From raising awareness on cancer to being a two-time breast cancer survivor, Girija Nadagouder — from Karnataka’s Dharwad — has seen it all.
A homeopathy practitioner and psychiatrist herself, the 69-year-old believes that awareness and attitude are key to survive the disease. “I was, in a way, fortunate enough to have addressed cancer in my family right from my early days. My mother, elder sister, two aunts, and a cousin had cancer at some or the other time. Seeing them battle it made me more aware of the fact that surviving is possible. With good doctors exhibiting an optimistic attitude all throughout, I got through it — not once but twice,” Nadagouder told indianexpress.com
For Nadagouder, her first close encounter with the ailment was when her mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1981. “She was 51 and I was 29 then. This is when I really started to learn about the disease. She was treated successfully with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and then survived for another 16 years,” she remembers.
Nadagouder then took up volunteering with several organisations to help cancer patients with their appointments and counselling. She also started writing columns for local newspapers to raise awareness about the disease.
It was later in 2002 that she noticed a big painless lump in her right breast. “Since it was painless, I ignored it. Six months later, the lump became bigger and a small scar appeared on my skin. It started to pain and hence I rushed to the doctor. On diagnosis, it tested positive,” she explained.
As she moved to Bengaluru from Dharwad for specialised oncology treatment, Nadagouder had options ready. “I chose the doctor who had performed a successful mastectomy on my sister to be my surgeon. The radiotherapist who had treated my mother successfully treated me too,” she said.
After 18 lymph nodes removal and 28 radiotherapy sittings from three different doctors in over six months, her health started improving. Nadagouder thinks that the support provided by family and caregivers is as important as the treatment.
“While being a loving grandmother to my first grandson diverted my mind from the side-effects of the treatment, having something to fight for helped me recover faster,” she added.
Later, when Nadagouder was undergoing treatment for cancer in 2018 — for the second time – her husband, daughter, and a friend shaved their heads in support of breast cancer treatment. “Things like these are important because it expresses to the patient that he/she is not alone,” she said.
Nadagouder is now a ‘survivor tutor’ at The University of Adelaide in Australia, where her daughter is settled. “From knowing about cancer as nothing more than my zodiac sign to speaking at a global stage on my experiences, I feel awareness is key as technology and treatment gets better each day,” she said.
Now in Yelahanka, Bengaluru, as she returned a day before the coronavirus-induced lockdown started, Nadagouder is waiting for the situation to get better and is all ready to fly again, to share her success story with more people, thereby creating more cancer awareness.