Poornima Sardana (Ovarian Cancer): The Power To Heal Is Within You

Early Symptoms and Detection:

I went through treatment for Ovarian Cancer and Endometrial Carcinoma. I got diagnosed when I was 30. It was obviously shocking and unexpected out of the blue.

I thought it was just a cyst but it turned out to be cancerous. The symptoms were more or less related to the digestive system and for a very long time, I did not even suspect that it could be something related to the cyst that I also had. So the two things went hand in hand. I had a lot of pain and diarrhea that could return, so a lot of doctors diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel syndrome(IBS) . And none of the medicines worked because obviously it was not IBS.

The other thing was that I had severe pain  during menstruation because of the cyst. I couldn’t even work because it was very painful. I did not take the growth of the cyst  seriously. Moreover, some doctors told me that it’s just a normal cyst and will go by itself.

As soon as I got the biopsy report, until then, I was just thinking that it must have been a normal cyst. But after the report, it occurred to be Ovarian Cancer.

My immediate reaction was “okay, fine, let’s get down with how to manage this thing and figure out the practical aspects of it”. I never had any time for any emotional reaction at that moment.

Optimism can help you smile through everything

It was a very interesting time in my life, because I was about to get married and I was about to start a new phase of my life. So, a lot of new things were just on the horizon. Also, in my career, it was a good time after so many years of struggle. 

But, unfortunately, Cancer occurred and everything came to a pause. 

But, I tried to look at the positive side and searched for the next step. I absolutely knew what it was and I wasn’t breaking down. My first reaction was “okay, let’s figure out the next step because that’s what is important”.My optimism was helping everybody around me as well and they thought, okay she will fight and come out of it easily.

My life completely turned around. It was telling me to pause and reflect on things happening around me. And then when I looked back, I realised I was not having a very healthy lifestyle and I was working 24×7. I realised the way I dealt with my body and treated it was horrible but it takes time to come to that realization and understand that this pause was a necessity in my life.

Precautions and other Treatments

Well, my treatment primarily was allopathic. I followed whatever the doctor’s told me. But I did make other kinds of arrangements to just ease out things for myself. I used coconut oil, for rinsing the mouth, because that helped me with the ulcers. During chemotherapy, I drank a large amount of coconut water. I changed my diet a bit because my digestive system was getting affected by chemotherapy. I reduced the consumption of wheat. Instead, I moved over to rice or millets, whichever suited me.

I also cut down my sugar intake and moved over to jaggery. I completely removed anything processed from my diet. I was recommended not to have a lot of fruits because I could catch infections if it’s not clean. So by maintaining absolute hygiene and sanitation, I actually consumed fruits and salads quite a bit, instead of not having it as it was suggested. I had a lot of chicken broth towards the end, when my stomach was really weak. So, consuming chicken broth and rice helped me.I switched over to cold pressed oils or mostly mustard or coconut oil or ghee.

I used to have pomegranate juice and it  helped me a lot in acid reflux. I couldn’t relish the taste of Celery or Carrot juice but it was effective as well. I also started yoga and meditation which helped me a lot at that stage.

I openly reached out to all my friends and my whole network. The positives of reaching out were much more than the negativeS. When I reached out to people, I received great support in different ways. They were kind and generous. People who’ve gone through similar experiences wrote back to me which gave me a lot of strength. So I would certainly say that actually, rather than suffering alone and being silent and miserable, do reach out to people and tell them what’s going on.

I work in a museum so I have a deep relationship with art, music, culture and literature. The access to paintings and literature really helped me at that moment.

Challenges/Side Effects

I’m still figuring out how I managed my side effects. The longest had been digestion problems as my stomach was severely affected by Chemo. What helped me in healing the gut has been mostly rice based food, light foods such as dal chawal, khichdi, and curd. I’ve als reduced the spices. 

 To all Caregivers are also warriors

I think people try to show empathy upon sick people, but they never understand what a caregiver might have been going through. I feel gratitude for my caregivers. I wasn’t the only one who went through this. It’s the whole family and the caregivers. At that moment, I was thinking only of myself. But at the same time, I also made sure that my mother can continue her work. I also tried to give them a break by sending them off for a movie  or to relax. I had the privilege of having so many friends in my city who could come and spend time with me.  

My Life Post – Cancer

For some months I couldn’t believe it after treatment due to the fear of recurrence of cancer. The first year after recovery was difficult but later I stopped worrying about it.And I think the more I stop worrying about it, the more I am able to enjoy my life. It’s a good feeling. Also, right after my chemo, I wanted to start something for cancer patients. I got an opportunity to present my idea to the senior doctors in the hospital and the board members as well. And now, I think that I have adopted a more natural pace to life.

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