A True Hero says ‘Chemotherapy is NOT painful at all’

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I have never seen a young man who is so positive in his outlook and say ‘I will hit the word ‘C’ from my life with this precious bat autographed by Sachin Tendulkar”.

Ashish has been a role model for many young men.  He has especially asked me to write to dispel the myth and notion that Chemotherapy is painful and difficult.  He is a smiling young man who has gone through radiotherapy, surgery and again chemotherapy and even now remains absolutely positive. In fact, during our campaign on ‘Salute Sachin’, Ashish single handedly could mobilize nearly ten lakhs for children with cancer. He is a ‘true Hero’.

It is not about mobilization of funds, it is about outlook towards therapy.  Chemotherapy, as the name indicates, is using drugs for killing cancer cells.  The single important characteristic that differentiates cancer cell from normal cell is that cancer cell divides at a higher rate than normal cell. Most of these drugs target these cells taht are dividing faster.  Unfortunately, these agents are not very specific.  That means they are going to attack all those cells which divide rapidly in the body.  That’s the reason that any growing tissue eg. hair which constantly grows get affected and one of the disturbing side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss.

It is also a misnomer that chemotherapy is one single drug for therapy.  In chemotherapy there are multiple different drugs, nearly 100 of them, given in combinations.  Some of them may have hair loss as a predominant side effect and some of them don’t. .  What is surprising is hair loss is also temporary and those patients who lose their hair, their hair regrows thick, stunning and curly hair giving a new and much younger look.

Chemotherapy also affects the cells of the bone marrow that are also constantly dividing and that is the reason that why patients on chemotherapy have lower blood counts and are slightly more prone for infections. But it is certainly not necessary unless the blood counts are really low for them to be isolated in any form.  Yes, there are some precautions to be taken, like general hygiene as far as the eating habits and clean water is concerned. Apart from this there are really no major alterations in life style. Children and adults need not go around with masks as is commonly photographed.

I always encourage my patients to be as normal as possible.  Ashish was working for 6-8 hours even during therapy. Many take their treatment and go to work.  I think, being occupied is the best antidote for all the side effects of chemotherapy.  In fact, one of my patients was smiling as we started therapy and I said to her “Most of the people are apprehensive and why do you seem to be happy about it?”  She said, “Doc, I am convinced that this is going to help me and all the side effects are going to vanish”.  It is all in the mind that if you think of the side effects, you are likely to have side effects.  Modern medication is excellent for reducing nausea which is one of the distressing side effects and loss of taste.  These side effects are very temporary.

Please DON’T listen to unsolicited advice from ’well wishers’ who will tell you horror stories. Don’t believe them. Millions have benefited and so will you.

There is nothing to be worried about chemotherapy. So, be active, be normal even during therapy and that is the best way to beat the big ‘C’.

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