My Story: More Than Chemotherapy, It Is Stigma Against Cancer Patients That Hurts More

Image Credit: Sruchi Oza

My Story: 'More Than Chemotherapy, It Is Stigma Against Cancer Patients That Hurts More'

Sruchi Oza was in the second year when she fainted. When the reports came, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had just a few more days to live. She resolved to address the main cause and has planted over 45,000 trees.

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After I completed my Higher Secondary Education with a good score, I got into one of Mumbai's most reputed colleges for my graduation. For the first time, I was out in a different state all on my own, and anxiety and excitement rushed through my veins. It was a Saturday, and I was in my second year when I was hanging around with one of my friends. Suddenly, there was only darkness in front of my eyes, and I could not see anything. I fainted.

Initially, I brushed it as a sunstroke, but later, the worst news of my life came with the diagnosis. I had a brain tumour, and the doctor said that I had only a few months to live. My heart sank suddenly. Everything seemed uncertain, and I had so many goals to achieve. I was not ready to give up so soon, and I was never a quitter. Moreover, I had to keep a smile on my face for my father because he is very emotional.

My Memory Was Fading

I was very adamant about completing my graduation and juggled between studies and treatment. Nonetheless, it was not easy, especially after the chemotherapy began. It was heartbreaking to see so many people face the life-threatening disease, and even children undergoing the same was nerve-wracking. My parents saw their daughter transform from a pretty girl to a weak and skin that turned black. It was not very good for me to look in the mirror and lose my hair. However, the worst part was the experience that my memory was fading.

When it was exam time, I could barely sit for five minutes because 36 radiation and 36 chemotherapy had taken my toll. I would put my head on my mother's lap and try to memorize the content. However, the following day, I could not even remember what subject I had prepared for. My mother would encourage me to still go for the exam and write whatever I could remember. Finally, I was able to complete my graduation with first-class grades.

I have always wanted to be like my mother. She has played several roles in my life, and she inspired me to help others suffering from the same condition. So after my graduation, I dropped a year to focus entirely on my health. I had lost my self-confidence because of seizures, nausea and memory loss. I tried all sorts of medicines, and with the help of doctors and others' blessings, I was finally on the path to recovery.

People Look At Me As I'm An Alien

I applied for my Master's and started studying again with complete dedication. I cleared my Masters with a good score. I always wanted to create something of my own, but I needed some experience first. However, whenever I sit for an interview, the people look at me as if I am an alien. I understand that I have memory issues, which makes me unfit for several jobs. Some people also ask how could they take me as I had cancer once, which hurts more than any chemotherapy or radiation.

It is disheartening to see that the world is happy to post about Cancer Survivors on social media or run Marathons for them. Still, nobody is willing to work with them, help them survive and encourage them through their post-traumatic journey. Finally, I did land a job, but the experience made me even sadder. Whenever I would enter the office, people would walk away. When I entered my boss's office, my colleagues would come out.

When I started researching the causes of cancer, I found that one of the major causes was Air Pollution. To reduce the effects of Air Pollution, I started a 'tree plantation' mission to bring about awareness about the importance of trees. I started with my society and helped industrial workers from breathing harmful chemicals. Until today, I have planted nearly 45,000 trees and will continue to do so till my last breath. Even after I am gone, I want to live in the air people breathe through the trees I plant.

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Editor : Snehadri Sarkar
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Creatives : Ratika Rana