Hearing the word Cancer can send chills down anybody’s spine. A paper published in the Indian Council of Medical Research stated that there has been a surge in Cancer cases from 10 Lakhs in 2012 to nearly 15 Lakhs in 2022. Even with the increasing number, there has been a widespread ambiguity concerning cancer and therefore National Cancer Awareness Day serves as a significant occasion to make a difference in the lives of countless individuals who are facing this adversary. 

Anchal Sharma and Aarti Sondhi on National Cancer Awareness Day

Today, Social Nation had the privilege of speaking to two remarkable individuals who have seen Cancer at its worst and emerged stronger from it. You may call them survivors or call them fighters, both Anchal Sharma and Aarti Sondhi have faced the wrath of this illness with grace and strength. Now they are a beacon of inspiration for the world. Anchal Sharma started CanHeal, an organisation that supports people fighting cancer and helps their families stand strong with the patient. Aarti Sondhi on the other hand advocates for physical health and fitness and confidently walks the ramp proving that Bald is Beautiful. 

SN: From your experience, are there any early signs of cancer that one can detect early before the actual diagnosis?

Anchal: From my experience, there are several early signs of cancer that one can watch out for before an official diagnosis. These signs may include unexplained weight loss, changes in skin appearance, persistent fatigue, unusual bleeding or discharge.

AartiFor Breast cancer a monthly self self-examination to feel a lump or any other changes in the breast can help in early detection even before a cancer diagnosis. And early detection in turn saves lives.

SN: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your cancer treatment, and how did you overcome them?

Anchal: Financially I have faced lots of challenges. As we all know how expensive this disease is. Second, post-chemo side effects are many. If a person is not educated about them, they may think they are dying. I overcame these challenges by accepting my situation. Once you accept it, you can focus on finding solutions. I made an effort to wear my best outfit and best make-up before going for treatment.

Also Read: In A Viral Video, Kerala Man’s Old Passport Turns Into Wife’s Scribble Pad

The biggest challenge I faced during my cancer treatment was the physical and emotional toll it took on my body and mind. The side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries were difficult to endure, and the fear of recurrence weighed heavily on me. To overcome these challenges, I sought support from friends, family, and support groups, engaged in regular exercise, and found solace in activities that brought me joy. Additionally, I worked closely with my healthcare team to manage side effects and address any concerns I had.

Aarti: I believe that for any illness or challenge including a cancer diagnosis, 90% of the challenge is Mental and only 10% is physical. So if we can determine in our minds to fight it with hope, Courage and positivity, then we can definitely overcome it. Also, since I was diagnosed at the height of COVID-19 in September 2020, it posed an additional challenge of quarantining myself and my family. 

SN: How did the entire journey impact your day-to-day life?

Anchal: The entire cancer journey had a significant impact on my day-to-day life. It forced me to prioritise my health and well-being, and I had to make adjustments to my daily routine and responsibilities. 

Physically, I had to accommodate medical appointments, treatments, and recovery periods, which sometimes limited my ability to engage in regular activities. Emotionally, it was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and I had to find ways to manage stress and maintain a positive mindset. I pampered myself to maintain a positive outlook.

Anchal Sharma and Aarti Sondhi on National Cancer Awareness Day

Aarti: In my cancer journey, depending on the treatment and its side effects, the days were accordingly affected. So no two days were the same. Some days were good. Some days were not so good. 

SN: Can you describe the support system that helped you through your cancer journey, and how important was that support to your recovery?

Anchal: My support system played a crucial role in my recovery. I was fortunate to have the support of my family, a few close friends, and doctors and caregivers who provided emotional support and offered encouragement throughout the journey. Their unwavering support gave me the strength and motivation to keep fighting and never lose hope.

Aarti:  Right from the beginning of my diagnosis, I have had a very strong support system of family and friends. My husband, my children, my parents, my sister and my extended family as well as my friends have all stood by me and been there for everything that I needed. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong support system. It is very, very important. 

SN: What advice would you give to individuals who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, based on your own experience?

