She was all alone when the revelation was made. Meera Dutta was just 23 when she had to walk down the corridors of a hospital after her doctor had pronounced that she had cancer which was at an advanced stage.
Meera was staying away from her family to pursue her education. With the doctor’s revelation having shaken her, she sat on one of the benches there, crying uncontrollably. The question on her mind: “How am I going to tell this to my parents? Will I even survive?” She was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma — a type of cancer that occurs in and around the bones.
Ask her, and she recollects every change that she went through in her journey towards cure, be it physical or psychological. Even as the psycho-oncologist made rounds to meet her often, Meera thought she had to speak to someone who spent more time with her. Today, having overcome the disease, Meera hand-holds several others who are going through what she had. “Each cycle of chemotherapy is different. If there is hairfall in one, there are mouth ulcers in others. Eventually, there is zero taste. Depression is bound to be one of the effects. Hence, talking to someone with cancer is important,” she said.
Meera, along with a team of two others, Meeraj Raj and Mili Baruha who are also cancer survivors, counsel patients to overcome depression. At Cytecare Cancer Hospitals in Bengaluru, this team of Patient Navigators spends time talking to cancer patients about overcoming the illness.
When DH visited the hospital for one of the sessions, Raj was counselling a patient. “I am having severe hairfall. Can I shave it off completely. Will it grow back? Also, I am unable to eat. I cannot feel anything..” these were a few grievances that an ovarian cancer patient put forth.
With her experience in dealing with it, Raj tried to counsel her. “There are several cancer patients with depression. They will not be able to express so many things to family members. Doctors might not have so much time. Hence we step in,” said Raj.
This team of three visits patients after their initial diagnosis and talk to them throughout the treatment.