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Grappling with the Diagnosis

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the

A diagnosis of cancer brings our worst fears to the forefront. For some, it is almost like an end-of-life experience. The initial reaction to a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, and it is probably one of the most trying times in the entire cancer experience. The turmoil, the feelings that race through the mind, often leave one utterly unsure of oneself, or of one's ability to deal with the situation. There is confusion, uncertainty, anger, fear, betrayal and frustration—all at the same time. Sometimes, a sense of denial leaves one in utter disarray. One may also question the body's ability to put up even a token resistance against the disease. These emotions become so overwhelming that it is difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel. Within a moment, life changes forever. As one cancer patient described it, 'It brought me to my knees.

These reactions and emotions are normal, even as the task ahead is daunting. There are many imponderables, including the impact of this diagnosis on the family. Coping with the treatment or even losing a body part is difficult to comprehend to begin with, but discussing your worries with the doctor, the caregiver (family members like parents, spouse, brother, sister, son, daughter or even a friend), and with members of the support group, even a priest, helps calm the mind and bring the disease into perspective. Whatever helps to acquire a positive frame of mind should be attempted to tide over these testing times. Cancer patients with a strong support group survive longer.“

Good doctor-patient relationship the initial hardships, and it ultimatels with and overcoming this is only one part determines treatment success. However helps develop trust, encourages of it. A positive relationship Treatment. and confidence in the Breater Patient Participation since discussion Moreover the caregiver also benefits, modalities, and likely about the cancer potential view which improves OUTCOnes gives him or her a holistic understanding Later treatment continues, acceptance of cope the diagnosis sinks in, which finally helps the patient better with their ordeal.

limited is usually In India, the interaction the only oncologist and the patient- In hospital setups, a counsellor a dietician, and Support group members are missing from the discussion- The treatment offered in cancer hospitals is for the disease alone and not for the patient whole. Other health professionals, apart from the oncologist, should also be involved since suPPOrtive from them will help patients live a more complete life despite the cancer. The eventual goal is to cure or control the cancers however until such a state is reached, there will be a need to relieve pain or other symptoms, maintain general health and nutrition, and improve the quality Of life by Providing emotional, Psychological and logistical support che patient. Additionally, a holistic discussion gives clarity to che caregiver. No one addresses, at the time of diagnosis, the problems that may arise during treatment when it fails.

Family and friends become caregivers, but they often suffer from anxiety and completely lack any guidance. will provide support to the caregivers Strategies for Coping For some, spiritual guidance may be Success- The true at the core of treatment essence of this guidance invoke lies in its ability mental strength, which enhances Peace of mind.

Prayers have been found to relieve stress, and create a sense of meaning, purpose and solace. Individuals who are spiritually inclined may have greater benefit and suffer less anxiety and depression, finding strength to cope with their disease. Meditation is also useful. It alleviates anxiety and helps in pain management. One of the simplest methods of meditation is single-point concentration where we choose an object and then meditate solely on it. It promotes relaxation, builds internal strength, and helps develop compassion, love and forgiveness. Single-pointedness can be achieved by using beads or repeating mantras. It is often used to clear the mind, and ease health concerns by lowering the blood pressure, and reducing depression and anxiety.

Though Arun's visits to the church were limited to four or five per year, he was a firm believer in religion and a member of the Cathedral Church of the Redemption. The Sunday after his diagnosis, he came back after attending an hour-long service. He was at peace with himself-after his initial silence and negative attitude, stemming from his dislike for hospitals and fear of needles. He was calmer, all his doubts were gone and he was willing to undergo treatment. He quickly overcame these phobias and learned to cope with his disease mainly through discussion. It is all about how an event is perceived-is it seen as traumatic or is there a perception that it can be dealt with? Resilience is a skill that can be taught and individuals with spiritual and religious support are more likely to develop it. This resilience may prevent the adverse event from becoming traumatic.

A journalist friend who had also struggled with cancer wrote to me about his experience in dealing with the disease: ‘Even though the news shattered me, my exposure to Buddhist teachings helped me to cope with the aftermath. Even now, I periodically sense the dread rising up in me, but instead of my mind barrelling down a spiral of depression and dread, it takes a pause and tries to soothe itself, by remembering the truth so beautifully taught by the Buddha. light and the perspective on life helps to see things in clearer unstable, fearfu1 mind gets sone solace. It is an extremely internal journey, often ineffable." different people.

A Religious beliefs work differently for for some laboratory technician brought his ten-year-old niece unable The child had been very sick, pale, and bOne the last twenty days extreme stand with pain Over leukaemia and was She was diagnosed having She the treatment came for with advised chemotherapy immersed her had been in prayers for father Her mother the last two days- days after the therapy, it seemed like the not malignancy had just melted away. She could only stand but she walking ana was completely pain- free. mother The Chat convinced this miracle was the to her answer Prayers, and that her daughter was cured. The family returned to the village believing that prayers were the answer Five months laten Were told that the little girl had passed away. Sometimes people towards the other extreme.

friend's father guardian of his faith who never wavered in reading the Guru Granth Sahib for over seventy years—was diagnosed with bladder cancer- Hie was completely shattered and unforgiving that, even after having lived his life in accordance with bis Guru's teachings, he had developed cancer. Why be being punished? Overnight, from being ardent follower be lost his faith, feeling Completely isolated and let down. Importance of Nutrition While the diagnosis is being established modalities and treatment are being determined, it is crucial patient a diet with ai the to provide the nutrients, i.e. calories, vitamins and minerals, Proteins, that food support their health. Normal quantities prior illness should be maintained.

Recommended Diet Post-Diagnosis Start the day with fresh fruit juice (see p. 97). Breakfast:

Sugar-free cereal with flax seeds, walnuts and cinnamon OR eggs and toast OR upma with vegetables OR besan ke cheele
Coffee/tea.
Lunch:
Dal,
Vegetables (not including potatoes),
Salad,
Curd,
Roti/rice
Fruit.
Evening tea: A cup of tea
1 unsweetened biscuit (optional).
Dinner (cooked either Indian or Western style):
One non-vegetarian or vegetarian dish (meat/fish/chicken/ paneer/dal)
Vegetables
Salad,
Rice/roti.
Others: Green/black tea thrice daily.
Wheatgrass juice once a day (see box on p. 100).
Avoid alcohol.