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Soothing Cancer-related Stress
Oncologists are well aware of the adverse effects that stress can have on their patients' immune systems. A patient whose immunity is compromised is at greater risk of his body not being able to fight newly-formed cancer cells, thus reducing his chances of surviving the cancer. Because of this, every effort must be made to help reduce the stress for both the patient and his family.

Recent research in both the West and East offer considerable proof that complementary therapies such as meditation and simple breathing exercises can help victims of the modern cancer 'epidemic' find calmness and reduce their cancer-related stress.

Oncologists too suffer from the stress of constantly being with their patients who are not doing well. An oncologist has to break bad news to his patients at least 20,000 times in his life, and that's a very conservative estimate by Indian standards. In Indian hospitals where there is always a high patient load, an oncologist with a service span of 25 years is likely to deliver bad news to a patient 1,00,000 times in his career.

A Ganga Prem Hospice patient facing depression
As a cancer surgeon working at a busy cancer centre in Delhi, Ganga Prem Hospice Medical Director Dr AK Dewan sees around 6,000 patients in a year in his Out Patient Department (OPD) alone. Telling patients for the first time that they have cancer, revealing that the cancer has recurred, that the chemotherapy has not worked, or that their cancer is now in the last stages, are very difficult situations for an oncologist to handle.

He has to be ready for different types of reactions from both the patient and his family. Some patients go into denial, some leave the outcome to destiny, some question why life has singled them out to suffer cancer, while a few show the spirit to fight their disease. Dr Dewan has personally seen that those patients who refuse to accept that they have cancer and who want to fight it generally do better than those who leave their condition to fate.

When a young child dies or when the sole earning member of the family has cancer, it becomes emotionally draining for the doctor as well as for the patient and his family. If an avoidable complication (in hindsight) has occurred with a patient, there is a feeling of great sorrow in the doctor. A complex cancer surgery can also raise anxiety levels in the surgeon. Many times, an oncologist carries the stress of life at work to his home. Snapping at family members is not unusual. Not being able to enjoy meals, or disturbed sleep are also commonplace occurrences in an oncologist's life.

While it is all in a day's work, it is still difficult for doctors, especially oncologists, to keep themselves from being too involved in their patients' lives. In palliative care services, the staff and volunteers involved in caring for advanced cancer patients also frequently experience high levels of stress during their routine work.

Ganga Prem Hospice hopes to introduce simple meditation techniques and breathing exercises to help lower the level of stress not only in patients and their families but also to help members of the Hospice team handle the stress that inevitably comes from serving an ever growing number of cancer patients seeking the Hospice's services.

A Poem on Death
Below is a poem written by Henry Scott Holland. It is based on a letter from Saint Augustine.

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Wipe your tears, and don't cry if you really love me
Your smile is the peace of my heart

Ganga Prem Hospice has a Bereavement Support Programme.
To find out more click here to go to Services in Uttarakhand.

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