A 70-Year-Old from Delhi, Durga Gopal has to spend Lakhs on her treatment for cancer. Now, Durga who survived cancer twice is on a mission to raise money for cancer patients so that they do not have to struggle for money for their treatment.
By age of 70, Durga Gopal from Delhi had battled and survived cancer twice. The first time was in 2010, just after her husband’s death. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her children were abroad and Durga bravely faced this deadly disease alone and got the treatment done. But this retired bank officer could not afford the treatment and had to sell her house in Delhi to pay for the treatment. But she batted and survived cancer. But seven years later, cancer relapsed, and this time affected her lungs. It was more painful and deadly this time as it was stage four cancer. The chances of recovery were slim. But Durga did not give up and she moved in with her brother in Hyderabad and underwent treatment. And managed to recover.
Now four years later, Durga not help provide cancer patients with counselling, but also raise funds for their treatment. According to Durga, counselling is a must for cancer patients since the disease not only affects the body but breaks your will to live. Shortness of breath, weakness, vomiting, and headaches become a part of your daily routine. In between all this, clinging to hope and positivity can be challenging.
“Having a fighting spirit and mental strength to deal with this is a must,” Durga says. “I was fortunate to find both these through friends and family. Even when the doctors said I am at stage four, I was not scared of death, as, by this time, I was already in my late sixties. Presently, I do not have cancer in my body, but doctors say it can come back anytime. Instead of worrying about it, I am trying to live my life like before,” she says.
While she does not have to go to the hospital for chemo, Durga is required to inject certain medications every 21 days from the hospital. And each session costs up to Rs 40,000.
“Cancer treatment is very expensive, and up until now, I was using my insurance money to cover the expenses. But now, that has also stopped, so I have to dig into my savings. But there are many people I come across during hospital visits who have to borrow money from their families or take loans so that they can live one more day. I wanted to help such patients and also find a way to keep myself occupied,” she adds.
Using her retirement time effectively, Durga wrote a book ‘Rendevouz with Cancer’ giving a glimpse into her journey. After its publication, she decided to work in the Omega Hospital, where she was getting her treatment from. Since she did not have a medical degree, she took up voluntary work. With her oncologist Dr Palanki Dattatreya, she started going on rounds and talking to the patients. She worked here for nine months before moving onto Soumya Comprehensive Cancer Centre with him in Secunderabad.
Her work and book made her noticeable in the cancer community, and in 2020, she was invited to speak as a cancer survivor at a global online seminar during cancer awareness month. Members of a US-based organisation called Myna Foundation, who were also part of the seminar, approached her to organise a fundraising event in Hyderabad.
Taking inspiration from these two fundraisers, Durga decided to treat patients of other types of cancer as well. With help from Soumya Hospital, her former bank employees, family and friends, she raised close to Rs 20 lakh in 16 days. So far, they have been able to sponsor treatments for more than 50 patients.
Raising funds and volunteering can be tiresome for elderly people, but for Durga, it is a way to overcome her anxieties and fears. She derives strength from every person she interacts with. She is an inspiration for all.
Credits: The Better India.
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