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The Effect Of Cancer On Our Relationships And How Fundraising Kept Me Going

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Cancer is tough and its long treatment is unbearable. You and people around you are forced towards the new normal, exactly like the feeling of lockdown and there is no unlock coming. It affects your job, dents your career and financially empties your pockets, affecting the remaining life of the family. Caretaking takes centre stage.

Difficulty With Relationships

Cancer makes us realise how fragile and delicate our present life is. We re-examine every life decision and every curve passed around them. We crosscheck in every vocabulary and break down communication in our minds. Terminal illness changes the role and creates guilt.

All these breakups and relationships become more difficult to handle, particularly if you are invested in them. There is too much written about it. There is enough meme to literature about it. Half of Urdu Shayari, I think, was invented for the same.

Hospital patient
Representative Image. (Source: pxfuel)

The health condition slowly takes away everything. Some lose strength in their legs and are wheelchair-bound. The next possibly will be voice or neck. It’s like a breakup, basically two people going their separate ways as they are no more aligned to a common goal. The body fights any new agent, cold or chemotherapy. They are praying against hope that it should not fight chemotherapy.

Out of 10, three people get better results. You hope to stay in those three. Doctors are fighting to not lose more functions for the time being. However, the future might have more dimensions to it. Do they keep asking if you could swallow? You respond, “Not sure”.

It’s Not You But The Cancer

You blame yourself or blame everything around if your relationships are breaking due to the recent diagnosis. Your health goes irreversible. Please do remember that some occurrences around you happen not because of who you are as a person. But certain things remain beyond our control.

It takes some time to realise that we cannot influence the outcome. However, such terminal illnesses change patients and change people around them. Cancer is no one’s fault, but it affects everyone’s mental health adversely.

As Hiba Siddiqui, senior Psycho-oncologist from Max Healthcare (Delhi-NCR), added, “Cancer throws a lot on the couple, of which many partners feel a sense of abandonment as well. Breakups are never easy when one partner wants to stay while the other cannot. 

Many times, your control over cancer diagnosis and treatment doesn’t always have a set course, thereby taking a physical and mental toll on both individuals and impacting their relationships. There will be good and bad days, and sometimes, this inconsistent pattern creates resentment and anger. 

This physical and mental exhaustion is often displaced on the partner, whereas the actual reason for this turmoil is cancer and its impact on both your lives.” 

Well, this definitely does not address the pain one partner feels, but still, it helps to not point fingers at each other. These words surely help when you or your ex is attempting to move away from a tough conversation.

Respect People And Their Decision

Man Silhouette
Representative Image.

In a fit of rage, we often say unexpected things or go completely silent with zero communication. But it becomes more important to realise we should respect people and their decisions. It’s our human quality that we seek security, safety and affection. We go into deniability or denying any such acceptance could happen to us too.

In case you or your partner decide to make a distance, let the other party know peacefully and walk away. Following relationships are anyway hard. Instead, focus on the physical and mental health of the person dealing with cancer. Ensure you are around people and friends who respect your needs. Your body and mind respond to the positivity, love and respect you are offering it.

To begin with, it was never your mistake; neither were you responsible for the diagnosis nor the change in relationships. Instead, we need to focus on things we can control and influence. Your health and treatment should have a conversation. We adapt, mend our expectations and we get fine by breakups with passing the time.

Fundraising And Networking Could Be An Option

Fundraising could be our next step in turmoil and it supports you in long-term treatment and offers you networking with patients, doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals. In India, fundraising for your health is still a new concept. However, there are many such fundraising platforms in the market, boosted due to lockdown.

At first, you have to accept your reality. Emotionally, it’s exhausting even to accept to raise funds on an online platform. Share among your friends on WhatsApp and inform your own extended family members. People in the clan raise themselves that we would come forward to pay the bill listening about the fundraiser.

Going public with your ongoing treatment and bills are a huge toll as you end up thanking everybody for rising to the occasion. First of all, people keep asking, “What happened?” or “We met recently only, did not believe you were going through such pain”. All you can do is answer with a smile, loads of patience and copy paste messages on the phone.

cancer treatment
Representative Image. (Source: piqsels)

We need to accept ourselves, then our ailment, to start the idea of the fundraiser where people come together to contribute to better health. In my case, it was highly motivating to see over 500 people contribute, which made me keep going. Where otherwise, you could feel alone, fighting and keep paying at the hospital window.

I am happy to write, share, and raise the amount as it directly helps me pay bills for ongoing chemotherapy treatment at the hospital and lower my family’s financial burden. Such a fundraiser, at the optimum time, came as a boon for my treatment. I wish others also good luck in raising their amounts for their health requirements.

Family And Other Relationships

A cancer diagnosis not only breaks existing relationships but also changes, evolves and positively builds your new relationships.

Humaira, a Psychiatric social worker from TISS-INHS Asvini, added, “Family support, primarily, and support of others plays a vital role in the treatment journey.”

Relationships grow because your cancer diagnosis makes some people around you more responsible. This could be an extended family member or an ex-colleague. I have received messages from many batchmates and ex-colleagues to stay strong and how their families also dealt with cancer patients.

Some stories were comforting and may require another dedicated article.

Featured Image via pxfuel
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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