Ganga Prem Hospice Patients
of Cervical Cancer and Cruelty
An advanced cervix
cancer patient is subjected to physical abuse
torture by her family.
Every hour cervical cancer claims the lives of
eight women in India. These figures, even though
hard-hitting, still do not convey the pain, misery
and ostracism that many women have to go through
when they are afflicted with the disease. Foul
smell, discharge, incontinence, diarrhea, bleeding,
swelling and disabling pain are just some of the
symptoms that make a cervical cancer patient's
life extremely difficult.
In the absence of a supportive family and good
medical care, a cervix cancer patient can have
to live the last days of her life in inhumane
that is happening to Sarla Devi (name changed)
from end-stage cervical cancer and an unsuccessful
surgery which has left her with urinary incontinence,
Sarla Devi has an alcoholic husband and step-sons
who add to her misery. Sarla Devi is a heart-wrenching
example of how society treats women who are
uneducated, do not have economic independence,
and do not conform to the society's definition
of a "respectable" woman.
patient Sarla Devi at a GPH cancer clinic
A simple village woman from near Yamunotri, one
of the four pilgrimage points in the Himalayas,
Sarla Devi's first husband left her for another
woman. She lived on a small piece of land in her
village till recently, when she met a widower
from Rishikesh who offered to be her companion.
She left with high hopes for a brighter future.
On migrating to Rishikesh with her new husband,
Sarla found that her abusive step-sons would not
let her inside the house and forced her to stay
outside in a make-shift room on the verandah.
Her husband also did not have a regular job but
made a living as a drummer and a shaman.
Soon Sarla Devi was diagnosed with cervix cancer.
A local doctor operated on her unsuccessfully
and in the process, damaged the patient's bladder,
leading to urinal incontinence. As the cervix
cancer became advanced, bowel incontinence, smelly
discharge and intolerable pain added to the patient's
Sarla Devi had now become an unwanted burden
to her alcoholic husband. Pain prevented her from
pleasing him physically and her prospective medical
expenses were an additional cause of his frequent
|A volunteer aromatherapist
massages Sarla Devi's feet on a home
this time Sarla Devi was told about Ganga
Prem Hospice, which provided her with home
care, pain medication, adult diapers, therapeutic
massage and above all sympathetic support.
The Hospice sponsored all her tests and palliative
treatment, which her husband now could not
provide. The situation at Sarla's home is
so bad that she begs to be given refuge somewhere
so that she can die in peace.
Recently, as the Hospice was planning for a twin-colostomy
surgery to take care of Sarla's urinary and bowel
incontinence problem, her husband disappeared
for some days following an argument. Having no
other relatives or friends except a sister somewhere
in the mountains, Sarla Devi waited anxiously
for his return before going ahead with the operation...
Then one day she was gone, her room was locked.
Her husband had apparently returned but has taken
her up to her village. As the Hospice team waits
for some news of the patient, they can't help
but have heartache knowing how Sarla Devi must
be suffering, "condemned" as she is
to be without any emotional support, pain relief
or medical care.
Sarla's crime: she has cervix cancer.
Update on Sarla Devi (March
The March 27th cancer clinic of Ganga Prem Hospice
brought some cheer to the GPH team as Sarla Devi
showed up with her husband, who after having had
an argument with her and having taken her away
from Rishikesh, brought her back. The patient
is still in much pain and needs constant pain-control
The Hospice palliative care counselor Sarojini
Murthy spoke firmly to the patient's husband so
that he would not protest against his wife's necessary
colostomy surgery. Sarojini also requested the
Hospice ambulance take the patient to the hospital
the very next day to ensure that no more time
was lost and that there would be no rethinking
on the surgery by the patients husband.
Ganga Prem Hospice is sponsoring the patient's
palliative treatment and surgery.
Update on Sarla Devi (April
Sarla Devis colostomy surgery was finally
done on Sunday, April 10th, 2011 at the Himalayan
Institute Hospital Trust in Jolly Grant, Dehradun.
The patients condition was stable and the
fluid retention and swelling in her abdomen had
gone down considerably. The Ganga Prem Hospice
assistant manager, Vas Verghese Koikara, visited
the patient twice after the surgery to check on
her well-being. Sarla Devi was conscious in the
post-operation ward and had some pain in her upper
abdomen. Overall, her condition is stable.
Update on Sarla Devi
Sarla Devi died peacefully in the hospital and
her body was burnt on the banks of the Ganga in