Binita Patel (Caregiver For Pushpaben Desai): A Story Of Courage

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

If you have your loved ones’ mental support, you can overcome every obstacle hindering your path. That is what I strongly believe in. I am Binita Patel, the caretaker for Pushpaben Desai, who suffered from stage 3 Colon Cancer.

Our journey started seven years back when my mother would complain about acute digestion issues in her stomach. Her sudden uneasiness was mistaken as mere gas problems by our physician. However, a few years later, when my mother underwent surgery, the doctors confirmed the spread of Colon Cancer in her intestines. Since then, it’s been a year, and we have put in all our efforts to combat this disease. As much as I feel it’s my family who helped her fight cancer, it’s her will power and mindset that pulled her through at 70. She has undergone several surgeries and has a history of diabetes and high cholesterol too.

Colon Cancer Treatment

My mother was admitted to a hospital after she was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. On her second day, she underwent surgery, followed by seven vigorous Chemotherapy sessions. On her 5th session, her veins had stopped working. Hence, we used tubes that were attached to her chest to feed her. Additionally, her complications in thyroid and diabetes made the process extremely hard. My mother’s reaction to Chemotherapy was complicated to digest for us. She would always complain about feeling a kind of heat in the body. She also experienced extreme Pain and sudden mood swings. However, we also used home remedies to lighten her mood, like applying henna on her legs. This support and concern from us kept her going.

My father, who is 82 years old, has been her backbone. We are four sisters and one brother who lives in the United States. We would divide our responsibilities and visit her one by one. However, my dad has been constant. He is a strong-willed and strict individual who provided the kind of support my mother needed. He ensured she follows a regular diet, medicines, and lifestyle in general. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have been able to sail through.

As for me, it has been an exhausting journey, both emotionally and mentally. I still recall profusely crying during Chemotherapy. I think it is difficult for both the patient as well as the caretaker. It makes you anxious and scared about the uncertainty that lies ahead. Luckily, we were blessed with some generous patients around us.

Since we all are fighting a disease that connects immediately, they were so friendly and motivating as they shared their experiences. It created a family-like environment by radiating warmth and positivity. I recall one of them sharing a tiffin with all. I am currently in touch with two other patients and meet them often. If you have such supportive individuals around you, then your journey automatically becomes peaceful.

I’m incredibly thankful to the hospital we visited in India. The psychiatrist and dietician frequently visited her ward and checked her progress while giving us tips on how we should proceed. Additionally, the doctors and the nurses were extremely patient and gentle with mom. I am most thankful to the volunteers who put in so much effort to encourage everyone around them. Their family-like support has helped in her speedy recovery. They helped in lightening my mother’s mood, which reduced the side effects of the medicines. As I mentioned, Chemotherapy makes you feel all types of attitudes at once. But if she was happy, then all her mood swings disappeared immediately.

Once we knew mom had colon cancer, we made it a point to frequently research and read about the types of Colon Cancer. Colon Cancer is hereditary, which puts us all at risk too. Hence, we get ourselves tested for a colonoscopy every three years since we are all above 50. My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to get yourself tested at the earliest to track cancer.

Additionally, nutrition played a significant role in her recovery. My dad was extremely strict with her and didn’t allow spices at home. Moreover, we avoided wheat and included a millet in our diet every week. It’s a must to prevent artificial sugar and compliment your food with natural sugar sources like honey.

I think at an age like us, and our parents become like children. It’s a reversal of roles. When we were kids, our parents took great care of us. Now it is our time to return the same warmth and care to them. In this fragile time, we should be patient and take immense care of their needs.

Conversation with Caregiver Binita Patel
Conversation with Caregiver Binita Patel
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My Learnings

This journey has been challenging for us, but I am thankful I had my family with me. All of us divided our responsibilities and took the utmost care of her needs. My biggest lesson is when you have a patient experiencing this for the first time, always seek help from family members. The support provided by them is extremely critical. My sisters and brother would leave their houses and kids for over six months. However, our better halves and our kids stepped in to cook food for themselves and take care of the house. I should give a special mention to my sister in law Heena Desai, who reached first when my mother was diagnosed and provided both of us immense emotional support. When you share the load, the other person’s burden reduces, and they can focus on pressing issues.

Moreover, always ensure that one person is still constant with the patient. In my case, it was my father. I cannot explain how essential mental support is for the patient, especially during Chemotherapy. While physical support is understandable, mental support is often ignored. Although my mother is strong-hearted, yet the medicines had varying side effects on her emotions.

Along with personal care, psychological concerns should also be met to ensure the patient’s overall being. In my mom’s case, the medicines would often make her upset or angry. Hence, it was our job to keep her happy during such phases.

Parting Message

Lastly, I am filled with gratitude towards the Almighty for providing my family with this support and courage. To expand this positivity beyond my life, I often visit chemo wards or patient wards to interact with other patients and create a similar aura my mother experienced during her sessions. Moreover, strength and courage are the basis to overcome this disease. Every patient who has willpower always wins. If your mind wants to achieve it, then you will conquer every milestone while surrounding yourself with positive individuals. Always provide them with strong emotional support and see how they overcome their fears. I hope my journey helps others like to rise as a warrior and fight this disease. I am overwhelmed as to how my mother has recovered and would love to spread the same warmth and happiness.

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