Cancer a Silent Killer…..A Story of a household told!

Smartchoice Editorial
October 22, 2020

Life has an uncanny way of getting to us, we endure and face so much in our lives be it good or bad, on our highs and lows yet everything we face or experience makes us stronger and wiser. Well, that’s what we generally believe right. All hard work is key to greater insight and intelligence.
There are many things that a person can risk and learn in their lives, but there are many things around us that are really precious to be messed with. You cannot put everything around you especially your health through a test….

Like everything around us, our circumstances can also not be guaranteed and assured. Something favourable today can turn into something ugly and unacceptable tomorrow. Coming from a personal life experience, we would like to comment that being vigilant and prepared for unpleasantries that can arise in life is the ultimate way to deal with them.

We all understand that there has been a constant increase in everything in life, be it as basic as eggs or as complex as getting surgery the whole lot has increased many folds. You cannot comprehend that the thing that was easily manageable in a far lesser amount has become entirely difficult to manage.
Yet regardless of all things, we still want to get the best for our loved ones, buying Eid dress, a graduation gift for our loved ones, shopping for yourself when travelling abroad and for other circumstances in life. So when it comes to safeguarding something as precious as “HEALTH” it is very important to be prepared.

Let’s have a look at a normal household where we see that their life has been all hustle and bustle, preparing for many things at the same time, Rushan graduating from the engineering university with a distinction. And Mr and Mrs Rehman are pretty excited for their son achievement. Their daughter Tooba is getting married in a month around in forty-five days and their eldest daughter was to come from Bahrain with her two little munchkins Ali and Ayeza for the wedding.

Mrs Rehman has been very busy she has had a lot on her plate, getting everything ready for Tooba and everything for her wedding, selecting the right colour sherwani for Rushan, pushing Mr Rehman to get all the renovations done in time for the wedding, to ensure that clothes are done for Ayeza and her little munchkins in time before they reach Pakistan and nothing is forgotten starting from the garara and sharara all is done on time and no stone is left unturned.

While during this chaos, an occasional spell of dizziness, feeling lethargic and a sudden pain carried no weightage right? It is considered the pain just due to the hectic routine and being overtired all the time. So, things are ignored and the work and preparations are carried off as normal as they should be done in a scenario of a “shadi wala ghar”.

While meanwhile once trying on clothes for the wedding, Mrs Rehman noticed something changed rather a little redness and swelling on her breast area. Being it just a few days before the marriage and considering she had this clothes trial early in the morning (normally a time when our body does have some natural swelling) she shrugs her shoulders. She makes a mental note to check this out later if the swelling continues to exist, she does plans to use some ice to bring down the swelling and redness or maybe use of some rash cream. But that’s all in her books as her remedial idea for the current breast issue.

While rummaging through her things, and though looking for her matching earrings that Ayeza had asked to wear with her dress for mehndi. Mrs Rehan found a policy card, looking at this policy she felt confused and then she remembered that this policy was gifted by Rushan on “Mother’s Day” with a special message.
The message stated that

“Dear Maa,

There has not been a day that I have not thanked my lucky stars and Almighty for having you in my life. I wish and pray with all my heart that as you held my head in your arms from my cradle days, it would remain the same way till my grave. To ensure that my maa stays the strongest, I want to gift you an “HER CARE” a plan that is designed especially take care of beautiful and strong women, who does everything for everyone, I realize need the best care possible!
Dear Maa, I hope we don’t see the day when you need to use the policy, but if and when if that day comes, God forbid. Maa, I want you to be prepared for everything and the best possible care available at your disposal.”

Yours ever loving Son
Rushan Rehman…
I love you Maa, the most…

Seeing this Mrs Rehman felt emotional and had tears in her eyes, but all this was soon forgotten when she heard that Ayeza and her grandchildren had reached home. Leaving all as it is she just ran to greet her beloved daughter. Days passed and finally, the wedding and everything happened the way Mrs Rehman expected and wanted it to be. All the functions starting from small, family dholkis at home to beautiful Mehendi, the dances at the mayoon and the joota chupai and dhoodh pilai rasams at the baraat and a start of the most amazing honeymoon next day of the walima.

Mrs Rehman felt content that all had gone extremely well and nothing happened which could have hampered their happiness. Tooba had gone off on her honeymoon, Rushan had made a plan with friends for Pakistan tour and Ayeza had gifted him the tour as his graduation gift. Ayeza was with her parents had a few days before she left. They were all looking at the shadi pictures and discussing when Mrs Rehman while getting some snacks from the kitchen had a dizziness spell and fainted.

