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A Patient Speaks

Once You Choose Hope, Anything Is Possible
(by Monica Ahuja)


"Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.

"Life has knocked me down a few times. It showed me things I never wanted to see. I experienced sadness and failures. But one thing for sure, I always get up with my chin up!!

"[...] I consider this an experience of a life time! Considering the positive things, it has given me a lot, it has given me glimpse of and a new meaning to life and death! It has made me strong, it has strengthened my old friendship, ties and bonds! It has brought to the fore how much people around love me, though they may not have been saying it in so many words. It has once again emphasized the importance of being healthy and reinforced my belief in God, his protection and guidance."

Monica has described her battle with cancer in detail. Her writing style is open and riveting.

To read the full story, click here.

A Positive Mindset Helps a Cancer Patient
(by Dr Abhilasha Srivastava)

"Resilience is an individual's response to adversity by perseverance, optimism and utilization of external and internal resources." This was how I had defined resilience for my D.Phil in Psychology. Little did I know that I myself would be undergoing a test of resilience by becoming a cancer patient.
Dr Abhilasha and her two daughters

After the initial shock subsided, I went to the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, Delhi from Allahabad for the best possible treatment. I trusted in the doctors to take care of the physical aspect of the disease but at the psychological level I wanted to participate in the healing process.

Cancer is only a 'dis-ease' and my body has more strong, healthy and normal cells than the weak, confused malignant cells. I decided to give my body all the positive messages needed to foster a healing environment. Luckily I have an extremely supportive family and many friends and well-wishers. My parents, siblings, husband and two small daughters did everything necessary for a good prognosis—a comfortable environment, a regular anti-cancer diet (olive oil, plums, tetra packed grape juice, coconut water, etc) and relevant books. These external changes, encouraging mails and SMSes were definitely extremely helpful but ultimately my journey had to be my own.

After the first session of chemotherapy, rehospitalization for neutropenia was rather unexpected. Thereafter, nourishment, evening walks and relaxation/visualization became an integral part of my life. Evening walks helped me to connect with Nature and see the ever present harmony. Because I had read and believed that walks improve immunity, I actually found myself becoming stronger with each passing day. After the first week of chemo I allowed the body to rest and accepted the weakness and side effects as a normal transitory phase of the treatment. By the tenth day or so, the body could regain enough strength initially for short then for long walks. Relaxation and visualization/auto suggestion were never discontinued. I did them at least twice daily without fail.

Relaxation involved deep breathing and focusing on each body part and joints from head to toe and imagining them to become loose, limp, light and de-stressed. Imagining a wave of relaxation moving throughout the body was also helpful.

Then there was auto-suggestion and visualization specifically meant for removing malignancy and regaining health. One childhood friend, now a reputed hypnotherapist, had given me specific imagery. She suggested I visualize the chemo drugs as coming from the 'jata' of Lord Shiva and as Ganges cleanses everything, my journey from Gangotri via Hardwar, Rishikesh and Allahabad to Varanasi (where I have a positive association with KFI) is helping me to get cleansed and disease-free. During this journey the side-effects are seen as muddy water which finally subsides. Initially I could not see the journey as a movement but it emerged more like a picture gallery. However, with perseverance I could see it vividly moving and flowing. I could see the doctors, my family and friends as the structure on which I was lying down and floating.

Pranayama, specifically anulom-vilom and kapaal bhati, were also part of the journey throughout and were immensely helpful.

After reading Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S Siegel and Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simontons, I frequently used the visualizations given in them. Reading the former was an insightful experience bringing about inner transformation while the latter gave a regimented routine which if strictly followed will have immense benefits. The former was like getting a glimpse of God whereas the latter was like religious rituals which if followed sincerely will lead to the same goal. Before sleeping I read Siegel's techniques and followed them. I am presently reading Peace, Love and Healing by Siegel.

After the third session of chemo, my anxiety and occasional crying spells returned. I asked my doctor about it who attributed the mood swings to steroids. I was not satisfied and started a monologue with the Cosmic Power which gave me solace. Specific visualizations were reduced in frequency but I felt that some Cosmic Energy was taking care of me and if it's a Karmic debt, IT will give me directions to repay it and go beyond this cycle. I was and still am trying to find the meaning of this whole episode.

Initially my whole focus was to make the lumps disappear and naively enough I assumed that surgery would be avoided. Doctors told me that I have responded very well to chemo and to avoid recurrence surgery is required. So now I am again relying on relaxation/visualization to have a successful surgery with minimum blood loss and also to help me have minimum side effects and a healthy mind-body post surgery. For subsequent chemo and radiation sessions, again these two will remain my aid and hopefully by that time my monologue will have turned into a dialogue.

I thank God for helping me undergo this journey so far successful with the helpof doctors, family, friends and well-wishers.