Anchal:  My advice to individuals newly diagnosed with cancer would be to take the time to process their emotions and seek support from loved ones and support groups. It’s essential to educate yourself about your specific diagnosis and treatment options, but also remember that each person’s journey is unique. Take things one step at a time, focus on self-care, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. Above all, maintain hope, stay positive, and believe in your ability to overcome the challenges ahead.

Aarti Sondhi and Anchal Sharma on National Cancer Awareness Day

SN: The cost of treatment for cancer is very high. Is there a way one can prepare themselves for the tough ride, financially?

Anchal: Nowadays, the government has many policies where they provide grants for cancer treatment. One can approach them for financial assistance. Additionally, having health insurance with coverage for diseases like cancer is crucial. Everyone needs to have and explore options that suit their needs and financial situation.

Aarti: The cost of treatment for cancer is very high. I would advise everyone to have a good health/medical insurance policy when they are young, as the premium will be less and it will really help in time of need. Generally, when we are young we do not think about this being important, but it helps in the long run. 

SN: How has your relationship with healthcare providers evolved during your journey?

Anchal: My relationship with healthcare providers evolved significantly throughout my cancer journey. Initially, I relied heavily on their expertise and guidance for diagnosis, treatment decisions, and ongoing care. Over time, as I became more knowledgeable about my condition, I actively participated in discussions, asked questions, and sought open communication. This sense of empowerment allowed me to further collaborate with my healthcare team in managing my treatment and addressing any concerns I had. I cannot express enough gratitude towards my doctors and nurses for their support.

Anchal Sharma and Aarti Sondhi erase stigma on National Cancer Awareness Day

Aarti: Through my journey, I have been able to understand and appreciate the challenges of a healthcare professional, including the high level of commitment and dedication that they put into their work. 

SN: How do you maintain a positive outlook and stay motivated daily, even in the face of cancer and its challenges?

Anchal: Maintaining a positive outlook and staying motivated daily was not easy, but I found ways to do so. Practising mindfulness and gratitude, engaging in activities I enjoy, setting achievable goals, and focusing on small victories helped me stay motivated. Additionally, helping others through initiatives like starting the organisation CanHeal and seeing the impact it had on others’ lives brought me a sense of purpose and motivation every day.

Aarti: My children are my biggest motivation, their love and support keeps me going.

SN: What thought went behind starting CanHeal, and how has the journey been?

Anchal: CanHeal was born out of a deep desire to provide support, guidance, and resources to individuals and families affected by cancer. Having personally experienced the challenges and uncertainties of a cancer diagnosis, I wanted to create a platform where people could find comprehensive information, connect with others who understood their journey, and access various support services. The journey of building CanHeal has been fulfilling, and witnessing the positive impact it has had on people’s lives has been truly rewarding.

SN: Can you tell us about the work you do at CanHeal?

Anchal: At CanHeal, we have an online platform called CanHealOnline where we provide important things that cancer patients may need during their treatment. These include special clothes for chemotherapy and radiation, special lingerie, prosthetics, comforting pillows, and care packages. These products are meant to make treatment more comfortable.

We also have a community called CanHeal Club where cancer patients and their families can connect with others who understand what they’re going through. 

We organise fun workshops like dancing, food experiences, and games where people can feel relaxed and hopeful. It’s a place where they can make friends and talk about their fears and challenges after going through cancer. 

SN: Did you have any inhibitions before walking the ramp?

Aarti: Because I was motivated to walk the ramp with the cause of promoting women to be beautiful even if they are bald, I did not have any inhibitions and instead was able to walk confidently.

SN: Can you highlight the role of fitness especially for somebody who has been diagnosed with Cancer recently?

Aarti: Fitness has a very crucial role in the cancer journey, especially while undergoing treatment. From my personal experience, having a fitness regime helped reduce my treatment’s side effects. However, each person is different, and it’s important to take care of our body and listen to ourselves. 

As we conclude this insightful conversation with our distinguished guests, we are reminded of the power of unity and resilience in the face of adversity. National Cancer Awareness Day serves as a poignant reminder that together, we can create a world where cancer is not as feared, where early detection is commonplace, and where the love and support for cancer survivors know no bounds.