Cancer. The word has a somewhat mythical element to it, no?
After all, Cancer happens to other people. It happens to persons who exist somewhere on the periphery of our circles of known people. A friend’s uncle’s wife or the neighbour’s sister’s son or a grandparent you barely knew. You know, those guys who probably drink and smoke heavily (tsk tsk). Cancer happens to celebrities, to beloved fictional characters in books, movies and TV shows. It happens to Mukesh who is featured in the advertisement before a movie starts to play in the cinemas. Cancer doesn’t happen to me.
Most of us in our youth live in this warm and comfortable bubble of denial. We’re in our fabulous 20s, the world belongs to us, we can eat junk food without a second thought, this is our time- what do you mean cancer can happen to us?
Alright, it’s time to sort some things out. Let’s consult our friend Google for some information.
What is cancer?
The body is made up of trillions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide to make new cells and die in an orderly way. Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control (due to mutation of genes). Instead of dying (like normal cells), cancer continues to grow and form new, abnormal cells. .
Most cancers start because of gene mutations that happen sometime during a person’s lifetime.
[Sourced from: www.cancer.org]
What causes cancer?
Genetic factors: A family history of cancer puts you at a higher risk for developing the disease.
Several environmental factors can contribute to cancer, some of which include:
-Overexposure to UV rays
-Smoking and alcohol abuse
-An unhealthy diet
-Overexposure to hormones
[Sourced from: Wikipedia]
The WHO states that nearly 30% of cancer deaths can be avoided by addressing the main risk factors.
Alright, we’ve now learnt that a mutation to our genetic material causes cancer and we’re probably lucky enough to be born with normally functioning cells without the mutation. However, if we don’t pay enough attention to our lifestyles we could inadvertently be giving ourselves cancer by causing the mutation to occur. Some of us have decided to now take better care of ourselves and to go for regular health check-ups.
But some of us surely think…”I know a person who was a shining example of good habits. Never drank, never smoked, never ate outside-and yet he/she developed cancer. So why should I care? I’d rather live my life to the fullest. I’m young, it’s the age to drink and smoke and eat as I wish! If cancer is written in my destiny then let it come and I will deal with it.”
To you guys…consider this. Let’s say some day (god forbid) you are diagnosed with cancer. And as planned, you are ready for it- you have the strength and energy to bear the pain and rush to the hospital at odd hours. You don’t mind the constant poking and prodding at your body and the zillion tests. You can deal with the unpleasant side effects of medication and you have the patience to answer unending and embarrassing questions. But it’s not just you who will be affected by cancer. Your parents, your siblings, your friends and who knows, by then maybe even your spouse and children- they will all be a part of your cancer journey. They will pay for this nightmare to end and crave for normalcy to return to their lives. And if, if you lose the fight- it is your loved ones who will struggle to pick themselves back up emotionally, psychologically, economically. It will take them years to find closure- if they ever will.
Are you still ready to take the risk?
Do not ignore your health.
by Shivani P Naik
Working for Yoddhas- Indians Fighting Cancer, a UNESCO awarded NGO.
To learn more about Yoddhas, visit: www.yoddhas.com