A continuing struggle

One of the four types of thyroid cancers that often occurs before the age of 45 – papillary thyroid cancer – is medically explained as the “cancer that forms in the follicular cells in the thyroid, and gradually grows in small finger-like shapes,” according to the National Cancer Institute in the US.

Not far from the Hurigahamula junction in Horampella lives a husband and a father of two schooling sons, who is unwillingly familiar with the aforementioned form of cancer; whose unpleasant phase in life still continues to echo even after his recovery. With him is a family that equally struggles to fight for their daily survival.

A grim chapter begins

A common early symptom of this cancer is feeling a lump in the neck which shortly leads to swelling. This subsequently makes it difficult to perform simple tasks such as swallowing. Early in 2007, Prasanna felt such a lump in one side of his throat, which raised his concerns and made him consult a doctor at the Ragama Teaching Hospital.

Prasanna had been immediately admitted to the hospital for further examining. Continuing to receive treatment for nearly eight months, the hospital then sent fragments of his tissue to the University of Peradeniya for tests, which had taken, as it generally might, three weeks to produce its results.

Meanwhile, he felt another lump in the other side of the throat, causing the doctors of the Ragama Teaching Hospital to transfer him to the National Cancer Hospital in Maharagama in the hope of receiving definite answers as to whether the lumps were exposed to the probability of developing into a cancer.

The Histopathology Report done by the National Cancer Institute in mid-2007 affirmed as well as elaborated the feared doubts. Accordingly, it indicated that almost all sections of the tissue tested contained tumour deposits, concluding that it was papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland.

The struggle continues

Years after his slow recovery, Prasanna talks about the bitter life he continues to live. Once a man who provided for his family – standing on his own feet – now, he is a man who can no longer support his family as he wishes; let alone being able to tilt his head to the side.

Only relief provided by the Government – which is insufficient against the many costs such as medication, schooling, and consumption – helps this family survive its daily struggles, explains Minuwangoda Divisional Secretariat Grama Niladhari W.A.I. Dilhani in her official correspondence.

“The surgery that was done at the Cancer Hospital has made my neck seem like it’s tightened by a chain,” he explains, not complaining, but expressing his inability to keep himself occupied as he once did. Though having a 90% survival rate, the difficulties now faced by Prasanna and his family continue.

The head of the temple Ven. Horampella Somananda Thero, attested to the fact that Prasanna suffered tremendously during that period of time, and added that Prasanna’s wife had also gone through surgery on one of her hands due to neurological complications.

Yet, with great difficulty, she endeavours to support the family. “The effort that my wife makes to run this family is beyond words. She prepares ‘murukku’ (a snack made with rice/dhal flour) late in the night around 11.30 p.m. and packets them to sell; she walks from shop to shop to sell and earn something,” Prasanna explains. He said that there are even days without any income at all.

Before the doorway of feebleness and vulnerability, Prasanna and his family made a decision to mortgage the house and land for Rs. 500,000 to spend on post-surgery medications. After more than eight years having passed, since falling into debt, the family still struggles to settle the mortgage debt amidst the pressures from the creditor.

Many unexpected obstacles come our way, and sharing such real-life experiences with our readers, is one thing we can do.
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By Judy Fernando