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Home News and Update Year 2012 Cancer survivors celebrate beating disease, ‘second chance at life’

Cancer survivors celebrate beating disease, ‘second chance at life’

Times Of India
11 June 2012

CHENNAI: Mathura Natarajan, 23, was at the Adyar Cancer Institute on Sunday evening with her mother, to celebrate what she calls her "rebirth" and "second chance at life". This was the 11th successive year that she was attending the Cancer Survivors Day function at the hospital and, with 200 other survivors, took the opportunity to thank the doctors who saved her life and promise to spread awareness on the importance of early detection and treatment of the disease.

Mathura began developing small sores around her eyes and tongue in April, 1999. The sores soon began leaving bloodstains and she had bouts of vomiting. When her parents rushed her to the Child's Trust Hospital, the blood tests confirmed their worst fears.

"The doctors said the white blood cells count had already dropped to a large extent, but it may have only been a week since the cancer set in," said Mathura's mother Uma, who worked as a superintendent with the CB-CID in the city. Mathura was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or blood cancer.

Mathura, then just 10 years old, spent the next two years dealing with blood tests, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and radiation, each process more painful than the previous. "In the beginning I felt like my life had nearly ended. I could not eat out, go out with family or friends or just live a normal life," she says.

Two years later, she had won the battle with cancer, but problems persisted. "I had missed two years of school. My mother made me write my Class 8 and Class 10 exams privately and I passed both," says the resident of West Mambalam. Eleven years later, she is now a teacher at Chennai Champs, an international school, and works with special children.

Other child cancer survivors are not so lucky because several schools refuse to readmit them once they recover from the disease.

Mathura says the doctors at Adyar Cancer Institute especially, Dr Shanta and Dr Sagar, are her gods, because they gave her life. She believes that if it wasn't for the Adyar Cancer Institute team and her family's support, she would not have been alive today.

"I didn't tell her it was blood cancer for nearly 20 days after the diagnosis. To be strong for her, I did not cry in front of her even once during tests, diagnosis or watching her suffer the pain of chemo or radiation," says Uma.

Cancer survivors made it a point to remind each other that they are ambassadors for cancer treatment. "After being a mother to an autistic child and working with such children, I knew that I could fight breast cancer," said Ramamani Ravi, who was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1997. Many survivors have even joined the support group at the centre to help counsel new patients.

Uma hopes she can be a beacon of hope to families with children afflicted with the disease like two-year-old Sushanth, who was diagnosed with ALL only a month ago.

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