Being a cancer surgeon it really hurts me when I see patients suffering from cancer but it hurts me even more, when the people around them desert them during their time of need. Instead of only fighting the cancer growing within them, they also end up fighting the “social cancer”.
Consider these scenarios:
- Being a breast surgeon, I have seen many breast cancer patients having marital problems after being diagnosed with cancer. Their husbands leave them because of financial reasons and due to their physical appearance after cancer treatment.
- One patient was made a social outcast in her own home and was not allowed to sleep and eat with her children and other family members because they thought that cancer was a communicable disease.
- I know of a distant relative, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was very young. He was completely cured with chemotherapy but then had a tough time finding a suitable match. Every time he revealed his story to the girl’s family, they rejected him immediately. One family even got all his reports verified from multiple experts, who were of the opinion that the cancer was treated, but still the family rejected him. Although he was able to win the battle against cancer but could not fight the social cancer and landed up with depression.
These problems arise because of the lack of awareness about cancer in our country. With the incidence of communicable diseases reducing in our country, cancer is going to become the next epidemic. If the same social stigma continues to haunt these patients, their lives would become miserable.
Some months back I saw a matrimonial column specifically for patients with AIDS (for which no cure is present). If the society can accept AIDS, then why not have a separate matrimonial column for cancer survivors, a disease which is curable, if diagnosed early.
A cancer patient does not need sympathy but needs support, not only from the immediate family members but also the society. Let us help create awareness about cancer and also educate relatives of cancer survivors about their disease and their needs.
Cancer awareness is the only chemotherapy against this social stigma.