Story of 76-year-old Anamma who bounced back to normal life after rectal cancer surgery.
‘We thought mother’s life was about to come to an end…’ Minu’s voice trails off. ‘But then we met Dr. Baiju. To us, he was no less than God in the form of a human being!’
At the advanced age of 76, Anamma was diagnosed with rectal cancer. She had several other complications. Only three years earlier, a pace maker had been fitted in her heart. Minu, one of her children feared that for her mother the end was near.
‘After all’ says Minu, ‘Mother was past 75 and heavily diabetic. We all thought how would she be able to cope with cancer surgery at this age? But it’s been four years since and she lives a normal life independently with no problems at all,’ says Minu about the keyhole surgery for cancer of rectum her mother Anamma underwent with Dr. Senadhipan.
76 year old Anamma had been bleeding through her rectum consistently. While her children told her to consult a doctor, she refused saying it was a case of piles and she could self-medicate it with a daily dose of walnuts. Her daughter often noticed blood spots in her mother’s underskirt and on the bed and begged her to consult a doctor. But Anamma having had a long career of medical experience as a nurse, insisted she knew better and that it was nothing serious.
‘One day, we noticed that her stools were black and were more frequent’ recounts Minu. After that, Anamma’s children refused to take no for an answer and took their mother for a thorough examination. ‘She was identified with rectal cancer. It was a blow for us all!’ says Minu. For a long time, they had given in to their mother’s insistence and not consulted a doctor for her problem. Would that prove to be a costly mistake?
The family began the search for a good doctor to examine and treat their mother. ‘As she is heavily diabetic and has several other complications like thyroid, liver stones and heart problems, we feared the prospect of surgery.’ she says. Open surgery would mean excessive blood loss and the risk of infections. For a 76 year old diabetic with a heart problem, it could translate into other issues including difficulty in healing and longer recovery periods.
Anamma had retired as a Nursing Superintendent and her daughter Minu had worked in a managerial capacity at the public relations office of hospitals. Having spent so long in the health care industry, they both had heard about laparoscopic or keyhole surgery and knew it had inherent benefits over open surgery. The trouble was they did not know a laparoscopic surgeon who could operate for cancer on Anamma at the earliest.
‘I mailed several hospitals in Trivandrum. Not one of them replied to me. I was so disappointed’ says Minu who says she makes it a point to reply promptly to those who write to her hospital and hence did not understand why she was not getting any response. Doctors they consulted advised Anamma to go in for an open surgery to remove the cancer in her rectum. Minu and others in the family were however absolutely certain they did not want their mother to go in for open surgery. Not willing to give up, Minu continued on her quest.
And she finally found light at the end of the tunnel. Through contacts in her church, she was referred to Dr. Senadhipan. Minu looked him up online and found his web page and sent him an email.
‘He responded immediately!’ she says ‘I was pleasantly surprised after my experience with other doctors and hospitals.’
‘We could speak to him the very next day. Not his staff or administration…but the doctor directly’ Minu continues. ‘He asked us to bring mother along with her reports.’ Anamma went to meet him the next day and was advised to undergo a few tests. Upon clear diagnoses, Dr.Senadhipan advised them to go in immediately for a cancer rectum surgery to remove the tumor through laparoscopy. ‘Mother was admitted on a Friday in September 2012. She was operated on Monday. It all happened so swiftly, remarks Minu who had spent the last few months struggling to get information.
They also realised on the day of the surgery that the special 3D laparoscopy equipment that had been flown in from Bombay was being used for the very first time for their mother’s surgery. ‘My mother inaugurated the new laparoscopic equipment at the hospital!’ she says.
At the time of the operation, Dr. Senadhipan realised that Anamma also had liver cirrhosis. So he observed her liver while doing the procedure and told her family about it. It is suspected that continuous use of drugs for her other ailments could perhaps have led to a liver problem. ‘As a result of the procedure, we learnt more about mother’s condition’ says Minu. Moreover, they found out that their mother had never in fact suffered from Piles.
‘Perhaps it was her self-medication of eating large dozes of walnuts that helped in preventing secondary cancer’ says Minu. ‘Perhaps that prevented the cancer from spreading further!’ For Anamma did not require any medicines nor chemotherapy after the surgery.
When asked if everything is alright now, Anamma says after the first year, she had developed a small polyp in the colon, away from earlier surgical site. For that a colonoscopic procedure was done by Dr. Senadhipan to remove it. ‘He used to regularly check my mother’s blood. He did the carcinogenic antigen test to check if she ok.’ Anamma has now recovered completely.
‘She is absolutely fine now. She lives by herself because she wants to remain independent. The bleeding has completely stopped. Earlier, during the problem, she was unable to eat chicken and certain other foods. They would cause her a problem. Now there is no such restriction and she is able to enjoy a wholesome life.’ says Minu with relief.
When Minu’s mother in law had a health problem recently, she says she took her to meet Dr. Senadhipan. ‘It was not related to the problem my mother had. But I felt confident once Dr. Senadhipan gave his opinion. I feel I could trust him.’
‘We are very grateful to Dr. Senadhipan’ says Minu. ‘He is such a simple person. And just like him, his entire team is simple!’ she says. ‘But what is most important is his concern and care for the patient. For him, the patient comes first. He is very approachable and listens carefully to the patient’s problems. He is interested in the well-being of the patient. That made me feel very comfortable’ says Minu.