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Against the Unthinkable: Facing the illness with infectious hope

“Hope; that my wife will survive the operation. The word is what sooths me the most. We are hoping for the best.” This, in so many words, is Sameer Sharma’s plea for his beloved wife’s life.
 
Sameer Sharma is a UN diplomat from India who has been stationed in Thailand for the past 12 years, together with his wife, Renu and their 15-year old son. Their life in Thailand has been a happy one, until the unthinkable occurred.
 
“My worst nightmare began three years ago, when my wife noticed a small, painful lump within her breast. We decided to get an examination done at Bumrungrad Hospital, and sure enough they confirmed that there was a 5.8 cm tumor in there. Crucially, it was malignant,” Sameer Sharma tells of the moment he received the devastating news.
 
“At the time she was diagnosed; I wasn’t in Thailand. As soon as my overseas business trip was done with, I hurried back to see to her treatment,” said Sameer, going into detail about the treatment process. “Speed is extremely important during the first stage, she had to be operated on as quickly as possible. The doctors had to remove her entire left breast. Then came the recommended treatment radiotherapy; 12 sessions in total.”
 
The treatment went well, though not without some side effects. However, with the hope and moral support provided by the whole family, all obstacles were overcome. Then the time came for the final stage of treatment; chemotherapy, which was to take approximately one year (6-9 cycle). “The chemotherapy was the hardest part. My wife was in agony, especially when she had to be rushed to the emergency room because her body was not responding to the medication. But we came through thanks to the care provided by the doctors and nurses. Eventually we received the good news that she was free of breast cancer. I am truly grateful to everyone.” Sameer smiled.
 

Still not out of the woods

“Everything seemed to be going well, we got our happy family back. But about a year later, while I was working in Tonga, I received that most dreaded piece of news once again. Renu was experiencing pains in her chest, really badly. She was finding it hard to breathe, and had to seek urgent treatment. I had to immediately abort my assignment in Tonga to get to the hospital as soon as possible,” Sameer recounted his nightmare. “Up to that point, I had believed that my wife was completely free of breast cancer. It felt like fortune was playing games with us, because the cancer came back to my wife just when she seemed so healthy again. Only this time it had also spread to the lungs. It hit her hard,” Sameer said with the look of someone who has just been dealt a painful blow but remains uncowed.
 
“We were met by Dr. Suthida Suwanvecho, who is such a highly skilled oncologist. Not only that, she is also a very good-hearted person, and she was able to help us shift our mindset away from believing that cancer is a hard-to-cure and inevitably fatal disease.”
 
Chemotherapy course was not an easy journey. Physicians were forced to switch treatment regimens, but her family and the team caring for her at Horizon Regional Cancer Center never faltered in their hope for her to get better. “Over the following two weeks we faced a really difficult period in her treatment. Her condition had to be closely monitored at all times because we were unable to pinpoint the causes of the complications that appeared. She was vomiting severely, was feeling pressure pains on her spine; she was suffering immensely. It hurt me too. It was then that Dr. Suthida decided to operate.”
 
While awaiting surgery, and undergoing detailed pre-operation tests, her condition swung erratically. “I felt assured that she was in the hands of experts. We have nothing but gratitude for the whole team, from the doctors all the way to the pharmacists. At times I was becoming so distraught that I had to take medication myself. But I always received the best words of advice and encouragement from everyone,” said Sameer, referring when the test results came in, and they had to abort the surgery for his wife because, owing to her greatly weakened state, there was only 10 percent chance of success. “Dr. Suthida was very frank with me. She said that she had never seen a successful operation on someone whose body was in such a weak state. She advised against operating, since the chances of my wife surviving the operation were just too low.”
 

Going strong, beyond disappointment

“Renu means the whole world to me. No matter what happens I will stay by her side until the very last second. I’ll get her whatever she needs, physically or otherwise. The doctors were also brilliant in helping to keep our spirits up. They taught us to meditate, and made all kinds of valuable recommendations. My son also found various ways to help his mother heal, even though he was still studying. The way I see it, we’ve been married for 25 years, so of course we’re going to get through just 25 months of cancer, stronger than ever.”
 

A word of encouragement to others

“We should all remember that the hospital is there for us; not only for our loved one who is the patient, but also for us the caregivers. A good hospital will not let the patient be on their own through the ordeal. We all need to know that we have people by our side at all times, and they must never lose hope. Horizon Regional Cancer Center was very good at this; in our case, they were able to sooth and heal both the patient and the family. But this can only happen if the family and the medical staff cooperates and communicates as a team. Please don’t give up. Keep fighting! Believe that the doctors are doing their best for all of you. Even though the road ahead is not easy, if we believe in each other, we will overcome,” said Sameer on the power of hope.
 
 
 

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