In January 2019, my husband and I went for a regular health check-up which included a cancer marker test. We had no symptoms at all. I had just lost some weight but I attributed it to my diet. But my tests indicated the possibility of breast cancer. I was 50 and worried. I waited for 1 month and repeated the marker test but there was still no strong indication. By now I was panicking and didn’t want to take any risk. On my Doctors suggestion, I visited an oncologist, went through a mammogram and MRI. These also indicated the possibility of breast cancer. Still unconfirmed!. Finally, I had a lumpectomy, an underarm lymph node test plus a frozen biopsy test. In 10 days, the result was out. I had stage 1 breast cancer.
We consulted multiple doctors. All of them suggested Radiation. But some suggested chemotherapy. Some were not in favour of Chemo. We were so confused. Though my cancer was in stage one, it was an aggressive one. As I was only 50, the doctor suggested that my body can take chemotherapy. I was doubtful but went ahead as I didn’t want to take a chance to have the cancer return.
After my chemo started, I became weak and my hair began falling . . I cried a bit before trimming my head. . But in 1 hour I perked up. Life was actually easier.No hair to wash. Since I was tired a lot, this was 1 less task to worry about. I realised I looked smarter. I even lost my eyebrows, eyelashes Later I cheered myself up by wearing junk jewelry every day and posting my photo in my WhatsApp groups. My children were young adults.. My son was leaving for college after 2 rounds of chemo. My daughter also in college. They along with my husband provided support and much-needed humor.
I also did a photoshoot with my family wearing fancy clothes. I call it my baldy shoot. Everyone treats cancer like a demon but I took the consequences very lightly thanks to my friends and family. I combated it because I embraced it. After chemotherapy, radiation started at a higher interval of time. I wouldn’t say I became fit completely. I have side effects. My bones became weaker and I can’t work continuously now. My immune system also weakened. But I tried my best to be optimistic.
Those Three Lines:
Let me tell you what helped me to be positive at that time. It is 3 lines my colon cancer survivor father told me. They are:- thinking of cancer as a simple disease, chemotherapy as its cure and considering the rest as “Niyamat”. “Blessing”. And that turned my life.
He is 82 now by the way.
How I Coped-Up:
I used to watch TV and Netflix. Helping hands were there. But it never hit my mind what will I do in this huge empty time I had. Apart from that, my friends and family helped me a lot at that time. God has been so gracious to me. I was very independent or rather hyper independent. And suddenly, I had to be dependent for every small thing. When my body was shaking, I puked 21 times a day, I learnt how to let go of things. I even continued my business from home. I did not stop. To cope up with boredom, I opened a Facebook page of mine. I started sharing my feelings at that time. I used humor to keep me optimistic. Laughter I find is truly a great medicine. Will power and laughter.
Being and staying positive is the only way at these moments. I know, when I could barely move my body, only negative invaded the mind. Now, I realise that it is ok to feel negative. You cry your heart out, mourn, take time to heal your mind. Then get up, wipe your tears and be the soldier who goes to the battlefront. My retd Army father always said that.”Get up, shoulders back, chest forward”. My mother instilled will power in me. My inlaws supported me. What more did I need? That is the only way to feel positive about yourself. I took my photos during every chemotherapy session.. Now whenever I am under stress, I look at those photos and think is my condition worse than this? The answer is a resounding No. I get inspiration from that. I wanted to break the taboo that you can’t look and feel beautiful when you are a cancer survivor.
In the end, I want to tell everyone to go and do a health check-up regularly. Especially girls out there, consult and do a mammogram. And if you are over 50, do it for sure. If you see a sudden change in your body, go for a check-up instantly. I know, at a young age it sounds weird. But believe me, that’s the only way to be on the safer side.