In 2014 my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and it was the first time I got a near and dear diagnosed with cancer, but fortunately, it was at an early stage. And later in 2017, my mother in law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and it was a very late stage for her, so we lost her in around one and a half year.
I lost my mother in law in July 2018, and in November I noticed that there was some discharge in my breast, so I went to a gynecologist, and I was told that probably it’s some hormonal imbalance and I need not worry about it. Although I shared my fear that I doubt it can be cancer or something related to that and I am petrified.
Even after talking to my gynecologist, I was not convinced, so I thought of taking a second opinion, not because it may be cancer or it can get diagnosed or not, but because I have heard the stories that some of my friends, relatives and neighbors, even after going for an initial check-up, it took time for them to know it was actually cancer. So those stories were somewhere in the corner of my mind. I thought why to be in a dilemma, it would be cancer, or it would be not so let’s just get it checked with oncologist itself rather than regretting it later.
I went to the doctor, and I knew him, earlier I was meeting him as a caregiver of two patients of my family. He got surprised when he saw me and when I told him that I had come here for myself and I have noticed something. He looked at me, and he asked the very first question that are you scared? Though somewhere, I was scared, but I said I want to make sure if there is something it should be checked, so I am not scared, but I am alert.
Then he wrote some tests, and the first test was an ultrasound, and I have read about the mammogram, so there was a question mark that should I go for ultrasound or mammogram, and that’s when the doctor suggested me that you are very young and young woman have dense breast and mammogram can miss it. So this was the important thing I got to know that time that it can be missed even in a mammogram, which I was not aware of earlier, really thankful to my doctor for that.
Ultrasound showed that there is a small tumor, and probably it is swelling, then further biopsy and other tests were done in a week, and every test got me closer to cancer. And I was diagnosed with stage 2 ER PR positive at the age of 36.
While going through these tests, I was alone, as my husband was at my native with my son, and I informed him later. While he was coming back, he got to know about it.
On 7th, I noticed the very first symptom, and on 19th November, I was operated, and it was 11-hour surgery. Then I underwent chemotherapy, four cycles for 21 days, and then 12 cycles for 12 weeks, and there were many side effects, and they were impacting me emotionally as well. I was on other medication from the past ten years, so I consulted a doctor who told me to ask a neurologist and neurologist who said that I could continue that medicine, but due to chemotherapy, it’s effect got reduced. I also had seizures and got my nose broken and was taken into the emergency. So when I talk to other patients, I tell them to inform the doctors about the medications you are taking.
Post Chemotherapy, I had 28 sessions of radiation, and it was not that much difficult for me; I was okay in radiation; it’s just that we have to visit the hospital every day, and it did make me very tired.
Importance of asking questions to the doctors:
Everything was very quick; I didn’t delay it from my end once I noticed something but definitely what I realized that probably if I was in the habit of regularly self examine myself, then it could have been picked up earlier. Because there was a lump, and it was even missed by my gynecologist while doing a physical examination.
We cannot blame the doctor, but we rely so much on the doctor, there is no harm in taking a second opinion and asking a question to your doctor that why so and so the test is needed for us or why they think this could be the case.
This questioning and curiosity helped me in many senses, not only in my diagnosis but also in my treatment too.
Trust in doctors play an essential role:
My doctor advised me that probably I’m young so I can think of having a reconstruction, but at that time I did not think that what is reconstruction all about and I was worried more about I want to see my life. I have heard/read that in a younger woman, it is very aggressive, so I was very scared. But reconstruction was my doctor’s suggestion, which I actually relied on him and went ahead on with it and that it helped me a lot when I was recovering.
Psychologically it helped in a way that I did not just wake up one day seeing me flat; I had my breast. So the trust in doctors plays a vital role.
Thanks to doctors and nursing staff:
8-10 days I stayed in the hospital, and it was challenging. I was in a lot of pain, and psychologically it has impacted me. The questions keep on coming that how many years I would survive and many other things used to come in my mind but thanks to my nursing staff and physiotherapist, they used to pray for me and were very much motivating, they used to tell me that pain will go away and it did help me.
Treat cancer patients as normal humans:
The very first thing was that I did not talk about my illness for a long time to my friends and my relatives because in our society if somebody has cancer people are like poor lady, what has happened with her and I did not want that pity because I have always been a very strong person and did not want any sympathy. I did not talk about it, and it was my personal choice, as people are not aware of how they should speak with a cancer patient; the people around us sometimes talk like they want to motivate, but they are actually demotivating us.
They are not that much aware that how a patient can think about it, and there are still people who think like if they talk to sick people, they can also get the disease, so I tell them that what about doctors and nursing staff. I believe awareness is more important for people who interact with cancer patients.
I was thinking about what I can do to spread awareness, and I wanted to do everything that was in my hands, so I went to support group, and I join them in whatever activity it is. I did a session in my office to spread awareness about cancer because it can save somebody’s life as early detecting symptoms can help you. I also do it in my society, and in my son’s school, I share my story and tell them how important it is to talk about it.
Talking to other patients helps:
I was going through chemotherapy, and while connecting with other patients, I got to know how they are dealing with the side effects, and that helped me. I could also share my fear with them, and I could make a connection that okay; they can understand what my thought process is right now.
After my treatment, I connected with other patients and also came across two websites, breastcancerindia.com and brestcancerhub.
As soon as I got diagnosed, many questions popped up, and it was not like I always thought it couldn’t happen to me, it can happen, but I was very young for this, so it took me time to accept that it has happened. I lost my mother in law due to cancer, so I had this uncertainty in my mind that how long I’ll be with my family. I was not scared of death, but I had responsibilities, as my son is too young, and I had to be there for my family. I thought if I’m going through this, then there must be some reason for it, so I used to think what was the reason behind all these. And when we think of death and all, we feel like what if we are not here tomorrow, after one month or after a year, so I started many spiritual practices, and it made me strong. I started reading books, and when I started reading, I chose very spiritual books.
Doing yoga and pranayama, reading spiritual books and listening to calming music, helped me a lot.
Source of motivation:
When I look at my husband and my son, it used to give me strength that I have to be there for them. Being spiritual and connecting to other patients who had cancer and now are actively living their life gave me the motivation that I can also live my life like them, I can also be there for my son’s marriage and can see my grandchildren.
When we look at other patients, other caregivers, how they are dealing, how they are doing, it’s motivating for us.