Srinagar, Feb 4: In 2017, Aayat, a devoted teacher, faced an agonising moment when she received the daunting diagnosis of cancer, a revelation that seemed to shatter her world. However, fast-forward to seven years, Aayat now stands as a symbol of unwavering resilience, having conquered cancer. Not only does she revel in robust health, but she has also returned to her true passion – teaching.
Aayat's remarkable journey mirrors the stories of numerous cancer survivors, collectively conveying a powerful message: a battle with cancer is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit.
Reflecting on her journey, Aayat shared, "I am diabetic, and initially, I developed blisters on my tongue. Initially attributed to hormonal imbalance, persistent symptoms prompted further tests, revealing a diagnosis of tongue cancer. Never in my wildest nightmares did I anticipate such a diagnosis, but thanks to Allah and the dedicated medical professionals who treated me, today I am living a routine life."
In a poignant moment at the World Cancer Day event -Housla Meet- organised by Paras Hospital, Aayat, along with other cancer survivors, shared her inspiring journey of overcoming the challenges posed by the disease. The unique gathering provided a platform for survivors to break the silence around the social stigma associated with cancer and dispel misconceptions that often surround those diagnosed with the illness.
Muneera, another resilient survivor who faced stage 4 cancer, emphasised the need to dispel the social stigma attached to cancer. She thanked her family and medical professionals for their crucial support during her treatment. "One misconception that needs to be addressed is the social stigma attached to cancer. Some people believe that those diagnosed with cancer have committed cardinal sins, which is not the case. It can happen to anybody. We have to get ourselves checked, examined, and follow treatment. It can be cured, and I am an example of it," she declared.
Sharing his journey, Syed Wajid revealed that he received his cancer diagnosis on the day of his daughter's wedding. Initially seeking treatment in Delhi, he later turned to Paras Hospital, praising the commendable efforts of the oncology doctors at the newly opened hospital. He proudly announced that he had successfully returned to work, with doctors declaring him cancer-free.
Speaking at the World Cancer Day event, Dr Sheikh Zahoor, Associate Director of Surgical Oncology, highlighted the significance of the stories shared by survivors like Aayat, Muneera, and Syed Wajid.
He described their experiences as powerful testimonials to the hope and resilience that cancer survivors embody. "The event aimed not only to celebrate their triumphs but also to emphasise the importance of regular health check-ups and timely treatments."
Dr Zahoor provided insights into the prevalent types of cancer in Kashmir, identifying lung, oesophagus, and breast cancer as more dominant in the region. He also noted a concerning increase in oral cancer attributed to the use of tobacco products such as Gutka. "Factors contributing to the rise in cancer cases also include less physical activity, obesity, and high consumption of junk food."
Despite these challenges, Dr. Zahoor emphasised that proper screening is crucial, and many forms of cancer are curable with early detection and appropriate medical intervention. The message underscored the idea that, with determination and medical support, cancer is not an insurmountable obstacle.
He gave an overview of the cancer situation in India and compared it with the statistics and data about the disease in Kashmir.
Dr Zahoor discussed that cancer is often shrouded in stigma – from the day a person is diagnosed to long after being declared cancer-free. Despite similarities between sexes, women suffer from additional stigma. There are several reasons for this. When a cancer is linked to a woman’s reproductive system – such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancers – misconceptions run rampant.
Dr Abdul Rashid Lone, former professor, Medical Oncology, SKIMS was the chief guest on the occasion. The Cancer Awareness Day was organised by the Department of Oncology – Paras Hospital Srinagar.
Dr Azhar Jan Battoo, Associate Director – Surgical Oncology (Paras Hospital) coordinated a live discussion with cancer survivor patients. The patients shared their journey to go beyond the physical to address the fear, shame, and guilt felt by women, which can impact their access to care and chances of survival.
Dr Saquib Zaffar Banday, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, also shared live interaction with cancer survivor patients. The programme ended with a felicitation to cancer survivor patients.
Organisers on the occasion said that Paras Healthcare aspires to create state-of-the-art facilities for cancer patients in the valley so that patients can avail the best and affordable treatment at their doorsteps. The journey has started with the establishment of Departments of Medical & Surgical Oncology and will continue further with the commissioning of Radiation and Nuclear Medicine units.