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Anamika (NHL): Treat Your Body As A Temple

Anamika (NHL): Treat Your Body As A Temple

How it all started:

I was diagnosed with stage IIIB large cell high-grade diffuse lymphoma (a jargon I don't fully understand even today) on January 1, 2016. The initial signs were quite welcome—unexplained weight loss. I received many compliments on my slimmer frame at my brother's wedding reception in November 2015, which made me quite happy. I attended my cousin’s wedding in early December and surprisingly could not eat my favourite fish curry and rice. Yet, my alarm bells did not ring, as I unconsciously thought that 'bad things only happen to other people.' Now, I know that unexplained weight loss is a signal from the body that not all is well.

Then came a severe backache and persistent fever that refused to subside with medication. Despite having a complete health checkup in October 2015, it was only after persistent symptoms that I went for a blood test at my general practitioner’s insistence. Upon visiting my GP's clinic, the first question he asked was how I was losing weight. When I responded that I wasn’t doing anything, he looked quite concerned.

Anyway, the blood report showed an ESR of 96. Whoa! A sonography revealed that my spleen had tripled in size. I was hospitalized for several days during which a plethora of tests were conducted. The doctor said that the PET scan indicated cells with very high 'activity.' Finally, I knew what was coming!

Support from the family and doctors:

I was fortunate to have an excellent experience with the medical fraternity—my haematologist, my oncologist, their assistants, the nurses, and the hospital staff. During my chemotherapy, I looked forward to visits from my doctor, who always approached me with a smile and an uplifting demeanour. Whenever I asked questions, I was given thorough answers. The doctors and nurses were exceptionally patient and supportive.

My husband, despite our frequent arguments and disagreements, cared for me selflessly—a favour I'm not sure I could return. And I certainly hope he never has to face any major illness. I live with my parents and it would have been heartbreaking to see their firstborn go through cancer. And my then 11-year-old, silently suffered the absence of her mother during her exams. I hope one day she shares with me what she went through.

together

I am blessed to have many friends who did not hesitate to provide the love and support that I needed during that time. The conversations and laughter they provided, were important ingredients on my road to recovery.

How did I cope:

The doctors don't have an honest, transparent discussion with the patients and that is probably the case as they might not want to alarm the patients. There are so many side effects of chemo and it was hard to predict which of those side effects would manifest. And strangely for the same patient, where the protocol is the same, different side effects will manifest in different sessions

For a patient like me, this approach was not comforting. I would have been more confident if I had been equipped with all the information from the start. However, this uneasiness lasted only for the first 3 weeks. By the time of my next chemotherapy session, I had discussed the full list of potential side effects with the attending doctor.

The first week of the Chemotherapy cycle is always difficult - lethargy, body pain, and food tasting like cardboard, were debilitating. I did not feel like watching TV or reading any books. I enjoy both these activities even today. I had to constantly remind myself that this phase would pass quickly and that the process was helping to rid my body of toxins.

Viktor Frankl's words often echoed in my mind: "Everything can be taken from us but the freedom to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose our own way."

I did not know why I had cancer, but I knew I had to heal.

My advice to cancer patients:

You are neither the first nor the last to face cancer.

Make friends with your doctor and the chemo nurse. Develop a good relationship with your doctor and chemotherapy nurse, and ensure you can reach out to them when you are at a loss to decide what to do.

Don't fight your cancer. You will be fighting your own body. Embrace it and lovingly bid it goodbye. Trust me, it's more likely to stay away.

Do not go for alternative therapies, and choose one over the other. Go for complementary therapies which will work in tandem with your medical treatment.

Adopt a holistic approach to healing once your medical treatment is complete.

My advice to humanity at large:

Have a comprehensive medical policy. We were lucky all our expenses were covered under our insurance policy. Every round of chemo cost us around one lakh rupees.

Nurture and nourish your body. It's your most prized possession. Treat your body as a temple. Also, understand that food, rest and exercise are not the only inputs that affect the body. What we think and feel also affects our bodies. The state of our relationships affects our bodies.

wellbeing

We are given to endure only as much as we can. Don't give up. Accept life with its ups and downs. Enjoy the roller coaster ride

We cannot control what challenges will be thrown at us. But we definitely can choose how we respond to those challenges. Do we want to wallow and wail or graciously accept whatever has happened and face it with a positive attitude?

After all,  tough times don't last, tough people do!

My favourite books

I derive tremendous inspiration and strength from these three simple books:

  1. Dont Sweat the Small Stuff (and its all the small stuff) by Richard Carlson
  2. You can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  3. The Five People You meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

 

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