If you’re living in Odisha and looking for advice on cancer treatments in Bhubaneswar, this post could help you gain some insights. It can be very difficult to approach cancer treatments without having someone to guide you through the dos and don’ts. In this post, I’m sharing my own experience of dealing with my father’s cancer treatment, who died of cancer earlier this year.
I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time now. My father passed away on the 7th of July this year – he’d been suffering from lung cancer and undergoing treatment since April when he was first diagnosed with a mediastinal tumor.
When he was diagnosed with the tumor, the doctor advised us for conducting a bronchoscopy to determine malignancy. I had no idea how to go about it and I was desperately searching for advice because I wanted to follow the right direction and waste no time in following it.
I tried to search online to see if anyone from Bhubaneswar or Odisha had written about their experience so I could learn a little from them but to no avail. This is probably one of the reasons why I’m writing this post – to help others to chance upon this information and do the right thing while approaching cancer treatment.
Looking back, I wish I could have done things differently but the lack of experience and expert advice led me to waste precious time in approaching treatment for my father.
Learning about Cancer
Like many other diseases, lung tumors don’t develop overnight – they take time to grow and, early detection is the best way to prevent them from growing stronger to a point when they cannot be cured at all.
Back in 2008, one fine morning, I decided to insure my parents’ life by going for life insurance policies. Although my father was a habitual smoker, it never struck me that I should conduct an annual health check-up for him.
It never occurred to me that I should go for health insurance first because his smoking habits could make him prone to lungs diseases.
If I had put him through a comprehensive health check-up every once a year, we could have detected the stage of the tumor much earlier, and therefore, approached the treatment at an early stage.
Breast Cancer Awareness Film
As per cancer experts, women above the age of 40 should undergo Mammogram at least once a year in order to find out any possibility of breast cancer. This 7-min long educational video will guide you through breast cancer.
Symptoms of Lung Tumors
Lung tumors show a range of symptoms as described here, but in my father’s case, it was the cough that was indicative of the lung problem. The consulting doctor at Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Center, Cuttack conducted a CT Scan which showed strong signs of an advanced lung tumor. We were advised to conduct Bronchoscopy to determine possibilities of any malignancy. We learned Bronchoscopy was a critical process of inserting an instrument into the windpipe so some sample tissues from the suspected tumor could be collected for biopsy.
We were clearly nervous and didn’t know what the right thing was. We wanted to consult another doctor for a second opinion and decide upon a clinic where the bronchoscopy could be performed by an expert oncologist.
We knew about Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai but didn’t have the right information to proceed with treatment. The right information at the right time is crucial to taking the right steps.
Based on the advice of some unverified source, I took my father to Tata Memorial Center (TMC) in Kolkata, only to learn a big lesson there. The reception at the lobby advised us to wait for at least two weeks for the appointment since all their oncologists had been scheduled for two weeks. We came back to Bhubaneswar the next day and it was a huge blow for us since we lost precious time which we could have saved just by verifying the sources of information.
AIIMS was the Wrong Turn
After returning from Kolkata, we decided to start the biopsy immediately at any Bhubaneswar-based hospital. We chose to go with the AIIMS in Bhubaneswar as a close family-friend suggested it, even though we’d heard the hospital wasn’t well equipped with specialized doctors to treat patients.
A pulmonologist at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar performed Bronochospy, which was a turning point. The procedure took longer than usual and the team wasn’t very satisfied with the samples collected for biopsy.
The Delay in Reporting
The biopsy report was supposed to come in 5 days. But it took more than ten days in our case, as the pathologist team at AIIMs couldn’t be sure about the type of malignancy or the type of cancer – a result critical to offering the right treatment to the patient.
We were advised to go to TMH, Mumbai to conduct the test again.
Deep inside I knew, we had already wasted a lot of time and the decision to go with AIIMS Bhubaneswar was a big mistake.
In the meanwhile, my father’s vocal cord had been affected resulting in reducing vocal sound to the point where his speech wasn’t audible. So he stopped speaking to people and started expressing himself in writing. We felt terrible but kept hoping it was a temporary phase which and the normal speech would return after recovery.
Reading the Reports Wrong
While we were waiting for reports from AIIMS, we decided to see another oncologist for a second opinion. I went to Hemalata Cancer Hospitals and Research Center where I met a Radiologist.
He looked at the CT Scan report and said it wasn’t a lung tumor but a posterior mediastinal tumor. He said post mediastinal tumor requires a different kind of biopsy approach, and Bronchoscopy was unnecessary. But since the Bronchoscopy had already been performed, he asked me to wait for the reports.
