The essence of palliative care

Dr Sanghamitra Bora

Dr Sanghamitra Bora, a physician, speaks about the delicate art of administering palliative care

Dr Sanghamitra Bora is an accomplished palliative care physician. She frequently comes across cancer patients from different walks of life with many queries and doubts. Coming from a background where both her grandmother and mother were cancer patients, Dr Bora knew that counselling comes with the huge responsibility of aiding patients to cope with a deadly disease and improve their quality of life. This was a major challenge, but with time counselling became her passion. She was determined to pursue palliative care and help people overcome their fear of cancer. As a palliative care specialist, she has been practising clinical as well as non-clinical skills since taking it up as a profession.

Here, Dr Bora recalls her career journey as a palliative caregiver, both as a carer for her mother and a physician.

“There is a lot of evidence that counselling can help cope better with the many difficulties that patients face. Even though I was in the profession, it wasn’t easy counselling my mother who is a cancer survivor. I soon realised that it’s an art and one requires an abundance of experience to deal with sensitive issues. I decided to improve my counselling skills, and my objective is to empower patients with the confidence to make their own choices.

“Cancer not only impacts the one who is suffering, but in most cases family members also have to go through traumatic days. More often, relatives prefer not to disclose the disease to the patient since they worry about their emotional wellbeing. My suggestion is to let the patient know of his or her disease because it’s their right to know and this will help them prepare for the course of treatment. Post-diagnosis information that is patient-friendly and leads to proper decision making is essential. Moreover, patients require emotional support to help them deal with uncertainty as they navigate the healthcare system. This is where counselling plays a crucial role.

“Another challenge that we face is the stigma related to cancer. For example, people think that if a cancer patient touches or uses utensils or clothes of others, then the disease will spread unto them — this is the biggest myth. There is an urgent need to get rid of these stigmas that create obstacles in the process of treatment. Patients shy away from speaking up for the fear of being rejected by society. When we talk about prevention and awareness, we also need to educate people regarding these myths.

“It might be a challenging journey, but not impossible as I have walked this path along with my mother. Patients and family members need to face the reality with courage because this is your fight and you have to find your own hammer. Besides, meditation and yoga also helps in crafting a positive aura.”