal life but I admire her for her courage. Some years ago, this remarkable lady announced to the world that she is having both her breasts removed. She knew that she was carrying a genetic mutation which made her susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. Her family history was strong for both breast and ovarian cancer and once she tested positive for the mutation, she knew she carried a 60-80% risk of developing either of these cancers. She was faced with the prospect of prophylactic breast and ovarian surgeries. I can only imagine the sleepless nights, the battle within-to do or not to do, several rounds of long discussions with her doctors, family and friends, the impact on her career which relied heavily on glamour, her children... and so much more. And then she made that decision to have both her breasts removed and subsequently her ovaries. She shocked the world but at the same time catapulted herself to that realm of courage and fortitude that rarely people of her standing dare to tread. I joined her fan club and her story of courage became the benchmark for women caught in a similar situation. Why I recalled this story was when I encountered my own Angelina Jolie. This young lady of 35 had a very strong family history of breast, ovarian and colon cancer on her maternal side.Her husband was gutted when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I advised her for a genetic consult while planning for her surgery. The genetic consultant had barely advised her gene testing and was discussing the possible implications, when she said that she had made up her mind. She very calmly told the consultant that irrespective of what the test says she was going ahead with bilateral prophylactic mastectomies and bilateral ovarian surgeries in the same sitting. She came to be and conveyed the same to me. It shook me inwardly and took me a while to gain my composure as her husband stood by her, rock solid in his support of her decision. ‘COURAGE’ as a word probably does not do justice to the tenacity with which one arrives at this supremely difficult decision. I have done these surgeries before and this one was certainly not the last. Such decisions are rationalised within the multidisciplinary board, the molecular oncologists, the psychologists, the family and most importantly, the patients!! While I see more of these Angeina Jolie clones, I will always hope and pray that these amazing ladies’ decision translates into long, meaningful and inspiring lives!

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Max Cancer Centre. Max Super Speciality Hospital108A. I. P. Extn Patparganj, New, -110092
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28.61316 77.288369 Dr. Geeta Kadayaprath - Breast Surgical Oncologist Max Cancer Centre. Max Super Speciality Hospital108A. I. P. Extn Patparganj, New, -110092
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