Being a centenarian in a country where the average life expectancy is 60 years is achievement enough. But 103-year-old Sagarbai Bakshi can also proudly proclaim that she stared cancer in the face and lived to tell the tale.
The retired teacher recently underwent a surgical removal of her right breast — a mastectomy —which had a cancerous tumour at Bombay Hospital. In 1998, her left breast had also been removed due to cancer.
Doctors claimed Bakshi is one of the oldest patients to have undergone the procedure. “I have treated women as young as 18 and as old as 80, but never someone older than that,” said oncologist Dr Sanjay Sharma, who performed the surgery.
He said Bakshi’s story should inspire the elderly to not give up.
Mastectomy is a routine procedure but any surgery in old age is risky as the patient may not be able to tolerate anaesthesia and succumb.
Bakshi did not even need to go under the knife. She could have taken medicines to control the growth of the tumor. But she opted for the surgery. “I am not scared of surgery. I just wanted to get rid of the cancer,” Bakshi said in a frail voice.
Sharma said Bakshi was deemed fit as her “physiological age” is much lower than her actual age. “She has high blood pressure, but she has led an active life so she was fit and mentally alert,” he said.
Bakshi’s stitches had still not come off but she insisted on returning home after three days in hospital as she was missing cricket matches and soap operas. She is leading a normal life now in her Thakurdwar residence. She has to just pop one pill every day, an anti-hormonal drug that will prevent the cancer from recurring. “She still gets up early, meditates and never eats after 7 pm,” said Bakshi’s niece Sushila Jain, who lives with her.