On Tuesday, August 24, Usha Patil (name changed), a 65-year-old woman travelled from Kolhapur to Pune for lymphoedema treatment. One of the prime reasons which motivated her to make this journey was the encouragement offered to her by woman she was acquainted with.
“I had neglected my lymphoedema earlier. But Ashwini insisted that I should take the treatment regularly and not let my family responsibilities affect my health. I love the way she convinced me and my daughter. I get motivated to carry when I see that Ashwini who herself is a survivor.”
Ashwini Tripathi is a 36-year-old breast cancer survivor who counsels patients with breast cancer at Jehangir Hospital in Pune. Tripathi was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2014. She put up a brave fight against it and emerged victorious.
It’s been a year since a year Tripathi has been offering free counselling services thrice a week at Jehangir Hospital for women afflicted with cancer.
Prior to this she was a HR manager in an IT firm in Pune. With 13 years of experience in the corporate field she had all the dreams and passions to pursue her career until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2014.
During the time she was undergoing treatment for cancer, Tripathi used to get calls from cancer patients referred by her colleagues and friends. She never left her job even though she was undergoing chemotherapy. She also got calls from other cancer patients seeking help. One day she told her oncologist, that she wanted to work for cancer patients. Her doctor welcomed the idea and that is how it all started.
When asked about what prompted her to start this free counselling service, Tripathi explained, “As somebody who has gone through it, I can inform them about cancer in a more effective way. The word ‘cancer’ is foreign to a person the first time they get diagnosed with it. They only think that cancer kills people. But, I can help them in getting treated, since I too have experienced it. I was fortunate enough that I got immense support from my family, colleagues and friends. I wanted to be a support system for those who are going through what I went through few years back.”
Tripathi has now left her HR job and wants to work for cancer patients in some way or the other. “I scold women for their negligence, I give them hope, I listen to them on how their life has changed since cancer, I help them with technical aspects of it, and finally I ensure that they go back with determination to fight the disease. In the end, when I tell them that I am a cancer survivor, they get surprised to know how well I have recovered and that motivates them.”
She says, in most cases women don’t priorities their health. “Women think of their family responsibilities first. That is indispensible for them. But they should understand that their health is their responsibility.”
“There are women who don’t want their breast removed. Your body should not define your identity. If you are flat-chested you have prosthesis available. You play with fire if you don’t remove your breast, just to save your marriage. If your husband wants to leave you because you do not have a breast, do you really want to live with such person, who is more interested in your body and not your health?” she said while she was helping a cancer patient with a lymphapress machine.
“Writings of P G Wodehouse and Agatha Christie kept me sane when I was fighting cancer, I believe in sharing my experiences. My experience will help others. This hope and the work with cancer patients are fulfilling,” she added.
Dr Anupama Mane, Consultant Breast Surgeon at Jehangir Hospital, who was a doctor that treated Tripathi, said, “There are very few who fight cancer and help others in their fight against the disease. Ashwini is one of them. We do not have any medical explanation on why breast reconstruction therapy went wrong in her case. At such a young age she was diagnosed with the disease, but I salute to her spirit when I see her counselling and helping cancer patients.”