I was born and brought up in the lap of nature – the Himalayas, in a small town of Uttarakhand. Glancing at the floating clouds over green mountains, waking up in smoggy winters or in happy fortunate mornings with snow all over, enjoying the spring when nature plays Holi with the harmony of greenery and vibrant colours and the sprinkle of pollen grains from Pines, searching little colorful pebbles from rivers in the summer afternoons or fetching tiny beautiful flowers from the wild for my doll house… my childhood was blessed with these mesmerizing memories, and perhaps it was these which lit up a writer in me.
Both my parents were working and like every daughter I was always Papa’s li’l gal, stubborn, noisy and cheerful. After the demise of my parents I had to cope up with life as any other. I’m a great fan of Steve Jobs. He once said, ““You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” This pushed me to pursue my higher education in Biotechnology and eventually I took up research in the same field at Delhi.
As aptly said, sometimes we win, sometimes we learn. One day in 2013, I felt something abnormal. I felt a small soft mass silently growing inside me. I braved and went to see the oncologist, a cancer specialist. And, yes! My diagnosis confirmed… it’s Cancer. A new pain, a new challenge entered my life again. I was fortunate enough though that it was early stage, but I underwent nearly 6 months of long treatments, a really tough journey. I wouldn’t say it was easy and that I was courageous throughout. I felt pain, had bouts of crying fits and lost all my confidence.
Moving on since my diagnosis I felt that the people in small towns or developing countries somehow face more emotional challenges when coping with this disease. Our society is still not courageous enough to speak up about Cancer which creates fear, societal stigma and myths. This not only leads to late diagnosis or wrong faith in faulty alternative treatment, but most importantly it also affects the quality of life of the people who have completed their treatment. In simpler words, Diabetes is considered a chronic disease and Cancer is also a highly manageable chronic disease. Moreover, before insulin was discovered, diabetes was a lethal disease. So, while the world has progressed and is cheering towards an increasing number of Cancer survivors, we are still fighting with our own social stigma and fears. Thoughtfully, I understood a strong need of health education and survivorship support in India. I felt for myself, “Fight the Cancer with your entire positive attitude and let the best person come out of you”.
Quoting Steve Jobs again, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” So, I, along with some other cancer patients and my researcher friends, founded a cancer patient support group- “Anandi Sheroes”. We named it after India’s first lady doctor Mrs. Anandi G. Joshi, as a tribute to her. This group supports cancer patients by facilitating them to share their experiences with one another and to help them cope with their treatment. We educate people about cancer through our specially designed programs, Sparsh, Nari, Nayi Shuruwat and Shakti at Institutes/Colleges/Organizations with the help of cancer specialists. We also raise awareness for several important issues like prevention, supportive care, palliative care, which need to be addressed and advocated for cancer care in India. So far we have made some great public contributions too.
This is my story. I understand, you or your loved ones may not be affected or touched by Cancer and the spreading of awareness or supporting survivorship may not be your priority. But, before my diagnosis, I too was not a Cancer patient either. Right information and correct knowledge can make the difference. Together we can fight Cancer. Pass on…!!
Anandi Sheroes is a patient support group exclusively run by cancer survivors, caregivers and researchers. With a humble beginning, paying tribute to the first lady doctor of India, Mrs. Anandi G. Joshi, the group continues to endorse the principles of health and empowerment. Their mission is to educate, support and empower people against Cancer.
Currently Anandi Sheroes has four main programs focused on different target groups:
1.नई शुरुआत: An anti tobacco campaigning.
2. स्पर्श-एक पहल: A survivorship support program encouraging cancer patients and survivors through information about the treatment, step by step counselling and sharing as a group to build optimism and positive attitude towards life.
3. शक्ति-एक अहसास: A program that helps coping with cancer treatment. It works through sensitization and information sharing about the treatment procedures and expected changes and challenges the patient has to undergo.
4. नारी-एक पहचान: Women cancer awareness program which targets women of all ages involves a multi-sectoral approach to build capacity and awareness against cancer.
You can get in touch with Sarika Rana and her team by mailing at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Note: This story has been shared by Sarika Rana, a Cancer survivor who had victory over the disease and is now supporting other Cancer patients through her initiative Anandi Sheroes. If you too have an inspirational story to share with us then reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com