By Our Reporter
SHILLONG, Feb 12: “Cancer” is a much dreaded word. The word alone causes one to feel anxious, fearful, and stressed all at once. But battling cancer and surviving is an entirely different battle.
Meghalaya, notoriously known for the cancer capital tag with majority of it stemming from the consumption of tobacco, unfortunately has a lot to do when it comes to the treatment of the deadly disease.
Some women, who have triumphantly fought the illness, spoke with The Shillong Times about their experiences on the sidelines of the Cancer Conclave 2024.
Take the case of Yasmine Lyngdoh. She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma when she was just eleven years old. Osteosarcoma is a kind of bone cancer that affects the femur.
Sharing her journey, Lyngdoh said, “After treatment, I was cancer free. You always hear that if you have passed the five-year mark after battling it, then you are practically cancer free. However, it came haunting me 17 years later.”
Lyngdoh discovered a lump in her breast after 17 years of her recovery from Osteosarcoma, did not initially think much of it. However, examination revealed it to be breast cancer, and after a CT scan, the doctors also discovered a tumour in her stomach.
Following further examination, she was found to have developed cancer in her jawbone too. Another follow-up examination revealed that the cancer had metastasised to her liver.
Lyngdoh, who went to Vellore for her treatment, said that when she was diagnosed with cancer for a second time, she was an adult and knew instantly that she did not want to get treated in Meghalaya.
“I did not want to be treated here. I knew I would not get the best treatment for myself here, so without even thinking twice, I went to Vellore,” she said.
Sharing similar feelings, Warimeki Lyngwa, who recovered after a two-year fight against breast cancer said, “I do not want to sound pessimistic, but when I discovered I had cancer, I did not think I would get the best treatment here, and that’s why I got myself treated in Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.”
Lyngwa said that the treatment took a toll on her pockets and she ended up using all her savings. She explained that she could travel to Mumbai, stay in an apartment, and afford the surgeries and medicines because those were subsidised.
“Despite the surgery, I shelled out almost Rs 20-25 lakh on my treatment,” she said.
Narrating her journey, she said she went through eight chemotherapy sessions after discovering that she had cancer while breastfeeding her child, and added that she was able to battle it because she detected it in the early stages.
Both the survivors lamented the absence of basic cancer treatment facilities in the state.
Lyngdoh said, “I had to travel all the way to Guwahati for my PET CT Scan and for my follow-up check-ups, which is one of the first steps towards detecting cancer. If we can have it there, we can surely have it here,” she added.
Lyngwa also advocated the need for cancer awareness, and an aggressive one at that, where people will want to come and get themselves checked for it.
Mentioning the lack of free cancer detection centres in the state, she said, “When my cancer was detected, I wanted my entire family and friends to go and get themselves checked; however, it is expensive. Free detection centres should be there, which will help people come out, and get them checked.”
Lyngwa aims to spread awareness about cancer and also the trauma that comes along with it for patients, like herself who felt suicidal after her first chemo session.
“You cut a hole in your pocket, and it is expensive, and the employers, be it government and private, should provide some sort of health benefits for their employees,” she added.