25 Jan, 2022
Being diagnosed with cancer – be it of any type – is anything but good. No amount of words can describe the frustration, dilemma and fear that the patients and their caregivers go through. Nevertheless, focusing on what matters the most and developing healthy coping strategies to deal with the negative thoughts and physical symptoms become paramount, as patients’ mental health plays a significant role in successful cancer management. This is exactly what Dr Subasini Lenka, a chemistry educator and social worker, did. She worked through her thoughts, picked up a passion for writing during her breast cancer treatment and moved on to become one of Odisha’s adored writers!
Dr Subasini Lenka, who is now 75 years old, was into teaching and research in the field of chemistry till recently. She has 42 years of enriching research experience and 35 years of teaching experience. Apart from teaching and research, she is also actively involved in social service and has dedicated herself to the cause of humanity.
Dr Lenka retired from her job responsibilities sometime in 2003 and was all set to spend her retirement life with her family alongside serving the society. However, her plans had to be paused for a while in 2006, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
A lump she felt in her upper left breast for over a month brought her to HCG Panda Cancer Hospital.
At HCG Panda Cancer Hospital, Cuttack, she met Dr Panda, who recommended further tests along with FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration cytology) biopsy, which confirmed a ductal carcinoma in her breast.
A reliable cancer care program comprises three elements: accurate diagnosis, proper treatment plan and lastly, the treatment delivery. HCG achieves these elements with high-level precision through its unique virtual tumour board that leverages the expertise of more than 400 oncologists to deliver the right care, which ultimately leads to successful clinical outcomes. Each centre in our network houses a multidisciplinary team, where clinical decisions come from the collective experience and expertise of a large number of skilled oncologists.
Dr Panda, who heads the multidisciplinary team at our Cuttack centre, carefully studied Dr Lenka’s condition, guided her through all possible treatment options and ultimately decided to proceed with modified radical mastectomy (MRM). This procedure involves the removal of the entire breast including the skin, areola, nipple, and most axillary lymph nodes, but the pectoralis major (the breast muscle) is spared. This surgery was followed by 6 cycles of chemotherapy.
Dr Lenka’s sheer determination and mental fortitude helped her stay strong throughout the treatment and emerge with flying colours. The expert team at HCG Panda Cancer Hospital also remembers her confidence, optimism and her will to face what was to come – with nothing but courage and hope.
She completed her treatment in 2006 without any complications, and she has been cancer-free since then.
This was 16 years ago when anterior chemotherapy and tru-cut biopsy were not in practice. Yet, the specialists at HCG Panda Cancer Hospital studied Dr Lenka’s condition precisely and were able to come up with the best treatment plan for her.
The treatment phase, for most of the cancer patients, is filled with immense stress. It was not any different for Dr Lenka. However, this did not last long. She was quick enough to come out of this phase; thanks to the tremendous support from her family members and her own strong will.
During her treatment at HCG Panda Cancer Hospital, she chose to start writing, which helped her channel her thoughts and eventually come up with some of the finest works. What started as a healthy coping strategy or hobby, became a passion for Dr Lenka. Regular writing helped keep her mind off the temporary after-effects of the treatment and have a speedy recovery.
Since then, she has written numerous stories and poems that have been loved by many in and outside Odisha.
Today, Dr Lenka is leading a perfectly normal and happy retirement life. Her day is filled with the activities she loves – from daily chores to social work to counselling cancer patients on how to lead a rich and fulfilling life during and after the treatment, whilst contributing to the world of literature. She also became the president of Odisha Chemical Society during the year 2013.
Through her cancer-fighting experience, knowledge and positivity, Dr Lenka is not only spreading awareness but is also spreading hope.
She is eternally thankful to Dr Panda and other specialists at HCG Panda Cancer Hospital, as the specialists were able to treat her condition the right way, the first time.
Breast cancer can happen to anyone, at any age. However, there are several ways to reduce the risk. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, taking the monthly self-breast examination, and opting for annual mammography will help women reduce their breast cancer risk.
HCG is one of the few hospitals around the world with the highest 5-year survival rates for breast cancer cases according to a study carried out by Harvard Business Review. Our patient-centric approach, the highest quality treatment delivery, adoption of the latest technology and novel treatment protocols have all cemented us to be the ultimate destination for cancer care among the masses.