I am 27 years old and diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three years ago. The initial symptom that I noticed was that I had back pain. I had normal back pain once a year, so I did not give any importance to it. I was doing my master’s at that time, and two days before my 2nd-semester exams, I got terrible back pain and went to the doctor.
They suggested that I do tests because they thought it might be kidney stones, but it wasn’t, and then we did an Ultrasound scan, and nothing showed up in that too. So, in the end, the doctor just gave me painkillers for a week and sent me home.
The painkillers did reduce the pain, but I could not stop it. If I stopped taking the painkiller, my back pain would come back. This was hectic for me and went on for a month. After this time, I went back to my hometown and even there, the doctors I visited could not find the reason and told me that it was because of my menstrual cycle. I knew it was not the reason, but I took painkillers for three months.
In the end, one of the doctors we consulted told me I needed surgery on my back. We went through with the surgery, but my condition was still no improvement. He was very sure that it was not cancer. Finally, one day a neurologist who was just passing by saw me and told me that there was something in my neck and that I should do a biopsy or a needle test.
Nothing showed up on the needle test, and we did a biopsy and finally confirmed that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We were very shocked because there was no family history on my side. The doctor we met after the diagnosis told us that I only had a survival chance of 60%. We panicked and did not know where to go. We finally found Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi, which is very famous for its treatment, and the doctor there was 100% sure that he could cure me.
When I was diagnosed, the cancer was already at stage four. But the facilities in the hospital were excellent, and I felt secure. I did the ABVD regimen, the standard treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had six cycles of the treatment for about eight months. Even after those treatment cycles, I was not fully cancer free since cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my sternum and my pancreas. The doctors suggested that I take radiation; after that, cancer left my body.
Effects of the treatment
The effects of the treatment were complex on my body because I could not eat anything, and I remember now that I only drank rice water for a month because that was all I could consume. I experienced constipation and intestine obstruction, and the doctors gave me juice to loosen my bowels, but that did not work well. So, in the end, I had to go to the hospital to get an enema. Even after I returned home, my mother had to help me with it, which was an uncomfortable experience for me. Even though they are your parents, you have to go through such experiences. My treatment was over, but Covid hit after that, and I could not go out because my immunity was very weak. I was in my home for a year, and after the lockdown ended, I began going out and started walking daily because I had gained around 12 kgs due to the chemo.
I’m a painter too, and I experienced a lot of insomnia, and during those times, I used to paint a lot. There were times when I used to wake up to puke in the middle of the night and the morning; those were tough times, but when I did feel happy, I used to paint. I suggest that even when you feel lonely and sick, you can find happiness in the same place through creative things you enjoy.
My mental and emotional well-being through the journey
I am not a person who gets depressed easily. Even if I receive any bad news, I just need an hour or two to process the information, and I will be fine after that. When cancer happened, I did not think much about the treatment or the process; I just thought about my bucket list and what I should do next. Nowadays, even though I am working, I make sure I take some breaks and travel. I just came back from a trip to Goa.
So, I realized this is life, and you must enjoy it. It is unnecessary to be stuck in one place and later be depressed and cry about it. If you want to leave a situation, at least go in the present rather than wait and regret it later. Sometimes I even feel that this is when I should be working in a good job instead of sitting depressed, but I have come to realize that If I don’t get this job, I will get a better one.
Rather than wasting my time being sad, I can search for something that will suit the situation and engage me. The present situation is more important than thinking and wondering about the future.
My diet had fruits and homemade food. I had dates and passion fruit known to be helpful for cancer patients, and I avoided sugar and outside food altogether. I tried to have fresh food; even when I was craving outside food, my parents would get the ingredients and ask me to make anything I wanted rather than buy food outside.
My message to cancer patients and caregivers
I saw throughout my treatment how many children, who don’t even know what cancer is, are going through it. It made me realize that I can, too, if they can do it. Just go with the flow and don’t consider cancer a big issue. You got a disease, and you are getting treated for it. Think of the process as how you would go about it if you had a fever, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and your body.