Big C and Sonali’s story of optimism

The actress says that it is important to break myths about cancer and caregivers need as much support as the patients.

Bollywood actress Sonali Bendre was in the city to attend the Bengaluru chapter of FICCI FLO at Shangri-la Hotel on Wednesday. The actress, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, was in conversation with film critic Rajeev Masand on finding her new normal after
her treatment.

During the discussion, she covered various topics like coping with the dreaded disease, handling mental breakdowns, importance of counselling for caregivers as well as personal anecdotes like how her family’s support helped her.

When asked about her first reaction after getting to know about the disease, she said, “It was scary and it still has a little tingling effect on me. When we flew down to the US, I always knew I would come back but didn’t know when.”

Doctors there had already told her that she had only 30 per cent chances of survival. However, Sonali bravely decided to face it head on.

“I, like anyone, had questioned myself why this was happening to me since I had lived a very healthy life. I did break down, but that day I decided not to ask this question ever again, at least not out of self-pity.”

Saying that cancer is caused by a combination of both genetics and virus, she emphasised on the need for early diagnosis and a healthy lifestyle. “Not just cancer checkups but knowing one’s family history and regular checkups are equally important. It can happen to anybody.”

Talking about the role of a caregiver, Sonali said that that caregivers need as much care and support as the patient.

“Patients have their own issues but it’s an emotional roller coaster for caregivers too. It is extremely important to counsel and support them.”

One of the hardest phases was losing her hair during the treatment.

“My hair was my identity. I have got through many commercials and movies because of it. I felt bare but I didn’t realise, until then, how much I hid behind my hair. Having said that, I learned the lesson that imperfections are beautiful. On a lighter note, it is actually easy for me now. I get ready faster (laughs).” 

For her then 12-year-old son, many myths about cancer were busted during that period. “My husband, Goldie, did the talking. We thought it would be difficult to share this with him but it was not hard at all. Children are very resilient and are more in touch with reality. The scary part is not sharing, which is when they create monsters in their head,” she said, adding that the disease bought her closer to her son.

Sonali has not given any thoughts about penning a book on that period of her life, as she doesn’t want to relive those days again. “Writing a book is a very lonely process and at this point in time, I want to be surrounded by life and people. I still have dark days but I believe it is a part of the healing,” she said. 

She has turned to yoga to help her with the post-treatment period. “I was a hyperactive person and was proud of it but now I take time to do things. I have accepted that I need time and it’s okay not to be a superwoman,” she said.

 

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