Yes, you read it right. My title for this post goes, when you are diagnosed with cancer in Nepal.
In October of 2010, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. Let me start with a little background on this. In May 0f 2010, I graduated from University. As I used to talk to my mum over skype on daily basis whenever possible, I remember, she complained of some kind of mild to moderate pain in her stomach. We asked her to visit a doctor from time to time but since my mum never had any health issues and followed a healthy lifestyle, we never even guessed something like cancer would happen to her. She has been meditating everyday since the year 2002. She always used to brag about how meditation cured all her health issues and it brought happiness in her life and she could easily let go of anger. She always encouraged us(rest of the family members) to meditate as well. I used to sit with her now and then in the puja(prayer) room and meditate with her but none of us took it as seriously as she did. Then one day, she went to the hospital to get herself thoroughly checked as many of her friends from meditation group were going. I remember she happily reported everything was normal. Then, one fine day, she was leaving for mama ghar (my maternal uncle’s house) with Kancha (our helper at home) on a bike. Kancha was not too confident about driving the bike and my mum was nervous too, so as soon as Kancha took off, they slipped and had a minor accident. That day, my mum went to mama ghar, made some chicken curry, stayed there until dinner and came home at night. She felt fine the whole day but the next morning she had severe body ache so when me and my brother insisted, she went to a nearby hospital for a check up. They said she was alright and there is nothing to worry. Several month passed this incident and my mum complained about stomach pain now and then but she assured us it was just a little bit of pain and there was nothing to worry about.
After I finished my graduation, I visited my brother in Australia, stayed there for a month and a half and headed back to Nepal. Everyone was so happy at home when I arrived in Kathmandu, dashain was approaching and we were all looking forward to tika at home, I had missed the last two Dashain with family. So the humdrum of Dashain began. Bua was very excited and bought a goat that year as I was home. He loves to cook and he is a big fan of goat meat.
So one day before tika, mum did all the housework, cooking cleaning and we all ate a fair amount of meat that day. I was upstairs with my cousins during dinner time. I asked my cousin sister, “Where’s mum?”, she said Thulmum(elder mum, she is my mum’s sister’s daughter) is not feeling well today so she’ll skip dinner. My mum seldom skips dinner, if she is not well, she will eat something light but I do not remember any other instance when she has skipped dinner. So I went down to her room to check on her. She was lying down on her bed and trying to sleep, I gently woke her up and asked if she wanted any milk and cookies. She said, I just have a terrible stomach ache, it may be due to a lot of meat, I just had a glass of Eno, so I’m fine. I told her, I will boil some milk and keep it in the room, if you feel hungry later, please drink the milk mum. Saying this, I switched off the light and went upstairs to get some milk for her.
Next day was tika I think, I don’t exactly remember. Bua and me wanted to take her to the hospital since she had been complaining about her stomach ache quite a lot these days, but that day she woke up early, went to the puja room, did her daily chores and when I saw her, she looked absolutely fine. My mum has the warmest smile that can make you feel good on any situation. She had that smile on her that day, so I just assumed we could wait for few more days until the hospitals started fully operating after Dashain was over.
Then two days after Dashain, we took her to one of the renowned doctors in town, she asked her few questions and advised for Ultrasound. Her ultrasound results were fine but she still had that persistent pain. So Bua insisted for an endoscopy (me and my brother had already done a little research in this subject and we sort of had an idea on what to do next if the ultrasound report was normal). At that time these were the exact words said by the doctor, “I know she is fine coz her Ultrasound report is normal, but for your satisfaction, we can have an endoscopy done.”
On the day of her endoscopy, my cousin sister dropped my mum to the hospital on the way to her office and my mum was to return back home by a taxi. I was at home that day, it took her a little longer to come back than anticipated so I was a bit worried. When she came back an hour or so late, I went down to pick her up from the taxi and brought her upstairs in her room. She complained that the procedure was very painful and they had a pipe shoved down her throat and the test lasted for almost one hour!! I think at that time, I didn’t react much, just listened to her talk about the experience and that was it. We were waiting for the report. The report was due next day in the afternoon. Since my cousins’ office was next to the hospital, she was the one who would go and pick up the report. She went there during her lunch hour and the person who handed her the report asked her to see the doctor as well. She went to see the doctor and the doctor told her to come with her father and he would talk about my mum’s endoscopy report. That evening when she came home with the report, she was a bit nervous as she told us what happened at the hospital. I looked at the report and googled it. It indicated CANCER but I was in denial. I thought, this may be advanced form of ulcer, no way my mum would have cancer!! She lead a healthy life, meditated everyday, always had home cooked meal, didn’t smoke or drink and so on….
