God Bless You! – Lung Cancer and Social Stigma associated with it

Do you know why we say “God Bless You!” every time somebody sneezes? Well, the origin of the expression could be traced back to 500 AD.

During the outbreak of the bubonic plague in Europe, Gregory I, who was the Pope, then, ordered unceasing prayer for divine intervention in hopes of fighting off the disease. Sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague and hence the blessing became a common effort to halt the disease.

Since then, the expression was adopted socially and has been followed by generations as a blessing to give strength to a sufferer. But we humans belong to an ever evolving society and with passing years, our approach towards our very own society has changed too.

A social human today is turning out to be somebody who prefers to stay inside a circle without letting anybody else inside. Does that mean with our own devised approach and reaction to various situations, we unknowingly are turning out to be selfish? To an extent that the good old blessing – “God Bless You!” is gradually converting into “God Bless Me!”.?

The biggest victim comparing to all the diseases or types of cancer are the victims of Lung Cancer or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) like AIDS. And the whole idea behind this post is to make my readers understand the mental challenge that a critically ill patient suffering from diseases such as these goes through apart from the painful medical procedures.

Lung Cancer is known to be primarily caused by smoking and therefore the victim is mostly assaulted by family members, societies, friends and elders with a common attitude and is pointed fingers at “You should have quit well before time!!” is the first, most common expression in all the cases.

As a result, I see, interaction with family, friends, and even doctors being affected, and many patients, particularly those who had stopped smoking years ago or had never smoked, feel unjustly blamed for their illness. So, you see, whether a patient smoked or not, he would feel particularly stigmatised because the disease is so strongly associated with smoking.

Most of the patients that I treat are already found to be in early stage of depression. They eat less, think more, respond less to the medication and feel the burden of guilt in front of family & friends.

In fact, I hardly come across patients who would proactively ask me about their treatments or condition. So mostly, I try to start a conversation, telling them about the course of treatment and usually encouraging and assuring them that they would respond well if they remain confident.

Our team try to convince and educate the family that there are various factors that leads to lung cancer and it’s not just the smoking alone. We also try to counsel the addictiveness of tobacco (without justifying it) and importance towards support of family to bring in more confidence to the patient.

Every person with lung cancer is someone’s son, daughter, mother or father. I strongly feel that when lung cancer patients and their families publicly share their stories and experiences, they help to put a human face on the disease. Moreover, this gives the general public a reason to care and to act. It also empowers other people living with lung cancer to speak up and advocate for themselves.

Things have changed a lot in the field of Medicine and Surgery, and we are now better equipped against diseases like plague but our age old practice of blessings is still remembered.

Similarly, few years down the line treatment for fatal diseases like lung cancer will improve too and our emotions, I hope, will still be the same. We will continue to support a person in pain with a simple “God Bless You!” for he could be a friend, family or a just another human above everything.

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Comments for “God Bless You! – Lung Cancer and Social Stigma associated with it”

  1. Reply

    Sir , In my building one 75 +yr old lady is lung cancer patient .she is at very moderate stage.she was lossing weight but once radiation therapy started she improved a lot.she gained good weight.This is very good example of latest cutting edge technology helping patients of lung cancer to imrpove life span.

    Rohit Japtiwale,

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