She was rushed to the hospital as her fainting was just out of blue and shocked the entire household and they could not immediately comprehend what had happened. After reaching the hospital she was rushed in emergency care and multiple IVs and test were done by the doctors on duty. After a while, Mrs Rehman gained consciousness and insisted on going home. Mr Rehman strictly made a point that everything needs to be checked and all things eliminated before they go back home.

The doctors decided to keep Mrs Rehman under observation at the hospital for the night, and in the morning they got all their test results back. The doctors were pretty sombre when they reached out to the family, letting them know that the dizziness was not just random or due to the hectic schedule of the past few days. They told Mr Rehman that his wife had “BREAST CANCER” stage 2.

Hearing this Mr Rehman couldn’t believe his ears and Ayeza lost all her composure. Looking at the scene from far away, although she could not make out what was being said she could comprehend that it was not something of good news. The family came to Mrs Rehman and very calmly informed her that nothing will happen and all will be well.
She was told that she had breast cancer but there are multiple treatments available for the cure. The family had not lost all hope but they were subdued due to multiple reasons. First two of the children were out of country and city, second, they had recently spent a hefty amount on Tooba’s wedding and it was understood that cancer treatments are don’t come cheap and also require consistency for the desired results. Which would require a lot of money that shall not be easy to get from anywhere and only option at that time seemed available was to acquire a loan.
While being back home, the family members started looking for multiple options to generate some cash themselves. While in the room Mrs Rehman was constantly thinking the implication that her health would bring on the household. While lying there and praying to Allah, she realized, the policy which she has found during Tooba’s wedding while she was looking for something else.

She found the card Rushan had gifted her and took the card to her family, she asked Mr Rehman and Ayeza that if the card could be of any use during these stressful moments. They called the insurance provider gave the policy number and waited, the health adviser reconnected and informed them that it was a gold plan and that this policy pays a lump sum amount equivalent to the amount of Sum Assured chosen if the insured woman is diagnosed with any of the 8 specified critical illnesses during the tenure of the policy.
The medical adviser further informed that the policy procured for Mrs Rehman was a gold plan and provided lump-sum coverage of 10,000,00 Rupees. The policy covers all these critical illnesses in women, which are as follows
1. Breast Cancer
2. Cervical Cancer
3. Burns
4. Paralysis or Multi-trauma
5. Fallopian Tube Cancer
6. Uterine or Endometrial Cancer
7. Vaginal Cancer
8. Ovarian Cancer

It was also highlighted by the medical adviser that majority of the women in Pakistan who suffer from cancer are breast cancer patients and proper check-ups and monitoring are very much essential especially after a certain age. Considering breast cancer is cancer which annually amongst all cancers claims maximum lives.

Listening to this Mr and Mrs Rehman thanked Allah and then realized how important any cushion is in times of need. The insurance policy acted as a financial cushion and helped in all the expenses which were incurred during the treatments, surgery and procedures.

The Rehman’s knew that it was a long bumpy road towards recovery and a lengthy and extensive battle to fight cancer was left to be fought by them. But even then during these times, they didn’t alhamdulillah have to worry about the money and there was no delay in the treatment. This one factor played a decisive role in saving the life of Mrs Rehman.

Things to keep in mind, when you are the age and at the risk of cancer, as cancer might be the silent killer but there are signs here and there which indicate its presence.

1. Changes to the skin’s texture

Always comprehend that skin changes may be an early sign of breast cancer.
Breast cancer can cause changes and tenderness in skin cells that can lead to texture changes. Examples of these texture changes include:
• scaly skin around the nipple and areola, as though the skin is sunburned or exceptionally dry
• skin condensing and thickening in any part of the breast
• These changes may also cause itching, which people often associate and connect with breast cancer, although it is not common.
• These skin changes may be indicative of a rare breast cancer type called Paget’s disease.
• Texture ups and downs can also occur as a result of benign skin conditions, including dermatitis and eczema.

2. Nipple discharge

A person may observe discharge/ejection from the nipple, which can be thin or thick and can be in the range of colour from clear to milky to yellow, green, or red. It is standard for people who are breastfeeding to have a milky discharge from the nipples, but it is suitable and suggested to see a doctor about any other nipple discharge. Although most nipple expulsion is non-cancerous, it can imply breast cancer in some people.
Other possible reasons for nipple discharge include:
• breast infections
• a side effect of birth control pills
• a side effect of taking certain medications
• variations in body physiology
• certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease

3. Dimpling

Skin dimpling can sometimes be a sign of provocative breast cancer, a belligerent and aggressive type of breast cancer. Cancer cells can cause a buildup of lymph fluid in the breast that leads to swelling as well as dimpling or pitted skin. It is essential that anyone who notices skin dimpling speaks with a doctor.
Doctors call this change in the skin’s appearance and form “peau d’orange” because the dimpled skin resembles the surface of an orange.

