A Rant About Cancer

অতিথি লেখক's picture
Submitted by guest_writer on Tue, 09/04/2013 - 2:05am

According to the eminent British oncologist Willis, "A neoplasm is an abnormal mass of tissue, the growth of which exceeds and is uncoordinated with that of normal tissue and persists in the same excessive manner after cessation of the stimuli that evoked the change". Neoplasms may be of two types : 1)Benign 2)Malignant. No, this is not a lecture on Neoplasia, a topic alien to most non-medical students or professionals. However I have a point to all this so please bear with me.

Benign neoplasms or tumors are the good kind meaning the ones that will probably not get worse, spread or becoming life threatening but do have the potential to turn malignant. Malignant neoplasms or tumors are more commonly known as cancer. That's the kind you should be worried about. It usually starts as an innocent looking growth which may or may not be visible. Unlike a benign tumor, a cancerous tumor continues to grow. Rarely painful, this enlarging growth usually does not have any other associated signs or symptoms. So in general the patient will not feel any major physical disturbances (other than an enlarging mass) until the growth becomes large enough to cause pain and/or other symptoms of compression, or the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver,lungs and bones, and causes symptoms specific to the affected organs. (Too many details? Perhaps). Once the cancer has reached this stage it is beyond cure and therefore early detection and treatment is imperative if full recovery is desired. I promise I have a point to all this.

Early detection is possible only if the patient is very aware of his\her body and notices the growing lump or if an observer points it out. It is then up to the patient to take such an issue seriously and see a doctor. The doctor will, among other investigations, suggest a biopsy if possible, which usually gives a confirmatory result. Once the growth is confirmed to be malignant, treatment options include (depending on type, location and stage of cancer) surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy (more recently other types of treatment such as immunotherapy have become available. However interesting that might sound, lets bear in mind that this is not a medical lecture). Surgical removal is the definitive therapy in case of a lump or tumour. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are usually adjuvant therapies that come with severe side effects. From hair loss and severe loss of appetite to increased risk of infections, cancer treatment is often more painful than the cancer itself. I will get to my point soon.

All this came up during an intense discussion with a friend living in New York. He's been out of Bangladesh for well over 10 years now and let's just say what doesn't affect him directly does not interest him much (this he has admitted to). Our topic of discussion was not health but Bangladesh and it's current political turmoil beginning with the Shahbag movement. He checks up on Bangladesh from time to time but more recently has been barraged by news articles, videos, tweet and facebook links from me. His daily routine has become sending me a message at the beginning of the day asking for a summary of all that has happened in Bangladesh the day before. His response to the political scenario has always been ineludible concern and the suggestion that perhaps Shahbag is ruffling feathers that should have been left alone. I've always debated for the exact opposite and in most cases he has accepted defeat gracefully (which might have to do with his fear of ruffling my feathers). Today there was much to talk about. Between Hefazat's long march(more like long drive), ridiculous 13 point demands and beating up a female journalist, I had enough material for a solid 60 minute one sided conversation. The state of unrest in Bangladesh is far from over, if anything it's probably going to get worse. Following their rally on Saturday, Hefazat protesters tried to occupy Shahbag Square but were chased away by bamboo brandishing Shahabagis. Aside from the strike on Monday, Hefazat intends to siege different districts of the country and hold more rallies and strikes unless the government agrees to their Taliban style 13 point demands. All this information was creating chaos in my friend's head, much like the current situation in Bangladesh, and he finally burst out saying , " I feel like everything was better before all this started. We should have just left them alone and let things go on the way they were!" Perhaps he was right but the fact of the matter is that Jamaat and its allies (one of which is clearly Hefazat) have not been sitting idle all this time. While the general public turned a blind eye, they have been spreading and growing in our society. There are Jamaat affiliated banks, newspapers, TV channels, coaching centres , hospitals, pharmacies and much more. They have spread their ideology and brainwashing to parts of the society most people think are free of their influence. Even though they have never come to power (not even close) through people's votes, showing clearly that the country does not want them in the government, they have spread their tentacles through the fabric of our society and economy. Much like cancer don't you think? They have grown quietly in our country ever since their reinstatement. Like cancer, they did not show enough disturbance yet to warrant significant notice. But we were all more or less aware of this growth. Aware but not responsible enough to see a doctor. The attitude has always been "It's not bothering me directly so I'll just let it be. Someone else is bound to notice and take care of it." The general people cannot be blamed for this attitude because in a country with such openly corrupted political and legal systems, it is already a mission to ensure economic and physical security for yourself and your family. Day to day life is daunting enough without having to worry about a growing lump. But the people did speak up through the Shahbag movement, demanding punishment of war-criminals and ban of Jamaat. However, dirty politics came into play almost right away. Political and religious propaganda about the movement has been spread to such an extent by opposing forces that at the moment, the focus has shifted completely from Jamaat to Hefazat and from war-criminals to atheist bloggers. Countless strikes, counter strikes and associated violence have adversely affected the educational system and economy of the country. All in all 'is this all worth it?' has now become a valid question.

