“In the new wing, her room embraced the morning light through its expansive glass windows. Each day, as the sun rose, its rays flooded the space, infusing it with hope. Those windows became her gateway to optimism, a beacon amidst the darkness of her two-year battle with cancer. Words, spoken by Ranjeeta Gujral,a breast cancer survivor, echoed the transformative power of experience, transforming into living entities that patients clung to tightly.
A forty-year-old like her knows that ‘hope’ is not just a casual replacement for another word. In February 2021, on a Friday that marked a pivotal moment, she underwent a grueling 13-hour surgery: a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and oophorectomy. As she returned to her room on that Sunday, pain resonated within her reconstructed breasts, a reminder that sensation still existed. The pain had purpose; it signified triumph. After enduring countless trials and exhibiting unwavering patience, she had crossed the final milestone towards wellness and liberation from an aggressive cancer.
Anxiety and hot flashes gripped her during her recovery, consequences of the ovarian removal. One particular day, the discomfort escalated. Despite the functioning air conditioner, she found herself drenched in sweat, weeping profusely. Nurses gathered around, comforting her, while the room seemed to shrink under the weight of her emotions. She recalled her initial steps post-surgery, reluctant to walk due to the painful stomach stitches. But the support she received from the medical staff, their unwavering presence, and applause when she emerged with a walker, etched these small gestures deeply into her heart.
During her first breast surgery in 2018, the operating theater surprised her with its big, wall-to-wall glass window. It defied the dark and dingy depiction she had seen in movies. In that moment, she embraced the reality before her. ‘I don’t mind being here,’ she whispered to herself. ‘Ab jo ho so ho’—whatever will be, will be.
The year 2018 marked a turning point in her life. A passionate lover of films, friends, and life itself, she was a 38-year-old banker with Wells Fargo, navigating the complexities of a recent divorce and battling multiple sclerosis. Then came the diagnosis: triple negative breast cancer. Like all beginnings, it carried both uncertainty and hope. As she embarked on a daunting journey of tests, scans, and frustrating encounters with doctors, fate guided her towards the possibility of success.
RGCIRC, a renowned institute, shattered her preconceived notions. Within two days of reaching out, she secured an online appointment with Dr. AK Dewan, the head of surgical oncology, and a highly experienced professional. His genuine concern for the patient, rather than relying solely on family members, struck her deeply. He listened intently as tears streamed down her face, understanding the overwhelming fear that consumed her. The complex treatment plan initially overwhelmed her, particularly the looming prospect of chemotherapy. Yet, Dr. Dewan’s words and compassionate demeanor alleviated her anxiety. ‘Let us take it step by step,’ he reassured her. ‘We’ll start with a small surgery. You don’t have to worry.’ In that moment, the 4 cm lump in her breast seemed less daunting. Dr. Dewan’s words ignited a spark of hope within her.
Candid yet compassionate, doctors who grasp the importance of effective communication navigate the fine line between truth and cruelty. They understand that anxiety itself can be debilitating. Dr. Dewan shared, ‘Put yourself in the patient’s shoes—imagine how you would want to be treated. Here, they strive to uphold basic principles of humanity and ethics. He witnessed doctors who disclose every detail like a horoscope”
She would need a lot more in the weeks to follow. “Dr Dewan never once hid anything from me. But he also left me with hope each time that I may not need chemotherapy. His answers never overwhelmed me. I went through surgery better, and healed well in post-op. During that time, I think I was somewhere readying for the next step in case….”
“I saw many people suffering, and was in agony myself when I first visited the hospital. But at RGCIRC, I learnt to never say die. There was a time when I was asking myself – why me? But everyone there, including my doctors, taught me to never resign myself to those two words. I learnt to accept situations and to respond to them intelligently, in a way that I could look back and be happy. I couldn’t have made this journey without Dr Dewan. I would go back to him to check on every small or big issue, including the one he may have had no direct concern with. The day I went to say bye to him, he looked at my final biopsy reports and said, ‘You are free now.’ ” The words were music to Ranjeeta’s ears. Today, the music continues to sound in her heart even though the song has been long over. It is in honour of that music that her once unadorned house has a new designed look. Her warped look post chemotherapy, her short hair… her memories are all up there on the wall. The past assimilated well into her present, Ranjeeta looks to her future with faith. Many a dream has come back to life in those eyes that opened to hope and happiness in a room with a point of view.
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