Update: I had an MRM (Modified Radical Mastectomy) on 13th July, 2011 successfully. After two weeks I watched the movie Zindagi na milegi dobara and would like to share the message of the movie with everyone: "live one day at a time and be alive to each moment." This is the mantra to live our life to the fullest because we don't know how many moments, days or years are left in our lives. BE ALIVE RATHER THAN MERELY LIVING!

Update: Abhilasha lost her battle with her unusually virulent cancer on August 24th, 2012, but the memory of her undaunted courage and unconquered spirit live on in all who knew her.

Bio: Dr Abhilasha Srivastava, 42, did her M.Phil at IIT Mumbai and D.Phil in psychology at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Psychology, University of Allahabad. She had taught psychology in Krishanamurti Foundation India, Varanasi for one year and in a couple of colleges in Nepal. She worked in the Research and Development Dept of IPEM. For the past two years she has been teaching psychology and doing clinical counseling in the Dept of Psychology at the University of Allahabad. She is deeply interested in the issues related to children, women, education, poverty and environment.

She lives in Allahabad with her two daughters and husband. For the past three months she has been staying in Noida for the treatment of her breast cancer, and due to this disease, once again the deep bonding among family members is felt which is helping everyone cope with the situation. In their words, "Don't judge any situation negatively; it could be a blessing in disguise. Cancer has given us new perspectives and reaffirmed the importance of family ties." Dr Abhilasha writes poems, is fond of good music and enjoys traveling. Teaching and couselling are her passion.

You Must Live
(by Mrs Sudha Ahluwalia)

The word, which strikes you like a hammer is not cancer. Actually, it is not cancer, what takes over is the word DEATH .

The moment the doctor declares that YOU HAVE CANCER, the patient is almost dead and so are his/her close relatives. It is immaterial at that time to know from the doctor which part of the body is affected. After a gap when you come out of that initial shock and gather some strength the word, which strikes you like a hammer is not cancer. Actually, it is not cancer, what takes over is the word DEATH .

Life loses its meaning in the DEATH. More often people are so overwhelmed by the prospect of death that it takes a considerable act of will to bring the concentration back on life. At this point of time we all need help to do this. This is where care, care that does not restrict itself to the medical side alone, has a crucial role to play in looking after people with cancer.
What is required besides medical treatment? A gentle touch of psychological, social & spiritual care. For spiritual care, you are not dependant on others, it comes from within.

The word cancer brings the fear of death. Why are we afraid of death? Because we do not want to be separated from our loved ones. To overcome this fear the only thing, which comes to our rescue, is our spiritual strength. Death brings distress to those who desire to live but makes no effect on those who have no desire to live.

Life is a most precious gift of God. This disease is not the cruelty of God. It has come to us due to our PRARABDH (the outcome of our actions committed in our previous birth). We should not curse God for what has happened rather we should be thankful to God that he is giving us a chance to come closer to him. Pray to him day & night for his kindness. In harness we pray seriously with all our faith & devotion. At that time we should not worry about how much time is left at our command. How many years we are going to live is pre-destined. So we should not worry about the quantity of life, but the quality of the life we now have to live.

Once the fear is vanished, the joy of life will take over automatically. Nature will look so romantic and beautiful. Chant his name, do SATSANG always and remember him for his kindness 24 hours a day. Do not pray for yourself alone. Pray for all those who are suffering. Engage yourself in the service of those who need it, considering it as if you are serving God. This will give you immense pleasure, peace of mind and the rest of your life will be really satisfying and meaningful.

"jatasya hi dhruvo mrityur
dhruvam janma mritasya ca,
na tvam socitumarhasi"

(Bhagavad Gita Ch. - 2, Verse - 27)

"One who has taken birth is sure to die and one who has died is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in this unavoidable circumstance, you should not lament."

Uninterrupted Grace
(by Sylvia Dora Pueschel)

Gangaji is helping me so much in my daily life that she surely will be an inestimable help also at the time of death, enveloping my Soul and carrying it gently towards my destination.

Through God's grace I was allowed to stay for several years in a little ashram at the shore of the Ganga, when one day I learned that I had cancer. It was a shock, unexpected. An excellent surgery was done in Delhi and also the beginning of the treatment. During this time some of the ashramites and friends took loving care of me. Then, because of weakness of mind, I went back to my own country until the end of the Chemotherapy Now I am again at my cherished place near Gangaji. Perhaps my love for her has grown a little through this experience. Gangaji is always flowing, a palpable expression of the Divine's uninterrupted grace. In her loving compassion she is accepting us in grief and despair as well as in joy and happiness. As she flows she is bestowing peace and confidence.

Gangaji is helping me so much in my daily life that she surely will be an inestimable help also at the time of death, enveloping my Soul and carrying it gently towards my destination. This can be possible in Ganga Prem Hospice, which will be situated near Gangaji and will provide a spiritual atmosphere. It will surely be an auspicious place for all of us who have to accept the challenge of having cancer and of approaching death.

Cancer patients and their loved ones are invited to write to us about their views, thoughts and feelings. We will include as many letters, articles and stories as is possible in these web pages.

Please send your article to Nani Ma:

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