So is this all worth it? To understand we need to rewind to the medical portion of this piece. When Jamaat and its leaders were reinstated in our country by Maj.Gen.Ziaur Rahman, (following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman), they were at best a small almost unnoticeable lump. They might have been benign initially but have undoubtedly taken on a malignant form as the years proceeded. Like a cancerous tumour, they have spread and continue to spread but have not been given any significant direct attention till date because their spread has been silent. By starting the war-crimes trial, the government had brought the tumour to attention. The verdict of Kader Mollah and subsequent Shahbag protest has played the role of investigating said tumour. Through the Shahbag protests, the nature and extent of spread of the Jamaat cancer was brought to our attention. Through the minority attacks, overall violence and blatant use of religious propaganda, it has been confirmed that Jamaat's intentions have always been malignant and their spread beyond belief. The treatment? Surgical removal. Remove Jamaat from our political system, boycott all affiliated institutions that are supporting Jamaat and helping the cancer spread, prosecute and punish the Jamaat leaders who are war-criminals. But the cancer has already reached a stage where adjuvant therapy is immediately needed . And so we have the much detested side effects - political and religious propaganda, Hefazat-e-Islam, rallies, strikes, counter strikes, sieges, violence and deaths, attack on free speech by arresting bloggers etc. Yes the side effects are overwhelming but would you rather sit silently in ignorance while the cancer grows and spreads till it reaches a point beyond cure? Maybe it is already beyond cure.

I have probably oversimplified both cancer and the current situation in Bangladesh. Before treating cancer there are numerous factors to be considered. Often times there are mixed opinions on whether treatment will or will not be effective for a given patient. In parallel there are numerous complicated factors to be considered and mixed opinions about whether banning Jamaat and religion based politics in Bangladesh will be effective or practical. But understand this, while the government has to be the surgeon, we the people need to be the supportive adjuvant therapy. The government's current stance is somewhat ambiguous. Clearly they have opted to concentrate on gaining votes rather than sticking to principles. This has always been the political scenario in our country. But we cannot forget that ours is a country founded on the principles of secularism not religion. Although the constitution was subsequently changed, we remain a nation bound by language and culture. We gained independence at the price of genocide, rape and torture, an independence that fundamentalist forces like Jamaat clearly opposed. We cannot let the criminals responsible for these heinous war crimes go free. We cannot allow forces opposing the founding principles of our land potentially be in a position of power. In these trying times we have to remember the country and the cause that holds us together and continue the fight for justice and freedom from oppressive fundamentalist forces.

I know I will be criticized because I live abroad. It's easy to write and speak of being active with guaranteed exemption from the above 'side effects'. While I am appalled, greatly distressed and worried by the lack of safety and troubles my family and friends back home are facing, I cannot agree that we should have just 'left them alone'. And that, my friends, was the point of this whole rant.



লেনিন's picture

Nice rant. Fanaticism indeed is the cancer reinstated by that khakee freedom-fighter(?) in bangladesh.

অনার্য সঙ্গীত's picture

I know I will be criticized because I live abroad. It's easy to write and speak of being active with guaranteed exemption from the above 'side effects'.

You should not really care about that! What matters is what you think and how you care!

Came to read about cancer, though not disappointed with the turn হাসি

নিজের ভেতর কোথায় সে তীব্র মানুষ!
অক্ষর যাপন

Afroza13's picture

Thanks! Haha! Yes I don't really care which is why the rant! I realize the title and first couple of lines are misleading খাইছে

অতিথি লেখক's picture

Nice article, thank you.

Afroza's picture


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