Year after year, during BCAM or the Breast Cancer Awareness Month that is October, hundreds of people join in a slew of campaigns. The month-long exercise is aimed at increasing awareness with respect to regular self-examination and screening which can lead to early detection. Early detection, in turn means, 90 to 100 per cent survival rate. Oncologists use the word “cure” for those who fall under this bracket! Naturally, campaigns like hair donations, marathons, ‘protect your mom’ crusade — are run with gusto. These movements save lives and even garner the much needed funding for research. But, can we do something more?
Let me tell you a story. It was on a cold February morning that I got a call from my doctor. It was bad news. My first reaction was — confusion. When I look back at this moment, all I can recall is how my long tresses of hair dangled below my favourite pair of jeans. Before that phone call, I recall being in a beautiful phase of my life. I had been toying with the idea of writing a novel on my brand new laptop and I indulged in the habit of complaining about every day things.
In my life before the phone call, I thought horrible rollercoasters happened to other people. I had no inkling that I would soon be hoisted on the scariest ride of my life with no seat belts on.
Soon after the call, there were scans, blood tests and a major surgery. As I drifted in and out of my sedated sleep, I panicked at what lay ahead. The very thought of chemotherapy sessions, more scans, blood tests was draining me emotionally. That moment, I wondered if the road ahead was worth taking.
The next time, you campaign for mums to go screen themselves, you make a pact with yourself too. Just as you implore others to protect themselves, you pledge to protect yourself too.
I remember asking my doctor if I could get off the ride. All I wanted was to be out of that crazed loop and get back to my life. My doctor looked at me with his hands in his coat pocket and asked, “would you like to take that chance? Even if it is 1 per cent?”
That minute, I knew, I had to stay on course to recover.
To this day, bleary images continue to pop up when I hear a song that used to play on the car ride to the hospital or when I get a whiff of the sanitised smell of the clinic or when I watch the October frenzy. And, when this happens, two single thoughts emerge. One of gratefulness and the other is a silent prayer. I pray that no person I love/I know/I don’t know ever gets on that ride.
To help answer my prayers, I would like something more. The next time, you campaign for mums to go screen themselves, you make a pact with yourself too. Just as you implore others to protect themselves, you pledge to protect yourself too. It is not just about donating your long tresses. It is about saving those tresses for yourself too. This means, tough decisions — eating healthy, as many times as possible. Saying no to things your conscience says no to. Kicking yourself out of bed to exercise. Being true to yourself. Hoarding happy thoughts. Building a positive outlook. Working towards fulfilling your dream. Being brave to sign a pact with your life.
As much as these actions seem simple and easy to live out, they are not. It is not a one day — 5km or 10km marathon that you will choose to run. It is marathon that goes on through out your life. It is a test of endurance, of resilience, of grit.
No. This is not a ticket to not get onboard the rollercoaster. But, this is a chance. Like my doctor said, even if it is just a small percentage of chance to living a rollercoaster-free life, would you not take it?
Take a pledge
And No. I am not ungrateful to all those thoughtful actions people involve themselves on all those October days. I am thankful. But, I would be happier and contended if I am assured that, many people on a particular day of the year, promise themselves to take care of their health because, there is just one life. Why not choose to live it healthy. Even if it means, taking just a small percentage of chance to good health. Go on. Take a pledge. Live healthy, because like my pink friend said once,
“Early detection is awesome, but staying safe is even better.”
— Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman