For cancer survivor, sun shines in heart (IANS Book Review)

November 10th, 2011 - 11:00 am ICT by IANS  

Book: “Sunshine: My Encounter With Cancer”, Author: Minakshi Chaudhry: Publisher: Rupa; Price: Rs.195; Pages: 200

Here’s a deeply personal account by middle-aged Shimla-based Minakshi Chaudhry, who beat the ghost of breast cancer. Now the sun is shining again for her.

“The dark clouds have passed, letting sunshine in,” journalist-turned-writer Chaudhry, 41, writes in her latest book, her 10th. “Sunshine My Encounter With Cancer” narrates her innate struggle and captures the intense experience of her journey to recovery.

The first part of the book, “How could it happen to me”, gives a complete account - from the diagnosis of breast cancer till the treatment is completed.

“Vomiting my guts out but not dying” is the second part that elaborates her experience during chemotherapy.

In “Bald but bowling”, Chaudhry narrates her experience of hair loss and eventual triumph.

The section “Family and friends” tells how important the role of family and friends is to help one cope.

Then comes “Life goes on”, which shows how one can come out of difficult times and how it is possible to face difficult situations. It also emphasises that every pain is transitory and passes with time. We must not lose hope.

The diary entries by the author make a separate section at the end of the book which gives insights into her state.

The epilogue of the book brings out the cyclical flow of events and the ability of humans to fight back when faced with adversity. It ends with the words, “Today is a great day. The sun shines in my heart.”

Trekker and nature-lover Chaudhry had no hint of impending cancer and she was feeling absolutely fit and energetic. She was perfectly normal when, suddenly, she was told that she had breast cancer July 26, 2008, after her biopsy.

When her radiologist handed over the report of “very suspicious” mammogram, she had an inkling of what might be in store for her. Yet the news came as a shock and it took time for it to sink in.

All cancer patients go through the phases of shock, denial, fear, why me and what next? Though Chaudhry bravely accepted that she had cancer right from the beginning and did not personally go through the phase of “denial”, so many of her relatives and friends could not accept the news even when she was under treatment.

Instead of thinking that her fate was sealed, she fought back with the support of family and friends and came out of darkness into bright sunshine, full of hope and positive energy.

The book talks of what it means to be a husband, a teacher, a sibling and a friend.

Chaudhry also raises important questions about a patient’s rights and how doctors and caregivers can make it easy for the patient and the family members who are passing through a very traumatic phase.

She writes, “My treatment is now over. I may have it again, who knows? The future is not ours to see. Yet now I feel a strange kind of tranquillity. The worst fear - that of something terrible happening - has become a thing of the past.”

Chaudhry announces that the proceeds from the book will be used for the cause of preventing and curing cancer through the Shimla-based NGO SEWA Trust.

Her books include “Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills”, “Love Stories of Shimla Hills” and “Whispering Deodars: Writings from Shimla Hills”.

Her manuscript “Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills: Volume II” has been accepted for publication.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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