All for better healthcare at the Severat function…. (l to r) Dr Caeteana Moniz, Dr Eugene Rent, Prashanti Talpankar and Rohini Gonsalves

By Our Special Correspondent

WHO is not afraid of cancer? From the looks of it almost everyone is young or old! On World Cancer Day – February 4 — quite a few people in Goa were raising the issue of cancer in every home today. One of them was Rohini Gonsalves, the founder-director of Severat Healthcare & Nursing who decided to talk cancer upfront at a function organized at the YMCA on February 4, 2020.
Rohini says that Severat has been providing healthcare services to patients at home since 2016. Goa also has a sizeable number of seniors ailing and lonely at home, their children abroad visiting annually or whenever the need arose. But by and large many seniors are in the care of family retainers or paid for caretakers. She has been realizing that with cancer in many homes there is an urgent need for a Cancer Support Group to run interference in the best sense of the word.
The Cancer Support Group was launched on the occasion of World Cancer Day by Surendra Furtado, who needs little introduction for he and wife Ruth Furtado have been corporators in Panaji for many years. Others present at the function included oncologist surgeon Dr Eugene Rent (consulting with Manipal Hospital), Dr Ravindra Agrawal, Dr Caeteana Moniz and Dr Manish Singh. A cheerful talk by cancer survivor Prashanti Talpankar lightened up the occasion for she recounted her fight with breast cancer with light-hearted ease and succeeded in making everyone in the audience laugh. As if to say, so what if cancer visits you, fear not and it will leave you as easily as it arrived…of course, this depends on whether you seek treatment with the first suspicion of cancer, don’t wait till pain strikes at terminal stages. Never ignore a lump in your breast however small, or any growth, sore, oozing of any kind from the nipples. Visit your family doctor or a doctor quickly to rule out cancer benign or malignant.
Mr Furtado acknowledged cancer as a growing disease and acknowledged in his own personal life he has become conscious of making lifestyle changes, “I have done away with sugar and coffee!” He cautioned about consuming sugary foods and now there is even talk of “how everything is dangerous!” A video on WhatsApp is making the rounds warning consumers about palmolein oil present in processed foods, “the food industry uses it because it gives good taste.” But palmolein oil is said to be carcinogen No.1 and many of us are eating processed foods from packets constantly. People need to become more aware about staying away from the junk foods of our times which contribute to cancer statistics.
Doctors should tell their patients what is good! Dr Eugene Rent said that he has seen cancer patients real up close in the course of his job as cancer surgeon and is very happy that an organization like Severat is thinking of this Cancer Support Group. He has noticed that cancer caregivers are always stressed out about how to take care of cancer patients, most caregivers are family members and they don’t know how to handle cancer, “In fact, 70 to 80% of the time it is relatives who take care of patients…20% of the time when they cannot manage they just leave them in the hospitals and go away!”
So there is very real need for an organization which will work exclusively to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and help caregivers with practical guidance.
Dr Rent said they now have a team of 18 working at the Manipal Hospital, engaged in treating cancer patients, “a Cancer Support Group like the one Severat is setting up is something we need, it’s the only thing missing…” Apart from patients, caregivers too need guidance on how they can do the best by their family members suffering from cancer and post-cancer treatments like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy.
Dr Caeteana Moniz, working at the Menezes Polyclinic’s Physiotherapy Unit at Altinho, Panaji, educated that many cancer patients post-surgery have had lymph nodes excised, and so there is a phenomena of painful fluid build-up called lymphedema. In this respect they have physiotherapy equipment which can help a great deal to help these cancer patients. Physiotherapy is now recognized as a boon for remission in post-treatment cancer patients. The Menezes Polyclinic Physiotherapy Unit is one of the very few if not only one offering professional treatment for lymphedema. Dr Moniz is a trained Certified Lymphedema Therapist (having completed her Masters in Physiotherapy with a specialization in oncology physiotherapy from KLE University, Belgaum, in 2017).
It is clear that as we human beings live longer because of better economic factors and better access to sanitation, it is not the old diseases of infection which are now taking a toll of life so much. Body beautiful is instead increasingly being afflicted with degenerative diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and finally if one is so unlucky – the Big C or cancer of the breast (high statistics in Goa and urban India), or cervical cancer (still continues to be prevalent in communities where hygiene is lackadaisical for want of primary needs), there are also the oral cancers, blood cancers, colon cancers and other cancers coming up in India.
Cancer survivor Prashanti Talpankar who spoke last traced her story from the time she felt a lump in her breast — which she joked was a third breast! Her children and husband were not amused when it was diagnosed that she had Grade one, third stage cancer of the breast. From then onwards it was a roller coaster ride consulting various doctors from Dr Afonso Bossuet to Dr Shekhar Salkar (her one rock of Gibralter or so to speak) and finally after the lump was surgically excised, followed by radiation and chemotherapy …she lived through the trauma of feeling zapped, what with her hair coming off in clumps, “I decided to shave off my hair and go bare headed and feel beautiful!”
Despite all the fearful cancer predictions which came her way about how she may not live for another ten years! She smiled, she’s still here today in full remission and living her live full steam ahead, thank-you. In her mid-50s she feels more alive and vital than ever before, she has taken her cancer in her stride and that is what she would other cancer-stricken patients to do. Don’t be afraid of cancer, it is better to let cancer be afraid of you! Prashanti Talpankar’s victory over breast cancer is worth recounting to every breast cancer patient, for she has a sweet way of taking fear out of the mind — that oh, I have got breast cancer, I am going to die!
Needless to say that Rohini Gonsalves of Severat’s Cancer Support Group can do much to rescue not just cancer patients but cancer patients’ caregivers with information, practical help and guidance on how to cope with cancer, how not to give in to failing health and accompanying emotional distress, despair and depression. Cancer patients no matter how terminal can be helped to live one day at a time with various facilities (if only they know where to go get them), a change in diet, moral support, love and affection…till the future looks green with hope and happiness anew!

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