4. Lymph node changes

Cancer cells may travel to the underarm lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small, rounded groups of immune system tissue that filter and clean fluid and capture potentially harmful cells. These include bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. If a cancer cell travels from the breast, the first place it reaches to is the underarm lymph node region on the similar side as the affected breast. This can lead to swelling and tenderness in this area. In addition to inflamed lymph nodes in the armpit, an individual may notice them around the collarbone. They usually feel like small, firm, enlarged and inflated lumps and may be tender to the touch. However, lymph tissue may also transform due to breast infections or other completely unconnected illnesses.

A person should talk to a doctor about these changes so that they can identify a potential cause.

5. Breast or nipple pain

Breast cancer can be the cause of change in skin cells that lead to a feeling of pain, tenderness, and uneasiness in the breast. Although breast cancer is often painless and you don’t realize it, it is important not to ignore or overlook any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer. Some people may describe the pain as a burning sensation.

6. Nipple retraction or inversion

Breast cancer can cause cell variations and alterations behind the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and retreating inward into the breast or it may look changed in terms of its size. The appearance of the nipples can often modify during ovulation or other parts of the menstrual cycle, but individuals should see a doctor about any new nipple alterations.

7. Redness

Breast cancer can cause changes to the skin that may make it appear tarnished or even bruised and battered. The skin may be red or purple or have a bluish tint. If a person has not experienced any recent trauma to the breast to explicate these modifications, they should see their doctor. It is also vital to seek medical guidance if breast discolouration does not dissolve, even if strain and trauma was the cause.

8. Swelling

Breast cancer can cause the entire breast or an area of the breast to swell. There may not be a distinct lump after this swelling, but the breast may be different in size than the other breast. Although it is possible for people to have breasts that are slightly different in size at all times, this swelling would cause a change from their usual breast size. The skin may also feel tight due to the swelling.

When to see a doctor

Discuss any changes in the breast with a medical practitioner. People should not panic or have anxiety or be fearful when they find breast changes. Ageing, changes in hormone intensities, and other causes can lead to breast changes throughout somebody’s lifetime. However, people should be preemptive about their health and officially visit a doctor to determine the reason or source of any breast symptoms. Each of the eight variations or may call it symptoms listed above can be the need or an authorization for a trip to the doctor, especially if these changes do not seem to relate to one of the following:
• the menstrual cycle
• injury
• previous illness, such as a breast infection
A doctor can evaluate and gauge the symptoms, examine the affected breast or breasts, and endorse or recommend further studies if essential. They may suggest a mammogram, ultrasound, other imaging tests, or blood work to rule out infection or other possible and probable causes.

Takeaway and Conclusion

Breast cancer can cause marks and indications that include changes to the skin on and around the breast. While many conditions can potentially cause breast modifications, including cysts, infections, eczema, and dermatitis, a person should not mechanically or automatically rule out breast cancer. Seeing a doctor for assessment and diagnosis can help determine whether or not any breast variations are cause for concern.

Mrs Rehman could have been saved from a lot of troubles and issues if she had just paid just close attention to what was happening to her. But as of the women in Pakistan, she considered it something trivial and believed that it would go away on its own. She didn’t even think twice that it can be something so gigantic and a life-altering experience for her.

We may have many women like Mrs Rehman who gave and did everything for her loved ones expecting nothing in return at all, and even putting everyone else before herself. But they are also very few extremely lucky individuals who have the awareness and consider that “life is unpredictable” a small step taken today can have a huge impact on their future. That’s what helped Mr Rehman and family in combating cancer.
Yet at the same time, we realize that a lot of awareness needs to be created in Pakistan regarding cancer and proactive approach against it. Its high time we consider cancer deadly and fasten our seat belts to fight against it with all of our means and tools. Smartchoice.pk believes that women empowerment starts from taking care of their needs and health. As we know “A healthy mother can create a healthy environment and society”.

At the same understanding, the financial implications of cancer can be overwhelming and it can be difficult for any normal middle-class family the expenses incurred and treatments can be pretty expensive for anyone to bear. Considering that the premiums for health insurance plans against those critical illnesses, one can say that the requesting rate (the premium) is exceptionally low against the coverage being provided to the insured. There is nothing wrong in putting family before self. But it is high time that you did something for your health, strength and well-being.

Given the fact that critical illnesses like breast cancer and some other illnesses are affecting more women than before and keeping in view the life, we are leading how things are there. It is best to be at least financially covered and protected. You, a woman in your multiple roles, are equally important to your family as your family is important to you. And if you are a caring husband or father, insure your wife or daughter to give her that financial cushion and peace of mind in the face of a medical crisis.

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