From darkness to light
A lone woman’s journey from a helpless breast cancer patient to a fighting winner
This would probably be one of her last few sessions on this earth. She had the familiar lump again, this time in her other breast. Déjà vu.
She was back in that hospital bed, with walls as stark as a blank, white canvass devoid of colors. She didn’t know whether she was going to live or whether she was going to die. She had nothing left –her family, her job, her dream, her strength, her hair, her breast.
Her husband had deserted her. She had no family. She had no friends. All she had was the dreadful cancer in her breast. What could she do? What did she want to do?
Not fighting and dying was not an option for Tina; maybe because of her lineage as an army man’s daughter and later an army man’s wife; sorry, make that ex-wife, she thought.
Luckily she had no children. No parents. No responsibilities, except of her own self. At least that much less a pain and a lesser burden.
After lying in a hospital and undergoing treatment and extreme pain, which was on a philanthropist’s support, Tina started seeing beyond the blue haze of pain, discomfort and hopelessness. She could think clearly enough to decide that she was not going to die without a fight. She was going to live and happily too. If God had given her a life, it was most definitely worth more than dying helplessly in an unknown hospital bed, unbeknownst to any other soul.
The first flutter of hope happened in her non-existent breast. Tina asked the nurse for a pencil and a scribble pad. And she started scribbling. She wrote and she wrote; she rubbed, scratched what she had written but kept writing.
A month later, she had a Survival Document ready. The T (for Tina) Survival Document, as she called it.
Miles to go before she slept.
Tina had miles to go before she slept. So the road became her friend and she set out on a journey to create awareness about cancer. She had charted a cross-country course; terrain, weather, hunger, thirst, danger, risk, no bar. She talked her heart out, voicing real experiences, informing and educating women about what breast cancer is, what could be its causes, the symptoms, the treatment, the stigma and how to deal with it. She would narrate in utter transparency her close shaves, the time when she thought she’d give up and what made her pull on. She addressed questions, worries, concerns and their innermost fears; however small they appeared to be. She sat with them, ate with them, slept with them on hard floors. For her, it was enough to be alive and moving ahead on her mission. For her, it was enough to make them know and be informed and inspired to put up a fight.
She worked on developing innovative ways, using simple forms of communication - from human interface to simple information communication technologies and maps in hands. Her mission was to reach out to people by transcending geographical, ethnical, religious, cultural, socio-economical and political barriers. Her goal was to penetrate literate to illiterate and tribal to techno savvy setups.
She was not alone now; she had supporters from all walks of life, who contributed to her mission in their own little ways. In between she went in and out of the hospital for treatment, but got out fighting. She thought, she could not hang her boots. At least, not yet.
But that day Tina was feeling a little more than restless. Was she getting old? Yes of course, she was. It was 12 years that she was relentlessly moving ahead on her dream mission. She had accomplished quite a bit, but again, that was not enough. Tina had traveled thousands of kilometers, spoken at multiple sessions, met thousands of people and helped raise hope and funds for many cancer patients and their treatment. However, Tina knew she alone could not fulfill her mission of raising breast awareness among women of the world, her limited energy, time and money would not last long. And so one unannounced summer morning, a life passed away. Only to live forever in the hearts of thousands of women whose lives she had changes, transformed and saved.
Tina passed away after 12 years of struggle to create breast cancer awareness. For many, Tina was an extraordinary woman of strength, for others, a messiah of hope and love. She believed she was a simple woman with little family, little money, 1 breast but lots and lots of hope, willpower and a dream.
The challenges are many, in bringing cancer under control, considering the geographical vastness, density of population, socio-economic gaps and many other factors. Every step/kilometer driven to educate people not only brings us closer to awareness goals, but in turn helps in early detection and saving lives. Let’s all join hands in this drive and contribute to reducing and someday deleting the word cancer from our lives. We owe this to us, to our loved ones and to our own future generations.