Interview with Vandana Mahajan on General Cancer Awareness

Vandana Mahajan is a cancer warrior and a cancer coach. She has medicines to take daily and says that if she does not take her medications today, then she will die tomorrow. But she still believes that she has the power button of her life in her hands, and that is what her spirit is. She chooses to count the blessings rather than complaining about the effects of cancer. She works with an NGO called Cope with Cancer and has been working with Tata Memorial Hospital for the last four years. She is a palliative care counselor, and she has done various sessions with various cancer patients.

Chemobrain

Chemobrain is something that not many people are aware of. Chemobrain is when you suffer from mental fog or brain dullness. It generally happens during Cancer Treatment. The chemo drugs sometimes cause such side effects that a patient suffers from a dull or fogged brain.

The symptoms could be short term memory loss, not finding the right words to say, not being able to multitask, not recognizing certain things. Generally, it takes 10-12 months after Chemotherapy for these symptoms to wear off independently. In the majority of patients, these effects go automatically, but some patients have long term effects. Any patient who has been through Chemotherapy feels that if he/she is suffering from cognitive impairments, it is important for the patient to approach the oncologist. The oncologist may refer the patient to neuropsychology analysis.

It is very important to be mentally occupied. The patient should do exercises, walk, Yoga and can play brain games.

Points to note after Surviving Cancer

There are certain things a cancer warrior has to be careful about life long. They need not live in fear, but their antennas must be up all the time.

  • It is very important to go for regular follow-ups.
  • If the survivor is on any kind of medication, they should take it regularly.
  • Be aware of any changes that happen in the body. There are no cancer-specific symptoms. Be aware of any signal that is out of the ordinary.
  • If a survivor feels that one of her breasts suddenly feels heavy, it is not normal. You look at your breasts and realize that one is bigger than another, which can also be a sign of cancer.
  • Obesity is the fuel for cancer, so weight should be in control.
  • Think positive. Your mind has immense power, so if your thoughts are right, your body also behaves accordingly.
  • Do a monthly self-examination.

The Fear of Relapse

The majority of survivors fear relapse, and it’s a very understandable fear because no one wants to go through the cancer journey again. We don’t have any control in our hands, so you have to park aside from the fear of relapse. The starting five years are crucial, so be careful, have strong willpower, and if you survived once, it is because of some reason, so have faith in God.

Having this fear is normal, but always being in this fear is not good because it creates negative vibes and Stress in your body, which suppresses your immunity and becomes susceptible to a lot of other ailments. The best way to deal with the fear of relapse is to talk to a counselor.

Emotional Health

Cancer has a huge stigma attached to it, so people usually get scared by just listening to the word cancer. Many people believe that cancer is contagious, so it is important to restore patients’ confidence that cancer is not a contagious disease.

People who are not so expressive should go to the counselor, and the counselor should try and get it out. Hold patient’s hands, give a hug and make them feel needed and important. Encourage her/him to go out and spend time with people they love.

Importance of Hug, Care and Moral Support on Cancer Journey

People get depressed just by the news of cancer, so there should be someone to hug them and reassure them that cancer is not a death sentence; it is a struggle, but the fight can be won, and you are not alone in this journey. Care is critical, and a supportive family can only give it. The family should be very patient with the cancer patient, and if the patient needs to vent, then don’t stop them, just let them vent.

Sugar and Dairy Products

You get diabetes, gain weight, and get bad breath by eating sugar, but you do not get cancer by eating sugar. People stop eating sugar once they get diagnosed with cancer, and that is why their glucose level comes down. Anything in moderation is not bad. Until and unless you have diabetes or your oncologist or nutritionist tells you that you cannot eat sugar, you can safely eat sugar. You gain weight by eating sugar, and obesity fuels cancer.

Many studies have been done worldwide, and no study says that dairy products cause cancer. We prescribe milk, yogurt, smoothies and paneer in cancer patient’s diets. Dairy products are an excellent source of protein.

There are so many myths associated with Breast Cancer. One of the myths is that Breast Cancer happens to only menopausal women, but it can happen to young women in their 20s also. Another popular myth is that Breast Cancer is always hereditary, but it is not due to any genetic reasons in the majority of cases. Thirdly, wearing a black color bra is said to cause cancer, but it does not cause cancer at all. Keeping the mobile close to the breasts or using deodorants also does not cause cancer, contrary to popular belief.

Relation between Stress and Cancer

There are a lot of people who believe that being through depression, stress, or traumatic experiences can cause cancer. Stress does not cause cancer; it will cause the disease to metastasize. Stress will suppress your immunity, weaken your immune system, and you become more prone to infection during your treatment. There is no relationship between Stress and cancer, but it can negatively affect your health in general after the diagnosis.

Things to tell and not tell Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Nothing should be hidden from cancer patients and caregivers. The patient and the caregiver should be aware of the reality because, ultimately, it is for the patient to fight the disease. If you don’t tell the reality, then the patient may not know the gravity of the situation. Gradually, one has to tell the patient what it is and explain to them that they can get through this.

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