Type to search

Living Life to the Fullest

December 2017 Patient Care Survivor Survivor Story

Living Life to the Fullest

Cancer survivor: Neerja Malik

Always have intense faith in yourself, your doctors, your family and friends, and above all, in god. And believe firmly that he is healing and strengthening your body, mind and soul.

Neerja Malik

To most people, a diagnosis of cancer sounds like a death sentence, but Neerja Malik sees it differently. “Think of the disease as nothing but a word,” she says. Free-spirited and strong, Malik braved cancer twice in her lifetime. In 1998, eight years after she became a mother to twins, Malik was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was told her chances of survival were just 25%. When she learned of the diagnosis, she cried for three days. Doctors said she would have to go to the US or France as a stem cell transplant was the only treatment that could assure her survival. However, she decided not to go abroad as she believed nobody could decide the length of her life. With her mother’s support, she shifted to Mumbai for her treatment, where she met Dr. Vijay Vishnu Haribhakti who advised a lumpectomy. Call it her luck or her determination, Malik recovered quickly and flew back home in time for her twins’ birthday! Recalling her initial chemotherapy sessions Neerja says, “My doctor had told me I would lose my hair.” And it happened soon after her second round of chemo; while taking a bath, she noticed that her hair was coming off. Instead of worrying about it, she walked up to the balcony, pulled out the rest of her hair and blew it away as though she was letting go of all her sorrows. The idea of going bald did not trouble her. She took things in her stride.

Five years later, in 2004, cancer returned; Malik was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast. She promptly told her husband the news. But she did not change her plans for the day. She went for a movie before she showed the reports to her doctor and broke the news to her friends and family. She returned to Mumbai for surgery. This time, she did not even bother to ask the doctor whether he was doing a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. The surgery was done on November 23, 2004. It was soon after what she calls her “quick Murugan recovery” that Neerja Malik decided to share her experiences with all those who were enduring what she had already been through. A BSW graduate turned school teacher, Malik’s biggest strength is her innate ability to empathize and make others feel that they belong with her.

Recalling her initial chemotherapy sessions Neerja says, “My doctor had told me I would lose my hair.” And it happened soon after her second round of chemo; while taking a bath, she noticed that her hair was coming off. Instead of worrying about it, she walked up to the balcony, pulled out the rest of her hair and blew it away as though she was letting go of all her sorrows. The idea of going bald did not trouble her. She took things in her stride. Five years later, in 2004, cancer returned; Malik was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast. She promptly told her husband the news. But she did not change her plans for the day. She went for a movie before she showed the reports to her doctor and broke the news to her friends and family. She returned to Mumbai for surgery. This time, she did not even bother to ask the doctor whether he was doing a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. The surgery was done on November 23, 2004. It was soon after what she calls her “quick Murugan recovery” that Neerja Malik decided to share her experiences with all those who were enduring what she had already been through. A BSW graduate turned school teacher, Malik’s biggest strength is her innate ability to empathize and make others feel that they belong with her.

Fact File

  • 1998: Diagnosed with breast cancer
  • 2004: Cancer recurred in the right breast
  • Has written a book on her life, called I Inspire
  • Works with an NGO called Sankalp, which aims at educating the girl child
  • Counseling and motivating cancer patients for 18 years

Malik was keen on starting a cancer support group. But one of the friends visiting her after her cancer treatment told her she would have to wait at least five long years in order to be in a position to start a cancer support group. She was disappointed in hearing this, but being determined about what she wanted to do in her life, she started meeting patients and counseling them at hospitals. She has been inspiring, motivating and uplifting the spirit of cancer patients for the past 18 years. A career counselor, inspirational speaker, trustee of an NGO called Sankalp (which primarily aims at educating girl child), she is also an author who has captured her zest for life in her book, Inspire.

Malik shares a unique rapport with all her patients. She gives them practical tips to deal with life, post-chemotherapy.

To patients who come to her worrying about losing their hair during chemotherapy, she asks them to get their hair trimmed so that their near and dear ones can get used to the look. “If they like a wig they should order one before their hair starts falling,” she says. In the long run, these patients become close friends. A Muslim woman who came to Malik for counseling told her that after Allah, she consideredMalik as her god. A man from Oman once requested a counseling session for his ailing mother. Mallik met the frail old lady and prayed with her for about 10 minutes, and soon she had a serene smile on her face.

Today, past the age of 60 years, Malik cycles and does aerobics every day. She enjoys movies, partying, counseling and interacting with students and patients in schools and colleges. She is also the brand ambassador and mascot of the breast cancer awareness run, Pinkathon. One thing that kept Malik going even after being diagnosed with cancer was that she kept up with her routine despite the diagnosis. She did not consider cancer to be the be-all and end-all of life. For her, cancer was just yet another phase in life. And she was very sure that even this would pass. Love one and love all was her driving principle. “Connect with God, connect with people and connect with nature,” says Malik. She strongly believes that laughter is the best medicine. An extrovert, what keeps her going is the conversations she has with people every day. Life could not cheat someone as determined and loving as her.

Tags:

You Might also Like

1 Comment

  1. Free Stuff August 14, 2019

    Thank you for another informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

    Reply

Leave your thoughts

Let's Keep In Touch

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: