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!