The Very Beginning
Hi everyone! I am Pragati Ojha, a cancer warrior. Even though I had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at a minimal age, I am also one of those lucky people who can say that they have defeated cancer. After going through the whole experience, I have realized that once you are diagnosed, even with the best Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma treatments available to you, nothing works unless you believe it will. My life changed drastically after the whole ordeal, and I learned a lot of things, went through a plethora of emotions, but even through all the harsh treatments and bad days, I held on to my cheerful mood.
I accepted what had happened, and I understood that nothing except a positive attitude would help me. You can hear all the motivational speeches about a positive attitude and have the most supportive team of doctors, but nothing beats listening to someone who has been through the same. So, here I am, sharing the story of my battle against stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
It all started when I was 11 years old. I had a fever. There was a lot of confusion regarding my diagnosis. The doctors initially said that I had typhoid, but later they assumed it was tuberculosis. I spent about two years going from one doctor to another but never got a conclusive diagnosis. I had an FNAC test and even a biopsy, but none of them helped get a definitive diagnosis. I even took nine months of treatment for tuberculosis. We were so desperate for a solution that we tried every remedy we could get our hands-on.
One day, when I had trouble breathing correctly, I was taken to one of Lucknow’s hospitals. The first doctor directly told us that I wouldn’t be able to live much longer. The ground slipped from beneath our feet when he said I wouldn’t be able to breathe for more than two hours. I was immediately taken to a different doctor who immediately put me up on oxygen. They took some part of my swollen lymph nodes and got it tested. Even in our wildest dreams, we had never thought it would be something as serious as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The first test came back, and we were told I had lymphoma. Doctors didn’t specify what kind of lymphoma, so we went to a hospital in Mumbai. The diagnosis took about a month, and the doctors told us that I had stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although school was canceled for me for the whole year after that, I was just happy that I could go on the school trip to Goa and enjoy it with my friends before this.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment
When I first got admitted into the Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma ward, my first thought was whether I was the youngest in there, but then I saw babies who were just born. I cried, seeing that. Those little kids hadn’t even enjoyed life at all. I didn’t understand what those little kids and babies were going through. It was saddening, but I turned it into my motivation. I told myself that there is an excellent team of doctors working on Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatment with me. I shouldn’t fear what will happen.
The treatment began with a test to check it; I was fit for chemotherapy. Once the results came back, the doctors started me on a regular chemotherapy session. Throughout the year, I had 13 such sessions.
In the Hospital
Apart from all the Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma treatments, my journey also included painting, singing, photography, and even dancing. I used to be very talkative. I tried learning all that I could. I talked to everyone. I spent a lot of time talking to the children admitted with me and understanding what they did back home.
Even though I tried to be cheerful all day, you can’t avoid the dark thoughts all the time. Initially, when I went in for my treatment, I felt homesick. I used to miss my uncle a lot. I also got a bit jealous of all the girls who had long hair.
I was able to manage the bad days and had some beautiful days as well. When my school was suspended for a year, I thought I wouldn’t learn much, but now, when I look back, I realize that the single year I stayed in Mumbai made me more mature than others of my age. Even though the circumstances weren’t the best, I still feel grateful for my stay in Mumbai and happy with the new life that I started.
The one thing that I believe helped me the most in my fight against Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma was my positivity. I never thought of the adverse outcomes. I used to think that I’ll be fine one day, and I’ll have my long hair back once all this is over. Before cancer, I loved traveling. Even during my treatment and stay in Mumbai, my love for traveling stayed the same. I never stopped traveling or learning. I had a book called Mumbai Darshan. I used to choose places to visit from the book and tick off the places I saw. I had to take all the precautions to make sure I do not exert myself, but I didn’t let cancer stop me from living my life.
I kept a cheerful mood. I had a lot of plans for the future. I never thought about how things could go wrong. I only thought about what I would do once I got better. Even the doctor told us that my recovery was much faster than others because of my positive attitude, strong willpower, and high hopes.
My school learning had taken a backseat, but I continuously kept learning something new every day. I enrolled myself in various workshops related to dance, singing, photography, and art. I never felt like it was in a hospital for the treatment of a fatal disease. It all felt like being part of a very long summer camp.
I am a foodie, and whenever I was back home, I spent my time watching cooking videos. Even though I had many diet restrictions, I still cooked the things I wanted to eat. I modified the quantities and ingredients as per my diet restrictions. I also made sure to never compromise on my hygiene.
Lessons and Silver Linings
Eventually, things became routine, and I recovered. The most important thing I took away from the whole Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatment was that positivity keeps you going, no matter what happens. I always believe that things happen for a reason. I feel that my battle with cancer has made me even more potent. I think that I have developed and matured as a person. Even after all these years, I never felt that cancer took away a part of my life. My battle against cancer made me a better person.
It is indeed true that being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is heartbreaking, but after successfully winning my fight against it, I can proudly say that I learned a lot. I learned how to apologize. I understood how everything that happens in our life is for our good. I even became financially mature, and I stopped spending on unnecessary things.
Before my treatment, I was an average student. But after winning my fight against cancer, I came out stronger. I focused on my studies and work that I even scored 92% in my 10th and 12 board exams. I love writing poems, and I even wrote one for my friend from Mumbai, who passed away in 2018. I also love doing makeup. Currently, I am in the third year of my graduation and aspiring to get a government job. I believe in enjoying the present because no matter how much you worry about it, you don’t know what the future holds.
As a Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma warrior myself, I believe that life is like ice cream; enjoy it before it melts. It is essential to be optimistic instead of worrying about what life will throw at you tomorrow. Focus on the present, and stay happy. Keep believing and hope for the best. Stressing will not help and instead hamper with your healing process. My recovery didn’t feel like much of a struggle because I kept holding on to the positive thoughts.
I never thought of the bad outcomes or wondered about the things that I might be missing. I took each day as it came and tried to make the best of it. I had both the good days and the bad ones, but hope and the promise of being back to the world, away from chemotherapy sessions, and many traveling plans helped me through.
For everyone going through the Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma treatments that I went through, your positive attitude will keep you going. It might not be easy to keep a positive attitude each day, but it is the only thing that will keep you going. Believe that you’ll be fine and let the doctors and medicines work their magic on you. Take each step calmly and keep believing. Life is like a bicycle, and you have to keep it balanced. Enjoy the whole journey. Don’t think of the ways that things could go wrong; instead, focus on the positives.