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Know the disease, know the medicine

As stated yesterday, I’m decoding the BEs in the “be positive” statement, for a cancer patient. Today, will be the second part of that journey, as I mention another such meaning of the phrase. Now, for every cancer patient, journey to recovery is tiresome and often times painful. We are yet to reach the elixir of immunotherapy in the world of cancer research, where every patient’s immune system will be customised to fight the cancerous cells. We are making progress, but the world is yet to see the end of that tunnel. For more information on the advances in immunotherapy, you can check Memorial Sloan Kettering Institute’s website. Until then, the main pathways to cancer treatment remain — surgery (aggressive or non-aggressive), radiation therapy and chemo therapy.

For someone undergoing any of these three, it becomes immensely important to trust its mechanism, and its positive and negative effects. What I mean to say is, a cancer patient feels more confident of a treatment if he/she understands what the treatment is doing to his/her body. Thereby, it becomes absolutely essential to know which drug is doing what to the disease and the body, once its being administered. And that becomes, the positive way of living with the disease, and fighting it.

Presently, my Dad is on an oral cancer medication named — Methotrexate. It’s an anti-cancer drug, given orally or via injection, that detects cancerous cells and destroys them. Primarily because the person’s immune system is unable to do so. Methotrexate is given as per the patient’s weight and height, and is usually taken on a weekly basis. One thing to note is that, like most cancer drugs, this is one is also an immune system suppressant, which means, that one needs to take additional care due to vulnerability to catching infections. Along with this, Dad also takes multi-vitamins and folic acid pills, to keep his body active and nourished.

Now how does all this information help Dad? One, it helps him understand the disease and the drug. He knows exactly what the medicine does inside his body, and what side effects are expected. There are no surprises. Often times, cancer drugs lead to side effects which doctors might not have predicted, and that leads to panic stricken days and nights. But knowing and reading about the medicine, keeps such instances away. Second, Dad is equipped with answers when others enquire him about the disease. He throws light on his condition and also its treatment, often with confidence and hope.

Third and perhaps the most important, knowledge eradicates ignorance eradicates stigma. I just made that up, but, cancer has a weird image attached with it. That of hair loss. Yes, cancer drugs are mostly associated with hair fall, and the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind with cancer is a bald scalp. However, not all drugs cause such side effects, and people should stop asking that question. Hair loss is not the worst bit that happens with cancer, trust me, there are plenty more. So if someone is on cancer medication, please don’t ask them if they’ll lose hair. It’s okay if they do. Please ask, if you can bring a box of ‘gaajar ka halwa’ (carrot pudding), infused with the richness of almonds and cashew nuts, to energise their immune system and get rid of the disease. That works! That works miraculously well.

Pic Credit — Google Images

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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