The next day, Mum, Bua and me went to the hospital together. It was jam packed!! We waited for over an hour to meet the doctor. We all went in at first, then the doctor asked my mum to wait outside for a while. Then he told us, my mum had stomach cancer and that it looked like it was in an advanced stage. I don’t exactly remember what his advice was after that, I think he asked us to go to another hospital for further treatment or wait for biopsy report. Bua and I were speechless, we didn’t know what to do and what to say to each other. We both felt numb, we couldn’t react. I think I asked few questions to the doctor before we left the room, like “Are you absolutely certain?”, he said, “I’m afraid I am!!”. The next thought in my head was to go and show this report to the lady doctor who had confidently said endoscopy would be unnecessary. Bua instantly agreed to visit her, our intention was to let her know the result so that she would not miss such diagnosis in future. When we showed her the report, she was startled, she referred us to a surgeon who had absolutely no experience in oncology!! As we walked out of the hospital, our first instinct was to take her to Delhi, where there was a hospital dedicated solely to treatment of cancer.
….and this is how our fight with cancer began, I will write in episodes about our battle with cancer. Today my mum is in Kathmandu and she has to visit the cancer hospital in Delhi once in every three months. By God’s grace, she is doing well. She makes me so proud, I feel blessed to have a mum who is as strong as her.
I am not sure how helpful this post will be for all of you, but I hope you will be able to pick up some pattern and take careful steps in your own lives. Before I end this post, let me make a list of things to do before and after diagnosis of cancer in Nepal.
Things to do before and after diagnosis of cancer in Nepal:(Please note that I am not referring to any professional websites while writing this post, it is written completely from my personal reference of my mum’s diagnosis of cancer)
1. If you have a persistent pain on any of your body part, please visit a doctor and have yourself thoroughly checked. In Nepal, I have seen that doctors tend to hurry to the next patient. So be prepared with the questions you need to ask and a little research before the visit would help a lot.
2. Five early signs of cancer are(from memory): 1. A sore throat or cough that does not heal 2. A wound that does not heal. A wart that is sore. 3. A lump/wart (small/big) on your body that grows over time 4. Blood in stool, cough and urine 5. Constipation. If you have any of these signs, please visit your doctor to check if everything is ok.
3. Get yourself regularly checked up, consider atleast once in a year as mandatory. In Nepal, there is no concept of regular health check ups. And if you or your mom/dad are over 40 or 50, then twice in a year wouldn’t hurt. And do not be shy to tell a doctor about all of your problems even if you think they are silly. In Nepal, many doctors tend to discourage you to have a long talk with the doctor specially because of their busy schedule but do not hesitate to take as much time as you need until you have full knowledge of your health condition or until you are fully satisfied of the diagnosis.
4. After the doctor has confirmed your biopsy report, my personal advice would be to request for the slide of your sample from where you had your biopsy done and consider going to Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital and Research Institute in New Delhi, Rohini. In kathmandu, the most reliable lab is Blue cross laboratories in Tripureswor. Do not trust any other lab reports. Sometimes it would take more than one biopsy to verify your diagnosis of cancer.
5. The doctors might suggest you to consider treatment in Kathmandu since the cancer is in early stage and so on, but weigh your options carefully before you begin your treatment in Ktm. Dr. Sudip Shrestha is an Oncologist practicing in Kathmandu, he can be available either at Om Hospital or Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital. You can consult him first for his opinion before you consider Delhi. I would still recommend you to go to New Delhi for a second opinion.
6. Collect some cash before you go to Delhi for treatment. One surgery typically costs around 500,000 INR in average. The cost of Chemo would be 50,000 INR in average/session, but please note that the cost varies with the kind of cancer diagnosis.
7. Trust in higher power and have faith, faith, trust and hope is something that gives you strength and courage to face all the obstacles during your journey of fighting cancer.
I will be writing more about my experience in cancer hospital during my mum’s treatment. Stay tuned!