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October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke to author of 'Cancer, You Picked The Wrong Girl' Shormistha Mukherjee on her inspiring journey fighting the disease.
She laughs easily through while recounting her difficult journey surviving breast cancer. In this interview, Shormistha Mukherjee, author of ‘Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl’ speaks about her journey and how she managed to include humour even when there is nothing funny about cancer. Shormistha also runs a blog under the name ‘agentgreenglass’ and has written several short stories for Juggernaut.
Despite breast cancer being prevalent among Indian women, our awareness about it remains fairly low. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in India, with one woman being diagnosed with it every 4 minutes. Over to the author:
What was your reaction when you got to know you have breast cancer?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was shocked at first. But considering the kind of lifestyle I was leading and the symptoms I had already been having, I soon came to terms with it. It was, however difficult to break the news to family and friends and I experienced a lot of guilt and worry that this experience would be traumatic to them.
What was your journey like, right from diagnosis to treatment and how were you supported?
I did have fears that I might never recover or even fall into relapse. The entire journey was an overwhelming physical and mental battle. There were times when the chemo-sessions went so bad that I believed I wouldn’t be able to get through this. I also did not know anyone with the disease whom I could talk to. However, I was fortunate enough to be continuously supported by my family and friends since I was also vocal about it.
When I began sharing my experiences on social media, I even had Instagram users sending me messages of encouragement. I think in the end, fighting breast cancer also made me thankful for being so supported and loved. It has also been a wake-up call to leading a much more stress-free and happier life!!
What made you write ‘Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl’? How did you look at it from the point of view of humour when you were experiencing such a low phase in your life?
Breast cancer is still not widely spoken about in India and most times, people are unaware of even how to respond when a close one is diagnosed! When I was going through it myself, I had no other experiences to draw upon and coach me through the process. I hoped this book would somehow help to break all this and initiate a discussion. I also wanted to clear the common misconception that quality treatment will not be provided in India, which my experience has completely stood against.
Being an optimistic person, I decided to fight through it rather than allowing it to put me down. I trusted my doctors who were honest with me and were confident that I would recover, which helped. At times, I would even take a step back, to observe how things would fall into place and how I would fight this battle. I did occasionally switch to feeling horrible but I also decided to find the humour in my own observations of how it was all progressing.
Why is awareness about breast cancer important?
Breast cancer is still a hushed topic in India, even though it is quite common and occurs in both men and women. There is a tendency to either not talk about it at all or be repulsive and say hurtful things when conversations are raised. This all adds to the stigma and the ignorance surrounding it.
The truth is that breast cancer is prevalent and several facts and figures proved it. We need to break the taboo and have conversations about it so that we can always be on the look-out for our own well-being and seek help at the right time, rather than dreading the illness.
We also need to be able to support someone who is fighting the disease by being understanding of their situation and responding to their needs.
Image source: @agentgreenglass, Instagram
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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