If the consultant at AIIMS had figured the CT Scan reports as well as did the doctor at Hemalata, he would have spared my father of Bronchoscopy and conducted a CT-guided biopsy instead. It would have helped the pathologist team to determine the type of malignancy quicker and more accurately, apart from saving my father of the speech problem.
We were so disappointed with AIIMS that we decided to stick to Hemalata Hospital for the subsequent treatment. The Hemalata Hospital sent the samples to some Delhi lab which took 10 more days to prepare reports. It turns out the sample collected during Bronchoscopy was so bad that it affected the conclusiveness of the biopsy report. The lab finally sent out the reports to the hospital and evidence of sarcoma was found.
After looking at the reports, and having a brief discussion with another medical oncologist in the same hospital, my consultant at Hemalata Hospital decided the dose of chemo and its schedule for the first three months. He said he would conduct a test again after three months to see how the tumor was responding.
My Experience at Hemalata Hospital
The consultant I met at Hemalata speaks reassuringly to patients and is very straight forward in his approach. But he is also too busy and often gives up on patients.
At least, this is what I felt during the treatment of my father at Hemalata Hospital.
My father’s condition started to worsen when the fourth chemo was due – he started feeling breathless and we rushed him to the hospital ICU where he was kept under ventilator.
My consultant kept on telling me to shift my father to some other hospital as their ICU wasn’t equipped to accommodate the terminally-ill patient. But deep inside, I felt he was simply giving up on his patient. It was terrible.
When my father’s conditions started to worsen further, the team even suggested to go for intubation, a process to create a secondary artificial breathing tube. But the consultant was mostly unavailable for support and kept on suggesting that we should shift him to some other hospital.
I was helpless.
Acting on his suggestions, we went to Panda Curie, another cancer hospital located in the middle of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack NH. We met an oncologist who sounded rather over-confident in his approach and mostly missed the point. We were still hoping he could do some magic should we shift my father to his hospital.
It was the 6th of July, 2015. We came back from Panda Curie completely confounded and my father’s conditions were getting only worse by the minute. We decided to stay the night at the hospital. I visited my father at around 10:00 PM for one last time while he was still breathing but slowly. He’d entered into a state hard to explain.
At around 4:30 in the morning, the doctor in the ICU informed us about the passing of my father. It was all over.
Things I Learned During the Treatment Process
Don’t Act in a Hurry
Don’t act hurriedly. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to calm down and take some time to gather more information. I learned this the hard way. I could have simply waited until I gathered more information with regards to the best course of action available to me. I could have simply consulted a couple of oncologists before taking any actions. But I became hyper proactive and rushed to Kolkata based on some unverified information.
Be Careful about Whom You Trust with Advice
When it comes to health advice, never trust any source of information blindly no matter how authentic you think they are. Always verify the information from other sources and take a second or third opinion before acting on the advice you received from the first source. I trusted the source who said he could get us an appointment on the same day but I could have simply called up the TMC staff and confirmed if it was actually possible to get an appointment on the same day.
Gather More Information
Odisha is the worst place when it comes to accessing medical information and advice. I felt the state government should come up with a portal that could offer sufficient information regarding diseases such as cancer.
Learn about various NGOs working to help cancer patients in need of advice. At a later stage, I came to know about an NGO formed by some Odia folks in Navi Mumbai, which provides assistance to cancer patients visiting TMH, Mumbai. They not only give you free advice but help you with low-cost accommodation and transport if you ever decide to visit TMH for treatment. I wish somebody had told me about them before I went to TMC, Kolkata!
I always wonder why doctors don’t create and maintain a blog of their own. It would help them guide many people looking for information online. Dr. Jagannath is one such rare professionals in India who has a very active blog to communicate with normal folks with you and I. It’s not like he has spare time – he must be as busy as any other professionals in India. In fact, he is presently the Chairman, Department of Surgical Oncology, Lilavati Hospital and Research Centre, and Professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology, Asian Institute of Oncology, S.L. Raheja Hospital, Mumbai. I highly recommend his blog to everyone looking to get trusted opinions on cancer from an Indian oncologist.
Take a Second Opinion
I always regret not having consulted the doctor at Hemalata Hospital with the reports before taking my father to AIIMS. It could have saved him the unnecessary bronchoscopy performed on him, which, apart from leading to inconclusive reports, led to the speech problem. He could have expressed himself better during the treatment procedure if he’d been able to speak normally. I’m not suggesting you should go to Hemalata Hospital only, but there’s no harm in approaching their consultants although you should consult a couple of more oncologists as well.
