Our Breast Cancer Counsellor – The Pink Crusader

Our Pink Crusader

Our Pink Crusader

Her true name is Mrs. Meera Raj, an English professor (ma’am – please forgive me for any grammatical errors 😉 ), breast cancer survivor and more importantly, a Breast Cancer Counsellor.

Her battle with cancer started 3 years back, when she was detected with breast cancer. She noticed a lump in her breast and got it evaluated from a surgeon, who confirmed her worst fears after conducting a biopsy. All of a sudden, her perfect life was jolted by this diagnosis and she was clueless about what the future had in store for her. After the initial shock, she came to terms with her diagnosis and outlined a plan for the future.

During her treatment, she felt the need for a person whom she could share her fears and apprehensions with but at that time she had no one to counsel her except her oncologist. Following her treatment, she took it as a challenge to help others suffering from Breast Cancer. She quit her job and did a course in Cancer Counselling in an effort to make a difference in the lives of others. Ever since that, she has not looked back. She joined the Department of Breast Oncology at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center as a Breast Counsellor and has been helping out patients suffering from this dreaded disease.

Her routine starts with interacting with the OPD and in-patients and telling them more about the disease and what to expect in the future. She shares her experience with them and that gives the patients strength to prepare for the battle ahead. She routinely visits the chemotherapy ward to give pep talk to the patients undergoing chemotherapy and also runs a Breast Cancer support group, which is growing day by day.

At Work

At Workin

We had carried out a study at Safdarjang Hospital on “The correlation of anxiety and depression levels with response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer”, which was published in a reputed scientific journal and we had concluded that counselling and family support plays an important role in alleviating the anxiety & depression associated with cancer diagnosis in these patients. After joining the Breast Cancer Unit at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center and observing Meera ma’am dealing with the patients, I have come to the conclusion that it makes a huge difference in the patients attitude towards the disease if proper counselling is carried out. Breast counsellors (or Navigators) are a routine part of a Breast Unit in USA and UK but this is relatively new trend in India and only a couple of Breast Units in India currently have dedicated Breast Cancer Counsellors.

Mrs. Meera is an inspiration not only for the patients but also for all the doctors in the Breast Unit. Her enthusiasm towards the patients and her job pushes us further each day to help patients suffering from breast cancer. She is truly a “Pink Crusader.”

 

Advertisements

Quiet Reflection

Quiet reflection

Quiet reflection

Follow effective action by quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.

– Peter Drucker

Photo details: Early morning picture on the banks of river Cauvery at Coorg. The picture highlights the various shades of green and the perfect reflection of the fallen log on the river surface.  Perfect place and setting for introspection.

Is Left-Handedness a Handicap for Training in Surgery?

Despite the progress made by our society, left handedness is still not widely accepted. Parents like to see their children write with their right hand initially and start correcting them if they use their left hand. Despite coming from a family, where my mother is left handed, I have faced the music many times in my life for using my left hand. My teachers at school used to scold me for my awkward way of writing despite having a reasonable hand writing (which is uncommon for doctors 😉 ). In spite of the scoldings, I persisted with my own way of writing and one advantage of my style was that nobody could copy my work during the exams 😉 ;-).

Uncommon way of writing in India but common in the west.

Uncommon way of writing in India but common in the west.

I always wanted to become a surgeon from the second year of medical school and while observing my seniors (who were mostly right handers) operate, the thought of a left handedness being a handicap crossed my mind many times. My teachers, most of whom were right handed, did not have much to say when I approached them with this query as a medical student but none of them discouraged from taking surgery as a career.

The thought of working as a left handed surgeon started haunting me again when I started my residency. Initially, I did find things a bit difficult because all the instruments were designed for right handed surgeons and left handed instruments (like left handed golf clubs) were not widely available. Most of my seniors, initially found it difficult to teach me the basics and used to get a bit annoyed when I used to start operating by standing on the left side of the table (for those who are not aware, most of the procedures are done by standing on the right side of the table). My mother, who is a successful left handed gynaecologist, was a constant source of inspiration during this tough period.

After the initial hiccough’s, my seniors became accustomed to my left handedness and taught me the skills more patiently. In no time, I mastered the techniques with my left hand and then started to hone my skills with the right hand as well. In fact, I tie right handed knots better than left handed knots (probably because I was taught by a right handed surgeon).

Now when I look back, being right handed or left handed really does not matter in the long run (in terms of a surgical career) and I would urge an aspiring surgeon not to give up the dream of pursuing a career in surgery because of being left handed. There have been many studies conducted on this topic and  they have found no difference in surgical outcomes between right and left handed surgeons.

Some helpful points for a left handed surgical trainee:

1. Don’t switch away from your dominant hand. Get good at doing the basics with your left hand (cutting straight with a scalpel, basic dissection, basic suturing), then learn how to do everything right-handed. If you start too early trying to do everything with both hands, you’ll probably flounder around and not improve as quickly as you should.

2. Learn to tie knots right handed first, since you’re going to learn to tie with both anyway.

3. Use scissors with your right hand initially. Learning to cut left handed with right-handed scissors is tricky, especially with heavy Prolene or other sutures.

4. Once you’re good with your dominant hand, by all means work on ambidexterity. Being able to operate with both hands has been advantageous to me as I’ve progressed through residency.

5. Don’t let being a lefty deter you in any way from pursuing a surgical career.

In the end I can just say one thing,

tumblr_lq0xm6aYBy1qfvq9bo1_500

🙂 🙂

Footprints in the sand

Footprints in the sand

This picture was clicked by me during my visit to the Osian Sand Dunes, close to Jodhpur, Rajasthan. I was roaming around my tent, when I saw this beetle darting from one end to the other carrying small pieces of food for her little ones. She kept on doing this for  half an hour and every time she crossed the sand, she left her footprints behind.

The same holds true in life as well. Every time we do a good deed, we leave our mark behind. So keep on working hard and doing good deeds!!

In pursuit of happiness

Searching for nectar

Searching for nectar

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfilment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.

– Dennis Waitley

I clicked this picture during a recent visit to Asola Bird Sanctuary in Delhi. Found this bee buzzing from one flower to the other in search of nectar (happiness). Ultimately, she settled down on this flower and struck gold 🙂

Colors of nature

Colors of Nature

Colors of Nature

All those who love Nature she loves in return, and will richly reward, not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called, but with the best things of this world-not with money and titles, horses and carriages, but with bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind.

JOHN LUBBOCK, The Beauties of Nature

Clicked this beauty from a moving bus during the Scottish Highlands tour. It perfectly displays the various colors and shades of nature and has a feel good factor associated with it. This is one of the background pictures on my computer and it inspires me every time I look at it.

Patience pays off

Rohan_046

Clicked this picture during a recent thunderstorm in Bangalore. Got a decent picture after multiple attempts but my patience (and continuous clicking 🙂 ) finally paid off. The incident reminded me of these words (golden worlds for a doctor) :

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.” – Brian Adams

This picture has recently been published in one of the leading newspapers of India : http://www.deccanherald.com/photo.php?id=12994