Our body is like a divine chariot that we have to take care of every step of the way, and most of us don’t realise this. We do not realise how important it is to listen to our body and be aware of what it is telling us. Mind you, I am not here to preach, I myself have just learned all of this at the ripe old age of 54! I have developed all this new learning about self-care and my body only because of my ongoing fight with stage 3 cervical cancer.
It was early last year when I had this throbbing pain in my lower abdomen, I thought it would go away with some pain killers, but nothing worked. Eventually, I had to get hospitalised and a series of tests revealed that my right ovary was enlarged and that there was an eleven and a half centimeter abscess around it. I was lucky that it hadn’t ruptured. I underwent a surgical procedure to get the abscess fluid extracted.
After this episode, a few months passed by and everything was normal. I was going through menopause at the time, so I did have the occasional bleeding and lower back pain. I also remember getting tired very fast and having unusual bouts of constipation. Naturally, I attributed all these things to menopause. I didn’t feel like anything was majorly wrong, I kept thinking that this was all part of the female aging process. However, one night in June, I had unbearable pain in my lower abdomen and my neighbours rushed me to the hospital. My right ovary was enlarged once again, but this time my gynaecologist suspected something more was wrong and referred me to a gyanec-oncologist. At this point, my daughter flew down from the U.S. and was there with me through all the tests and scans. I knew my doctors suspected something serious, but I kept telling myself that it was all going to be ok. We always think that cancer is something that happens to others. However, my test results were a blow to my hope. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer in June 2019.
The first few days after the diagnosis were really rough. I was numb and just really hopeless. I couldn’t understand what had happened to me. But I slowly gathered myself and prepared for my treatments. Doctors told me that a surgery wouldn’t work in my case and that chemotherapy and radiation were my only options. I underwent multiple rounds of chemo and radiation for three months. The hope was that this would reduce my cancer drastically and I would be at least 80 percent cancer free, however, that didn’t happen for me. Despite months of chemo and radiation, PET scans revealed that my cancer had reduced by just roughly 50 percent. I was heartbroken and cried for days after my reports. My daughter, my family and my friends were my biggest strengths during these days of helplessness, they were the ones who gave me the courage to gather myself and fight on.
For now, I have been undergoing stronger doses of chemotherapy since November and my next set of PET scans are in January. I am hoping and praying that the results are good.
Not all has been bad though. My chemotherapy sessions have helped me connect with so many people. We all have some purpose to serve on earth and hence, I consider it my duty to help those who are going through a similar journey. I make sure to talk and interact with as many people during my long chemotherapy sessions.
I also make sure not to slip into the self-pity mode. Here is my take on this — All my life, I didn’t treat my body right, I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t keep my weight in check. Now, because of cancer, I eat healthier and take care of myself. Hence, I consider myself to be in dry clean mode; soon I shall come out of this all shiny and new!
Sharmila Date is 54 and based in Mumbai. Even as she undergoes treatment, she aims to motivate others dealing with cancer.