Friday the 7th September saw the The 7th edition of The Indian Breast Cancer Survivors conference which was held at the International Centre Donna Paula, Goa. The program began at 9.30 am with an Icebreaker by Sameera Singh who has been associated with the Conference since 2011. This was followed by a talk on the latest treatments available for Breast Cancer by Dr Shona Nag who is an Oncologist from Pune and also Trustee of the Nag Foundation. Dr. Nag emphasized that Cancer treatment is now at a very exciting stage and treatments are no longer general, but specific to the patient’s breast cancer sub-type. “ This is the era of precision medicine” she said. This was followed by a keynote address from the eminent breast surgeon Dr. Mandar Nadkarni trained at The Tata Memorial Hospital. He is currently the Chief of Breast Surgery at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai. The theme of his talk was the importance of survivorship in India. The formal inauguration was conducted by Mrs Pallavi Dempo and Wendell Rodricks. Other dignitaries present on the stage were Mrs Deveika Bhojwani- Vice President, Womens Cancer Initiative, Tata Hospital Mumbai, Dr Shekhar Salkar- Head Dept of Oncology- Manipal hospital Goa- President Goa Medical Council - President GOKARNA Oncology Association, Dr Mandar Nadkarni and Dr Shona Nag. Mrs Dempo praised the efforts of the team and saluted the survivors for their courage in fighting and overcoming this dreaded disease. Wendell Rodericks said it was amazing how so many women had come together for a cause such as this and together they would definitely connect, celebrate and conquer. The afternoon consisted of sessions on Long Term side effects of cancer treatment and eating right, and the day concluded with a light laughter and dance therapy session. The conference will continue for half a day tomorrow and important issues such as post treatment lymphedema and sexuality after cancer treatment will be discussed. Experience sharing will also be an important part of the second day’s proceedings. The purpose of this Survivor’s Conference has been to help women get back to a new normal after breast cancer treatment and act as ambassadors to spread the importance of breast cancer prevention and treatment in their communities. The Conference is a joint effort by The Nag Foundation and Womens Cancer Initiative and has been previously held in the cities of Pune, Mumbai and Nashik. Survivors who have attended this conference previously have come not only from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, but also from Goa, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Delhi and Bangalore. This year for the first time it has been brought to Goa with the support of Muskan ( an NGO) and Dr Shekhar Salkar. The second day of the 7th Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference started with a rejuvenating and beneficial yoga therapy session by Ashwini Raga that was structured around the health needs of the Breast Cancer Survivor. Conducted on the lawns it was a session that energized and lifted the spirits. The first session was ‘Recognising signs and symptoms of Lymphoedema and itsManagement’ conducted by Ashwini TR from Pune. Beginning from explaining what lymphedema is she went into details about what to expect, how to manage, best exercises, control tips, massages, etc. Every single question relating to the topic was asked and answered in both English and Hindi. This was followed by a session called Troubles on the table” by Sameera Singh. Divided into groups, each group anonymously wrote out their top three troubles on a piece of paper and put them on the table. The papers were then exchanged and everyone was looking at someone else’s troubles. More or less unanimously everyone decided that their own troubles were the ones they could live with! Deveika Bhojwani distributed bras for those who had had mastectomys which were given to her by Marks & Spencer and our survivors were immensely grateful! Rebecca D’souza then conducted a session on Issues related to body image, Sexuality and intimacy. It was a deeply revealing, straight up, no nonsense session that addressed many issues such as man-woman relationships, how one should love oneself and ones body, why intimacy is needed, why women should look after themselves and satisfy their needs, etc. Amid some embarrassment, some laughter, some frankness…the session was a much needed, much appreciated, beautifully conducted one. Finally after group photographs, many many selfies against the event backdrop and exchange of telephone numbers and information, the survivors reluctantly left, promising to stay in touch and to meet next year in Pune at the 8th Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference.
The 6th Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference took place in Nashik. The conference was organized by CancerHCG – Manavata Cancer Centre in collaboration with Nag Foundation and Women’s Cancer Initiative,Mumbai. The conference was attended by more than 250 women from all over Maharashtra suffering from Breast Cancer. Keeping to the theme of the Conference “Connect, Celebrate and Conquer sessions were well designed. The session were interactive and informative. Apart for the medical sessions which focussed on the phsycial needs to the patients and survivors, the supportive sessions were appreciated. The nutrition session was different and greatly inspiring. Colour as thereupatic value was beneficailly. Creating a tree of life, using the leaves containing the names of the participants helped women connect to each other. Also greatly empowering was the exhibition of the talents of the survivors which was displayed prominently in the conference hall foyer. The two day conference ended with rejuvenated and emotional strong bonds of friendship cemented by a common factor.
The 2016 edition of the Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference, organized by Nag Foundation and in association with Women's Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital, was held at the Sheraton Grand Pune. The conference was attended by 350 participants from Pune, Goa, Nashik, Ahmednagar, and even as far as Delhi and Chennai. The objective of the conference was to gain an understanding of the various aspects of survivorship. Along with the scientific sessions, the sessions introduced coping with emotions using expressive therapy. Art and Dance and movement therapy rejuvenated the participants while the Healthy Cooking tickled the palette. A parallel session on advocacy as a part of the Conference was held, which focused on gathering inputs, thoughts, and the carrying forward of ideas into concrete programs to aid cancer patients and to provide the best possible treatment and care. The advocacy session was attended by individuals from different organizations across India. The closing resolution of the 2016 Conference lay in the creation of an awareness charter aimed at collaboration and uniformity in awareness programs across the country. The charter would be a combined effort by the organizations in attendance. As of now, a joint charter is being drawn, bringing to light 5-6 key points in relation to creating awareness as a part of the early detection and betterment of treatment and services to all.
The 2015 leg of the annual Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference, organized by Nag Foundation, Pune along with Women Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai focused on empowering women who have been treated for breast cancer. The survivors were informed of the current progress in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, and life after cancer – this addressed problems of survivorship that included bone health, premature menopause, sexuality, lymphoedema, lifestyle issues like diet and exercise, etc. After being made aware of this knowledge, these women emissaries went on to spread facts and dispel misconceptions regarding breast cancer among the general public. This also makes the survivors better equipped with resolving problems that may take place post treatment for themselves.
The third annual Indian Breast Cancer Survivors Conference, held in 2014 was deemed to be a great success with over 250 survivors and healthcare professionals in attendance. What made it special and even more impactful was that it was organized by members of the Breast Friend Support Group, an initiative for women who have suffered from Breast Cancer at any point in their lives along with their families. Nag Foundation, Pune and Women Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai were the driving force behind the conference.
An additional event as a part of the Survivors Conference was a 1.5 km "Walk for Cancer", in association with Globeathon International, which was a cancer awareness walk with over 1000 participants. The objective of this walk, held on MG Road in Pune, was to not only spread awareness about Breast Cancer, but also to show solidarity and support to the survivors and patients.
The second annual Indian Breast Cancer Survivors conference was held in 2013, in Nashik. It was organized by the Manaavta Cancer Centre in association with Nag Foundation, Pune and Women Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. The attendees were survivors from Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and surrounding areas. This conference though, was also open to caregivers and addressed their needs and problems in a separate session. This conference was focused on survivor issues as well. Survivorship issues include the increased financial burden, concurrent medical problems, psychosocial issues, rehabilitation opportunities, and so on.
This started as a part of a Patient Empowerment Initiative, where Nag Foundation worked with Breast Friends Pune and Women's Cancer Initiative, Tata Memorial Hospital. Each year the conference is enveloped around a theme, which includes talks and activities for survivors, addressing issues they may face while they are in remission.