I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer during my second pregnancy. I noticed a lump in my breast, and while going for routine checkups for my pregnancy, I had ultrasound scans done, and all the doctors assured me that it was nothing because the scan results were clear.
I did not worry about it much after that, but I noticed that my breast was gradually becoming harder, and nearly two-thirds of my breast had become rock hard. I revisited the gynaecologist, and we did another ultrasound scan.
The results came back clear this time too, and the doctor concluded that it was just an expected change in the milk glands. They told me that the hardness would gradually reduce once I delivered the baby and started breastfeeding.
Recurring pain and diagnosis
In my ninth month, I started experiencing a dull pain in my underarm and also had a fever. Since the fever was not reducing, the doctor suggested I have a c-section and deliver the baby. I had a son, and I started breastfeeding him, but after fifteen days of breastfeeding, my breast felt hard again.
This time when I went to my gynaecologist, she realised something was wrong and referred me to an oncologist. The oncologist suggested an MRI scan along with a few other tests. My mother is a cancer survivor and has been an active member of the Indian Cancer Society for the past twenty years, and with her help, I got all the tests done. Unfortunately, the results came, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My mental and emotional state when I received the news and the treatment I took
Initially, I was very scared and worried. I was concerned about the different things happening in my life. I had just had a son who was 40 days old, and my only brother was getting married in a month. I knew I would lose all my hair and was worried about what people would think.
Soon, I understood that I could not just sit and wallow in my pity. Looking at my son and my family, I got the strength to fight this battle. Throughout the journey, my family was supportive and was the source of my hope.
I went through six cycles of chemotherapy, and since my cancer had spread around my lymph nodes, surgery was not an option. After the chemotherapy cycles, I had been on oral medications for the past five years, and since March 2021, I have stopped taking the medicines and am under observation.
Cancer has been a part of our family
My mother was a cancer survivor, and unfortunately, when my treatment was completed, she was again diagnosed with cancer after being healthy for 25 years. My family had a gene test done, and we came to know that my mother, my sister, and I were all prone to getting cancer in our life. We have learnt to accept the news and understand that worrying about it will not change anything.
My mother getting cancer after 25 years was a big shock to the whole family, but my journey has given me a lot of experience in dealing with the disease, and now I am there to provide her with the emotional and moral support that she needs. Through the years, I have come to learn that she is stronger than me, and she will fight this journey and survive bravely.
The stigmas surrounding breast cancer and people’s reaction to my disease
The critical factor that determines your fight with cancer is time. Early detection is the best cure. Anytime you feel that there is something wrong, be it a lump or discoloration or pain, do not hesitate to get yourself checked. Being scared of visiting the doctor because you are worried about what others might think will not benefit anyone.
There needs to be more awareness about the disease. I realised this when one of my relatives asked me if I had breastfed my daughter because that might cause cancer for her too. People did not even know that cancer is not an infectious disease but rather a genetic one. So I think it is essential to spread awareness as much as we learn about it.
My experience with alternative treatments and support groups
I had a relative who, a few years back, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Their family strongly believed in Ayurveda and decided to avoid allopathy and treat cancer purely with Ayurveda. Unfortunately, that did not work in his favour, and we soon lost him.
I would advise anyone open to taking alternative medicines to take allopathic treatment and alternative therapies like Ayurveda and homoeopathy as additional treatments. Cancer is a fast-spreading disease, and it is essential to treat it with medicines that work quickly and effectively.
Since my mother was a member of the Indian Cancer Society, I had the support I needed even outside my family to get through cancer. I had the opportunity to meet people who were going through a journey similar to mine. Now I am also a member of society, and once schools reopen for my children, I will become an active member.
My advice to people going through cancer
Cancer can happen to anybody. Whether you are prone to cancer or not is only a supporting factor and not the root cause of the disease. The journey through cancer is a long one, and it is very important to surround yourself with positivity. Cultivating a positive outlook and believing that you will get through this will help you in ways that you do not expect. Take life as it comes, and always have hope.