Story of hope & courage

Story of hope & courage

Two-time cancer survivor Durga Gopal penned her ordeal in a book and it has been serving an inspiration to many people including cancer patients

There are many stories of cancer survivors which offer hope and motivation to those who are battling this dreaded disease as well as other life-threatening conditions.

The narratives of those who have successfully won their fight against the disease are inspiring not only to those with cancer but to anyone who feels overwhelmed by life's problems.

Durga Gopal's, recently, self-published book 'My Rendezvous with Cancer' offers this kind of hope and inspiration. It has a foreword by Satish Reddy, who heads a multinational pharmaceutical company.

The book is being read by friends, doctors, cancer patients and a whole host of people and receiving positive reviews. It is written straight from the heart and documents the trauma that cancer patients go through.

It also talks of the various other challenges—financial, emotional, and family-related, that a sufferer has to face.

Durga, who is now based in Hyderabad, initially did her Masters in Mathematics. "As I came in the merit list, I got a scholarship for doing a PhD from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and continued in that field for over six months.

Somewhere down the lane, I lost interest and joined a nationalised bank and worked there for 35 years and retired in 2011." Along the way, she got married and had two children—a son and a daughter.

She was diagnosed with cancer in November 2010. Her first reaction was shock and disbelief. "It was like a bolt from the blue. I never anticipated that one day I will have to battle this terrible disease."

How was it detected? "The inception was a small patch on the left breast, which later resulted in taking out an MRI of both the breasts. The MRI of the right breast revealed cancer.

There were no symptoms in the right breast, and it was only the patch on the left breast that led to the detection of cancer in the right.

The doctors first did a biopsy of the left breast, then an Ultra Sound, followed by a Mammogram. Then there was an MRI which finally revealed the lump in the right breast."

The next five years were traumatic—filled with fear and agony. Durga had to endure surgery (lumpectomy) followed by one month of radiation. Her sister-in-law, who lived in Jaipur came down and stayed with her during the surgery.

Durga's daughter is married and lives Berlin, and son who was living with her also stood by her during this time. But the sheer physical pain was all hers to bear. Then she gradually recovered and was declared cancer-free in 2016.

In November 2017, she returned from Berlin, where she had gone to visit her daughter and daughter's family. Immediately on return, she went to a nearby doctor for a check-up.

Durga narrates the ordeal that followed. "He said I had a big lump in my left breast. When I got the Ultra Sound of both breasts done, they said there was a big lump in the left breast.

A mammogram confirmed the findings of the Ultra Sound. A biopsy was done and later a Pet Scan was done to know the extent of the damage. It confirmed that cancer had spread to the lungs and it was Stage Four."

This was Durga's second stint with cancer. She narrates: "If I say I was devastated that would be an understatement. The fear, trauma, agony came and surrounded me all over again. But this time I recovered fast.

The first blow strikes hard and is painful. By the second blow, the body sort of becomes immune. I left my suffering in God's hands and beseeched him to take care. By January 2018, the lungs were declared free of cancer.

However, this time around, first there were four months of chemotherapy spread over six cycles. Later, this was followed by a surgery around July 2018 in which the left breast was removed as a precautionary measure."

Fortunately, she had support systems. Though her husband had passed away a few years earlier, there were other family members to lean on. "My brother always stands beside me like a solid rock.

In this second phase, my daughter came down to help me. Later on, my daughter-in-law took over and was with me until my chemo was over. In between, of course, there were a few weeks when I was alone."

Durga also had helpful friends who provided moral support. Like Delhi-based Geetha Krishnan, a former colleague at the bank where Durga used to work. Geetha is a loving caregiver to her own aged parents and known in her circles for her friendly, helpful nature—and reaching out to people when they are in a crisis.

As Durga says: "During my convalescence after the surgery Geetha used to ring me up every week to find out about my progress and also cheer me up." These are the kind of people about whom it is said a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Durga adds: "However, mental strength and a positive attitude are all important. Today, I would like to counsel cancer patients a view to pump in some positive energy in them and teach them to grapple with their problems with a positive attitude.

Now I have learnt to live one day at a time. I also have resolved to be always smiling. I also travel a lot. However, I have to return within 21 days back to my home as once in every three weeks I have to be admitted to hospital for my maintenance medicines (given through an IV)."

How did this book happen? Durga reveals: "I have been writing poems for the last few years and one was published in a woman's magazine. One day when my Hyderabad-based oncologist Dr P Satya Dattatreya came to my room, I showed him a poem – 'Hope'.

I told him with a smile that whenever he encounters any cancer patient who is dejected or despondent, he could show the poem to them. He could tell them that it was written by a cancer patient who really had no hope but was hoping against hope. He liked the poem and said, "Madam why don't you put your experiences in the form of a book about your journey through cancer."

She took the advice. "It took me about 7 to 8 months to write the book because I did not write it continuously but wrote it whenever I received inspiration. The book was a pure narrative and I wrote this chronicle exactly in the sequence of events that had happened in my life. There were no imaginative parts at all.

No deviation from the truth. It was written entirely by me and I even gave the title myself. My brother helped me in editing and formatting the book."

Indeed, Durga's story is an inspiring one of hope and bravery!

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