Manisha Doiphode

The Spirited Fighter

Born with a silver spoon, Manisha worked hard to fulfil her dreams. She started the first ever standalone genetic clinic in the industrial twin township of Pimpri Chinchwad. Just when she thought she could reap the fruits of her labour, the biggest challenge of her life presented itself as she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Nelson Mandela once said, "It always seems impossible until it's done". This quote sums up the phases of my life, perfectly. I was born with the proverbial "silver spoon". It was a fairy tale childhood with everyone including me believing my destiny was chalked out for me. I was going to be a doctor and join my father's nursing home. But destiny had other plans for me. Every step I took there were obstacles thrown my way, which made it difficult for me to achieve that destiny. However, I laboured on, as I have a fighter spirit, believing that I was walking this path towards my ultimate goal of joining my father's nursing home.

Mark Twain said, "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." I made a life-changing decision to pursue what I thought was my real destiny. This alienated me from my parents, family, peers and acquaintances. I quit my postgraduate course, married into a simple middle class family, and pursued a very niche field at that time called ‘genetics’. I didn't know what I would do, but I researched about courses and studied hard to meet the admission criteria. Our Indian education system was very rigid back then and there were no choices to pursue a lesser known field.

I was pregnant with my first child at the time, but I took a loan, lived alone in a foreign place, delivered there and completed my course. I started the first ever standalone genetic clinic "Nityanand Clinic", in the industrial twin township of Pimpri Chinchwad. With two small children to look after and a never-ending financial crisis, it was an uphill task to sustain my practice as my speciality was relatively unknown. Hard work, my self belief and my good results with patients started paying off slowly, and I became a name to be reckoned with in my area of expertise for over a decade of practice. I was appointed as a faculty member for university degree courses on genetics and was invited as speaker to various national and international conferences and workshops. I have published my work and I was awarded the first prize for my poster at the Pune Public Health Conference in 2013.

Just when I thought I could reap the fruits of my labour, the biggest challenge of my life presented itself as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor had started to spread, so I underwent extensive surgery and treatment for almost 10 months with chemotherapy cycles followed by radiotherapy and surgery again.

Once the reality of my condition sunk in, my fighter spirit resolved to fight the cancer. I continued with my clinic schedule, even setting up a partnership firm at the time "Nityanand Genetic Laboratory and Research Centre". I would take 2 days off after every chemotherapy cycle to recuperate and went for radiotherapy sessions after my OPD got over. To incorporate a fitness routine, so important for healing, I continued training with the Pune Running to survive the grueling treatment. It helped prevent me from slipping into chronic depression. I would train during the second and third week after each chemotherapy session. I used to experience debilitating symptoms like joint pain, nausea, weakness coupled with the horror of not only losing my thick hair, but also losing my eyebrows, making me look like an ‘alien’.

Between my cycles of chemotherapy, I ran SBI Pinkathon 2015 and became a Pinkathon ambassador that year.

I am cancer free as on today and I regularly participate in marathons all over India. I'm very passionate about raising awareness about breast cancer and I am a volunteer at the Nag Foundation. I give talks about self breast examination to small groups of ladies in housing societies, because I feel a healthy woman equals a healthy family. I have re-discovered my creative side and have joined a poetry circle to express the poetry I write and I also blog. Breast cancer is a very taboo topic so there is a mountain of work to do. I share my story in the hope of inspiring women, both cancer affected and cancer survivors to speak out about the disease. I am a living example of how a positive outlook and the will to survive go a long way in battling a dreaded disease like cancer. Michael Jordan sums my story up very well with his famous words, "Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it".

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