Overcoming the fear of cancer is the first step towards it's defeat - Sumitarani shares her cancer journey with CancerMitr
People fervently look for stories of hope when it comes to a formidable foe like cancer. The mere mention of “cancer” sends shivers down one’s spine, instilling a paralyzing fear that can deter them from even undergoing routine screenings, conversing with a cancer patient and all. Amid this grim backdrop, Sumitarani’s compelling journey with cancer is a testament to the power of facing one’s deepest fears and emerging victorious over the disease. Her profound story of survival unfolds as she sits down with the CancerMitr team to recount her experience.
Sumitarani Das is a tenacious businesswoman from Odisha, a loving wife, and a devoted mother of two. Her life flowed smoothly through her usual rendezvous with clients and cherished moments with her family – until- an unforeseen twist disrupted her life. A peculiar white patch, accompanied by an ominous pain, appeared on her tongue. Seeking answers, she consulted a physician who presented a range of possibilities, including the dreaded “C” word.
“No one in my family has had cancer, so we had no experience dealing with the disease. The scenario terrified us.” Driven by this visceral fear, she, along with her family, embarked on a journey to a government hospital, undergoing a battery of tests that culminated in a biopsy. The result was a chilling confirmation: tongue cancer.
Tongue cancer is a type of head and neck cancer – the result of abnormal cell division in the tongue, forging a malignant mass that invades adjacent structures, organs, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, often spreading to distant reaches. Noted symptoms of tongue cancer include a white or red patch, persistent ulcers, unusual bleeding, chronic pain, numbness, impaired tongue or jaw mobility, and a searing sensation.
“My mind underwent several racing thoughts: where will I go? What will I do? How will my family handle this? When and how can I get suitable treatment.”
Sumitarani recounts her emotional turmoil upon receiving the dire diagnosis. Fear and desolation gripped her as the weight of the news settled in. “I remember my exact emotions when I was told I am cancer-positive. I was feeling scared and lost,,” she narrated her ordeal.
Medical guidance suggested that the most effective course of action for her stage III tongue cancer was surgery combined with chemoradiation. This proposition, though medically sound, ignited new terrors within Sumitarani’s heart. The prospect of losing her tongue, her ability to speak and the pleasure of savouring food loomed as an unfortunate reality. In her work, Sumitarani meets and converses with a lot of people and worries about her future.
“I was worried more for my children and how this was going to affect them. My ten-year-old son needed me even for smaller things,” she said.
I was facing a scenario where I might never see him again, or things won’t be the same between us again.
For Sumitarani, it was just a matter of her finding the courage to face the disease. With her family and friend’s support and motivation, she finally found the spark that transformed that perspective towards life. She navigated through the medical landscape and found herself in a cancer treatment facility. The medical team assured her that her entire tongue need not be removed; only the tumour would be removed surgically. The urgency was palpable – stage III cancer necessitated immediate intervention to prevent the tumour’s metastasis, particularly to vital sites like the brain.
Depending on the size and location of the tumour, cancer is divided into four stages. Stage I and stage II are regarded as early stages where the tumour is localized. Stage III tongue cancer means either the tumour has gone deeper than 10mm into the tongue or has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. Immediate treatment ensures that the tumour won’t show up in distant sites, including the brain.
Summoning all her strength, Sumitarani plunged into treatment. A combined approach of chemoradiation and surgery became her battleground. Chemoradiation involves both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Radiation therapy targets and destroys malignant tumours with high-energy X-ray beams. Patients with stage III tongue cancer should get a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
Surviving cancer isn’t a walk in the park; the treatment causes several side effects. Sumitarani encountered a host of challenges: coughing fits, eating difficulties, vocal impairment, fatigue, and emotional stress. “Doctors gave me medications to overcome these side effects along with supplements like Nutrilite protein powder,” she said. Side effects are managed through integrative therapy options like diet, supplements, mental health counselling, and supportive therapies like Ayurveda, hot and cold therapy, etc.
Reflecting on her transformative journey, Sumitarani marvels at her regained voice – a voice that spoke louder than her past fears. Friends and relatives were astonished at her unexpected articulation, a testament to her unyielding spirit. Her response encapsulated her philosophy:
“We must confront the disease, battle it valiantly, rather than succumb to fear or bow before its consequences.”
She focused on her work and spent ample time with her family throughout her treatment, finding solace in their embrace. Simultaneously, she champions the indispensable role of rest, a crucial pillar of healing that her body earnestly craved.
And today, five years after that fateful diagnosis, Sumitarani stands in triumphant remission. Her tale brims with lessons, notably the imperative of regular cancer screenings and early detection. She emphasizes, “While it’s undeniable that cancer takes a toll on one’s finances, early detection is the beacon that can spare lives. By catching the disease in its juvenile stage, we diminish the burden of treatment.”
But fear of a positive diagnosis often prevents people from undergoing routine screening processes. Sumitarani’s message is that the first step towards the complete defeat of cancer is overcoming the fear of the disease.
In her own words, she shares, “For a brief moment, I was adrift in fear and uncertainty. My family and friends bestowed upon me the mantle of courage. It’s about unearthing that courage within ourselves.”
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