I got to know about my Breast Cancer last December when we had just returned after a holiday in Goa. I was just relaxing on a Sunday afternoon when I realized that I was scratching on a huge lump on my left breast.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
The lump was quite big, and I was sure that this was not something normal. I consulted my gynecologist the very next day, and she asked for some scans. I got a mammogram and FNAC done and got its reports the very next day. The reports made it clear that I had Breast Cancer and that it had already reached stage 3. The diagnosis came as a massive shock as I was just 32 then and had no prior family history of Breast Cancer.
I cried a lot in the doctor's office when I got the test results, called up my parents and informed them of the same. I asked them to come the very next day, as I had to undergo a Surgery urgently. But when I reached home barely half an hour later, my whole perspective about cancer had changed. I had been following a strict diet for the past week, but I realized it wasn't of much use now. I immediately asked for some hot parathas since I was missing that for one month. I felt that the diagnosis was okay, as "Shit happens. The important thing was to come out of it strongly.
When members of my family or friends came to visit me, I asked them not to cry as I was sure I would come out of this soon. The one advice that I can give is that when you are diagnosed with cancer, don't go online and start searching for it. I did not Google anything about Breast Cancer because I knew that it might leave me depressed. I decided that I wouldn't take anything as negative and will take each day as it comes. Even in breast cancer, no two patients have the same symptoms and responses to the treatment.
Breast Cancer Treatment
I live in Punjab, but my treatment was done in Gurgaon. I had consulted many oncologists for opinions, but once I confirmed a doctor, I followed his advice to the core. It is necessary that we trust our doctors during the cancer journey. But I did take second opinions at several stages of my Cancer Treatment to confirm that we were going on the right path.
Since it was stage 3 breast cancer, I had six chemotherapies, mastectomy and 28 sessions of Radiotherapy. It was a challenging process, but now I am done with it all.
I feel that I am very blessed as my whole family was very supportive of my Breast Cancer journey. I had told them not to cry in front of me, as it would make me weak, and they understood my reasons and never cried before me after that. Their support and encouragement helped me be my usual self throughout my Breast Cancer journey. Even during my cancer journey, almost 95% of the time, my life was going the way it would have gone without Breast Cancer. Of course, I had the odd bad days like shaving my head, but overall, my cancer journey was fine.
It never occurred to me that I had stage 3 cancer, and hence there was a high risk that I could lose my life or anything as such. There was no plan B for me; the only plan I had was to survive for my family and children.
I am still taking an injection, which I'll need to continue for this year. I have also scheduled a breast reconstruction procedure, for which I'll need to undergo another Surgery.
Importance of Self Examination
I had actually felt some lumps about a year before my diagnosis and had met my gynecologist about it. But since I had just stopped breastfeeding my baby, she dismissed it, saying that it will be fine eventually and did not even ask for the usual tests. So, if I was diagnosed then, I could have defeated Breast Cancer with even lesser treatment procedures.
I feel that women in India are not so comfortable with their breasts and are hesitant to get them checked even if they find something abnormal. Therefore, self-examination is very important in this context. Even I didn't use to self-examine regularly before my Breast Cancer diagnosis, but now I have understood its importance.
There exists a lot of stigma around breast cancer, but thankfully, I never had to face that throughout my cancer journey.
You can't expect life to be rosy always. We will have to fight out our troubles. I also used my Instagram profile as a platform to connect with other cancer patients who were finding it hard to fight the disease.
Even during the tough days, I found reasons to find happiness. I brought three different wigs, two from India and one from London, but I didn't like wearing a wig and ended up using a cap most of the time. I was able to accept the fact that I had cancer, and it was normal to lose hair during the cancer journey.
I would say that the pandemic happened at the right time for me as I was unable to move out otherwise as well. My father still jokes around that just because I couldn't move around, now the whole world is not able to move around!
My Breast Cancer journey gave me some much-needed me-time, and I have written some poetry based on my journey. I also took time to reignite my long lost passion for sketching and was able to spend a lot of time with my children.
I am a big-time foodie. I found out that cancer patients had to cut down on sugar, but the doctors could not cite a scientific evidence of why we should reduce the sugar content. Still, I reduced the sugar content from my daily diet, but on the whole, everything went pretty much the same way as it used to otherwise also. I was also on steroids due to Chemotherapy and had a lot of protein supplements.
I have always been a very positive person, even before my Breast Cancer diagnosis. After the diagnosis, it was like a voice in my head was encouraging me to buckle up and fight as I had to be there for my kids. They were too small to understand cancer, and I had to be normal before them.
Looking back, I feel proud of myself. If you can't handle something, be sure to talk it out with someone, be it your friends or relatives. It is better if you can talk to a survivor, as it will increase your background knowledge about the disease. We should just go with the flow; there will be some things that we won't be able to control in any case.
The major point that I want to tell everyone out there is to be positive. I believe that whatever we give out comes back to us. I feel that I have done many positive things in my life, and therefore I didn't have much trouble during my cancer journey. I did cry more than once, but there was never a concern about whether I will come out of this unscathed or not. Don't overthink much about your cancer journey; just go with the flow. Don't treat cancer patients as if they are on their death bed. Converse and engage with them as normal people.