Durga Gopal has survived cancer twice and also spent thousands of rupees on her treatment. She is now committed to prevent other patients from going through what she did.
Durga Gopal of Delhi has survived two attacks of severe cancer by the age of 70. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, her husband had just died, and her children were living in the United States and Germany.
When the debts began to pile up, she was forced to sell her home in Delhi in order to finance therapy. Despite being alone and apart from her relatives (who resided in Hyderabad), the retired bank employee put on a brave front and resolved to go through the agonising chemotherapy treatment alone.
“A huge mass was removed after a month of radiation and five years of treatment, and she was proclaimed cancer-free.” But cancer returned seven years later, spreading to her lungs. As with ‘Stage Four,’ it was more forceful and painful this time. Survival prospects are often minimal at this time.Durga, who refused to give up, moved in with her brother in Hyderabad to deal with the problem.
Durga finally won her battle against cancer, despite the fact that another round of medicine and radiation took a toll on her mental, financial, and emotional well-being. Four years have passed since then. Cancer did not break her spirit, and she has instead become a light of hope for countless survivors like herself by offering counselling.
She has also raised many lakh rupees in contributions for them throughout this time. Living with a condition like cancer may be psychologically and physically draining.Shortness of breath, weakness, vomiting, and headaches become an everyday occurrence. Clinging to optimism and positivity in the midst of all of this may be difficult. The sickness may shatter a person’s spirit and possibly kill them.
“It’s essential to have a fighting spirit and mental power to deal with this,” Durga explains. “Even when the doctors told me I was in stage four, I was not afraid of dying because I was in my late sixties at the time. Durga is not obliged to travel to the hospital for chemo, but she is required to inject some drugs from the hospital every 21 days. Each session might cost up to Rs 40,000.”
Cancer treatment is quite expensive, and I had been using my insurance money to meet the costs up until now. However, many people I meet on hospital visits have to beg money from their relatives or take out loans in order to live another day.
“I wanted to aid such patients while also keeping myself busy,” she says. Durga made good use of her retirement time by writing the book ‘Rendevouz with Cancer,’ which details her story. She opted to work at the Omega Hospital, where she was receiving therapy, once it was published. She undertook volunteer work because she did not have a medical degree.
She began going on rounds and chatting to patients with her oncologist, Dr. Palanki Dattatreya. She was here for nine months before moving on to Soumya Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Secunderabad with him. Her efforts and book raised her profile in the cancer community, and she was invited to speak as a cancer survivor at a global online conference during cancer awareness month in 2020. Members of the Myna Foundation, a US-based organisation that was also present at the conference, approached her about organising a fundraising event in Hyderabad.
“The organisation was founded 12 years ago by NRIs to gather funds from friends and relatives to aid cancer patients in India. They invited me to join them in raising donations for Omega Hospital patients. We were able to provide 50 mammograms for breast cancer patients from low-income households.
She says, “After seeing the response, they added Rs 1,000,000 to fund chemo sessions for ten people. 20 lakh in 16 days…” Durga chose to treat people with various forms of cancer after being inspired by these two campaigns. She raised about Rs 20 lakh in 16 days with the support of Soumya Hospital, former bank workers, family, and friends. They have so far been able to fund treatments for more than 50 people.
Raising cash and helping at the hospital may be exhausting for a septuagenarian, but it is a method for Durga to cope with her concerns and fears. Every individual she encounters with gives her strength. It’s my pleasure to help.