Dressed in a bright pink jacket with a delicate pink ribbon pinned on it, Jeannie Mulford, wife of the American ambassador to India, David Mulford, narrated her survival story of fighting breast cancer in the hope that women become more aware about the issue and keep it at bay. At the Women's Press Corps in the capital Thursday, Jeannie Mulford was among three other women who recounted their initial shock, pain, the challenge and finally victory in their battle against breast cancer.
When she discovered that she had breast cancer about two-and-a-half years back during a regular check-up in America, Mulford was devastated. "I don't remember having had short hair ever since I was eight," she smiled, wearing her cropped hair cut with élan.
Advertisement"But there I was, going through the chemotherapy sessions and losing my beautiful hair. David was my pillar of strength and when he had to come back to the embassy in India, I stayed on in America for my treatment with my sisters.
"After a point I realised how lucky I was. I learnt that early detection of cancer can actually save you. The hair didn't matter then. I also got breast reconstruction," Mulford said. But that was not all. A month after the breast surgery, Mulford had an open heart surgery.
"Four weeks after all of that, after I celebrated my 56th birthday, I felt rejuvenated and stood tall wearing my wig in tow," she said. Like Mulford, Devieka Bhojwani, another survivor of breast cancer talked about her experience. And what she did after that.
"Before being detected with breast cancer, I used to work to spread awareness about other diseases like AIDS. But after being affected by cancer, I realised how ill informed people are about breast cancer. "Even the government doesn't support the cause as much. As a result hundreds of people lose their lives every year, just because they are ill informed. Thus, I decided to work for this cause," Bhojwani said.
This gave birth to the Women's Cancer Initiative, a part of the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. "We have been doing a lot of work, like going to the slums and spreading awareness, going to the colleges and teaching young girls how to self examine their breasts.
"But we still have a long way to go. To begin with, we don't have enough mammography centres for cancer detection. And then the tests cost nearly Rs.1,500 which not everyone can afford," Bhojwani said.
According to Bhojwani and the others, the youth should be made more aware about the issue and taught self-examination methods as well so they can in turn teach their mothers and grandmothers back at their homes.
October is the national breast cancer awareness month in America but since this subject is not confined to any boundaries, the American Centre organised the breast cancer awareness meet with the survivors in Delhi as well.
According to the data provided by the European Society for Medical Oncology India has 79,000 new breast cancer cases every year. And there is one new case in India every 6.5 minutes.