Breast Cancer Diagnosis
At the time, I felt like something was wrong. I didn't know exactly, but I was aware of the uneasy feeling. On September 15, I realized that I had a little dimpling of the breast. I knocked it off by justifying the dimple's existence as something akin to my childhood bruises. After ten to fifteen days, I noticed the dimple had grown. I explained the growth of the dimple by correlating it with my period. Even after my period, the dimple was still there. I informed my husband about it. He didn't give it much thought and said it was not out of the ordinary. But I felt like I should visit a doctor. I went to the gynecologist, she examined me and told me to rush and take a mammogram. The 72 hours after being tested was nail-biting. I hoped it would be nothing, but in the back of my mind, I knew something was wrong.
The mammogram showed that I had a lump, and it was deep down. We got the result, and it came out that I had Breast Cancer in my left breast. Fortunately, I had friends who were doctors. We got a quick appointment, and in four days, my Surgery was scheduled. I realized that I had made a mistake; my husband had been telling me to take a Breast Cancer mammogram for a long time. Even if it seems like you are asymptomatic and are devoid of cancer, you should always conduct a Breast Cancer self-examination. The earlier you get diagnosed with breast cancer, the easier the treatment is.
Breast Cancer Treatment
The next step was a mastectomy. I was very confident about this. It took about two and a half minutes to register what was happening, but I was entirely prepared after that. After the surgery, I even asked what time it was and why the Surgery took so long. After two days, I came home and decided to drive a car. As I had gone through a mastectomy to remove the breast cancer, I wanted to see if I could still change car gears with my left hand. My husband told me to rest for a few days, but I did not want to lose control of my life. I sat through 8 cycles of Chemotherapy and radiation and lost all my hair. Several support groups helped me during this time in relieving the burden of cancer.
Support Groups and Counseling
We started a support group named 'Things Improve.' We spread Breast Cancer awareness, patient counseling, plays, skits, and dance programs to raise awareness. All of these have two benefits: one, the patient herself feels empowered, and second, cancer does not mean the end of the world and removes the taboo or stigma attached to it. Support groups help with cancer but are also helpful after cancer to deal with the fear of relapse.
After I got diagnosed with breast cancer, I enrolled in a group. They were very supportive and extended a helping hand during this time. In India, there are not many support groups. In a support group, many people have already survived cancer or are going through a similar journey, and they give you a safe space to talk and vent your emotions. You could get a lot of information on Breast Cancer that a doctor cannot help you with: the safe prosthetic to get, the type of bras you should wear, and where to get them. You can go to a doctor for medical support, but you need to talk to a survivor for emotional support during these times.
I did not initially wear a wig as I was comfortable without hair as well. I would be comfortable wearing a bandana. I started wearing it when my son had his parent-teacher meeting and was a little uncomfortable with my predicament. We created a wig bank to help many new patients when they lose their hair.
While counseling, I found that informing them that you are a cancer survivor gives them immense comfort. They may not say it, but it gives them a sense of relief seeing another person who has defeated cancer at a later stage. There have been times where I have shown patients the silicon breast behind the curtains. There is so much Anxiety associated with Breast Cancer during every step of it. Even after beating it, like in a pregnancy, there is Depression following the treatment. The fear of relapse haunts you all the time, and many survivors are paranoid about any Pain. In this regard, what a patient and survivor can share is much more than a doctor or anyone else ever can.
My motivation during the treatment was my will to live. I noticed in many people living with cancer that they internalize their Stress in their lives. I realized that I am grateful for the life God has given me, and unfortunately, I did not live it well. I was determined to live my life to the best and fill it with happiness. I do not believe in many alternative treatments, but I believe in latent strength and positivity.
What shocked people when I got cancer was that I had checked all the boxes; I ate healthily, went on walks, went to the gym, but what they did not see was that I had internalized Stress during that time. Having a positive attitude and living a positive and happy life is crucial. I recommend a few things during this time. Live now, do not Stress about the future. Stress is one of the reasons for Breast Cancer.
Live one day at a time. As a parent, I admit my shortcomings in creating a stressless environment and have reflected on it to improve it. I learned to avoid Stress by taking up a hobby. We should not just pass the time engrossed in Netflix. We should take up an activity to do, like painting, reading, walking, or embroidery, to soothe your nerves.
Today's lifestyle also has many faults, and I know that children go crazy about junk food. Living a disciplined life is essential. A friend of mine is in a family where almost everyone has been affected by cancer. Thankfully, she is a positive and confident girl. She is not overwhelmed with the fear but has tapped into her positivity and lead a healthy lifestyle.
My entire family gave me a lot of support during my cancer journey. My husband, children, parents, and sister-in-law stood hand in hand with me. Around the same time I was diagnosed, Yuvraj Singh was also diagnosed with cancer. I thought to myself then; I am not even a celebrity, then why are so many people praying for me. I am just a Breast Cancer patient. I realized during this time that sharing is caring. Sharing your emotions with other people helps everyone. I become significantly happier when other people tell me their stories.
Cancer changed me and made me a very positive woman. A message to caregivers is to identify the light visible at the end of the road and identify the light right now. They may have a sickness, but they shouldn't be treated with sympathy. When I was fighting breast cancer, I worked the entire time. The length of the journey is long, and they should create happiness. Caregivers have a challenging trip, they are the emotional support, and sometimes the cancer patient can bring them down. But they should keep themselves healthy to be supportive of the patients.