Choose Hospitals Carefully
I regret choosing AIIMS Bhubaneswar for the team didn’t have any idea of what they were doing. They performed bronchoscopy just because it was suggested in the reports. They couldn’t figure out anything differently from the CT Scan report of my father as did the team at Hemalata Hospital. I also felt the pathologist team at AIIMS weren’t quite professional in their approach or very confident about the outcome of their investigation. But then, they couldn’t have done any better when the samples collected by the Bronchoscopy team were inaccurate, to begin with.
Choose an Oncologist Carefully
A doctor is supposed to be supportive in a way that he should answer all your questions. Each appointment with the consultant at Hemalata Hospital lasted about 5-10 minutes because he would be in a hurry to finish it so he could move ahead with the next patient in line. It was a private hospital so I expected better consultation from him. He was just too busy. Another challenge in choosing the right oncologist in Bhubaneswar is there it’s difficult to find one that is knowledgeable yet not commercial. If a doctor is commercial, you can never trust him with the best treatment. This is exactly why you should consult at least 3-4 oncologists before moving ahead with any biopsy. This is very important to remember and I learned it the hard way.
Don’t Underestimate Cancer
While this sounds like an obvious thing to you, I’m making the statement from a different perspective altogether.
I’d heard and read quite a few negative side-effects about chemotherapy before. So I was naturally apprehensive about doing things that could make it worse. My father was 71 and, almost all oncologists said removing the tumor surgically could backfire given the age factor. Radiology was out of questions because it is usually effective as a secondary treatment to remove any left-over cancer tissues after a surgery is performed or chemotherapy administered. So chemotherapy was the only choice left for us.
To our surprise, the cost and impact of chemotherapy drugs were at their minimal. At one point, the consultant himself was surprised at the low cost of the drugs when he learned about it after the first chemo was administered.
Turns out, the drugs were specific to my father’s conditions and they didn’t have the usually negative impacts I’d learned about chemo drugs. The only impact I could observe was the loss of appetite – it was tough to convince chemo patients about eating sufficiently. At the same time, there are restrictions on what a patient undergoing chemotherapy must or must not eat.
At one point, I thought the chemo was working because my father didn’t have to suffer all the usual side effects of a standard chemotherapy drug. We were quite hopeful that it was working. Even the consultant at Hemalata Hospital was hopeful after observing no side effects of the first couple of chemo drugs. But, when my father was admitted in the ICU, they conducted a chest X-ray to realize the cancerous tumor had metastasized (spread in layman terms). So we’d been wrong in our observation all along. We underestimated the power of cancer.
Consult a Dietitian
The first thing I did before chemotherapy was I consulted a dietician since I was not very sure as to what my father should eat or abstain from eating. It was of great help meeting the dietitian at Kalinga Hospital, who spoke to us for about an hour and prepared a list of food items my father should take during chemotherapy. I felt very assured about the diet thing after meeting the dietician. So, I strongly recommend meeting a dietician before chemotherapy.
Spend Most of Your Time with Patient
Try to spend most of your time with the cancer patient as they would be needing your care and company at all times. In fact, this is the only thing one could do without depending on others. Knowing that my father’s cancer was at an advanced stage, and things could get worse at any point in time, I was there for him, trying to motivate him as much as I could. It can be emotionally and mentally very taxing on you because seeing a family member suffering from cancer can be very distressful. I had to juggle between work and responsibilities during the treatment phase, although I was never there at work mentally. Here are some practical tips on how to help a chemotherapy patients.
Here are some resources that could help you with information regarding cancer treatments in India. They may not be definitive but at least, they will give you some idea based on which you could conduct further research.
Cheap Cancer Hospital in India – Check Out This List
Types of Lung Surgery Options – Here are Your Options
Find the Most Likely Treatment for Your Cancer – Answer Some Simple Questions
Recommended Diets to a Chemo Patient – Here’s a List of Diets
Comprehensive Guide to Chemotherapy – Read It Here
Success Rate of Chemotherapy – A Very Informative and Well-researched Article
How to Figure Out if Chemotherapy is Working – Read the Various Responses
Interact with a Reputable Indian Oncologist – I Highly Recommend This Blog
Top Cancer Blogs for Advice, Support and Inspiration – An Incredible Source