Around this time last year, I didn’t know whether I was going to survive. I was being wheeled into an operating room and no one knew whether I was going to make it out alive. I had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer a few months ago. It was completely unexpected; I had lived a normal and healthy life for 36 years. I was a working woman and suddenly I was being told that I might have only a few more months to live.
My world was turned upside down. But I had to be strong for my 2 children who are still young. And as for my husband, I made him promise me that he wouldn’t cry and neither would I.
It all began with uncontrollable bouts of bleeding last year. My first instinct was to visit my gynecologist. She quickly dismissed the problem as heavy menstrual bleeding and gave me a few tablets. But the medicines didn’t work and I went back to her, and once again she attributed it to a menstrual condition. However, I knew something else was wrong with me and it couldn’t be just a menstrual condition, so I went to another doctor. He too couldn’t figure out the problem, initially, they thought the bleeding could be because of a stomach ulcer.
For three months I went back and forth from one doctor to another, but no one could diagnose what exactly was wrong with me. The fact that I had no other accompanying symptoms such as pain made matters more confusing. All I had was bleeding and the skin from my hands peeling off, but nothing apart from that.
Finally, when the bleeding didn’t stop, I went in for a colonoscopy and that’s when the doctors realized that something was seriously wrong. They discovered that my rectum had been completely destroyed by cancer cells.
My husband, who was inside the OT during the procedure, was taken out of the room by the doctors; they told him that it is most likely cancer. When he came back inside, he was crying uncontrollably, he could barely speak, I kept asking him what the doctors said, I asked him what was the worst-case scenario, and through his sobs, he told me that it looks like cancer.
I didn’t know what to say, but I knew at that moment that I had to fight this. All I could think about was my kids, and who would take care of them if something happened to me. And so we began our long battle against my colorectal cancer. And I say ‘we’ because my husband was me every step of the way, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have survived.
The first step was finding the right doctor; we lived in Meerut, so we looked for oncologists in Delhi, thinking that the capital would obviously have the best medical care. However, when I visited one of the best oncologists at a top-notch hospital, my experience was far from pleasant. The doctor told me and husband to our faces that I wouldn’t survive beyond a few days and even if I did, I would need at least 30 rounds of chemotherapy.
Devastated, my husband and I traveled back home, but I was determined to get help and that’s when we found Dr. Piyush Gupta in Meerut itself. Dr. Gupta gave me hope and agreed to operate on me. Within days, I was being wheeled into the operating room; the goal was to scrape out as much of cancer as possible.
I made it out alive, but the days after the surgery were the toughest, the stitches and the pain were unbearable. I couldn’t eat for days after and before the surgery, my food intake was close to nothing because my stomach couldn’t digest any food. There were days when all I wanted was to taste something.
The worst bit was that I had a colostomy bag attached to me after the surgery. A colostomy bag is like a small waterproof pouch used to collect waste, it had to be attached because the organs we use to pass stools were completely destroyed by my cancer. I was living without an organ and a feces bag attached to my body. Living with a colostomy bag was one of the worst experiences of my life; it is like being attached to your bodily waste all the time. A few months later I went through another painful operation, reverse colostomy, for this issue to be resolved. Basically, my intestines were connected to my anus so that I could have a chance at some normalcy without the colostomy bag. The operation was painful but worth it. Thankfully, I didn’t need any rounds of chemotherapy.
Throughout all of this, my husband and my family stood by me. Although there were times when grief took over, and we would all wonder ‘why me’. My children didn’t know that I had cancer; they knew I was unwell, but they weren’t aware of the gravity of the situation. My brother and his wife formed an even greater support system for me after the painful surgeries.
Cancer is draining physically, mentally and financially. The only thing that kept me going through this all was my kids and my husband. I had to be around for them because no one else can do what a mother does for her children.
If I had to give one message to all those suffering from cancer it would be to keep reinforcing the idea of getting better. What’s happening to you is bad, but it will get better. Also, as someone whose symptoms were ignored for so long, I would say, don’t ignore your body’s sings. If you think something is wrong, seek help immediately, find time for yourself and get checked.