There is a very special reason why I would like to share my story with all of you who would be reading this. The word Cancer still evokes a lot of fear and despair and people are still petrified of being identified with cancer. Even in today’s modern times, you will be surprised as to how ignorant most of us are about cancer. Most people associate cancer with death, a painful end. And it is for these and many others who would read this book that I, as a cancer survivor would like to share my experience with.
In this era of modern medicine, there are so many who have courageously fought their personal battle with cancer and many have been successful at getting rid of it. There are those who continue to fight, never wanting to give up. Don’t you think their efforts need to be appreciated? Life is a wonderful gift to each one of us and many of us take it for granted. But when one is struck with a life-threatening condition like cancer, every moment of life suddenly becomes so precious that you want to savour every second spent with near and dear ones. There is a hidden strength in each one of us that may have not surfaced otherwise but when a calamity strikes, you will be surprised at your own display of courage and fortitude.
When I was first diagnosed as having cancer in November 2001, I was surprised as to how little I as a doctor knew about my cancer. Being a paediatrician my medical school knowledge about cancer was limited. I have been married for 30 years and my husband and I had to do a lot of reading and Internet surfing to help us understand my cancer. Also, I was fortunate that we had many friends who would bring us articles and any information they could gather about cancer. About a few years ago, it was thought best not to let a cancer patient know much about his or her condition. But I feel, it is very important for each and every cancer patient to understand his cancer, the available modalities of treatment and try and avail the best that is available to you. If one decides nothing is impossible. The idea is to never give up.
So here, I share my experience with cancer.
It all began in November 2001. There was no warning, for my life was to change forever.
I am a doctor by profession & have been married to an Air Force pilot for the last 30 years.
It was October 2001 and I was reflecting on the joys of life, thanking God for a loving husband and two beautiful daughters aged eight and six years then. I had a career that I enjoyed. Life was good, quite fulfilling. I was so much at peace with myself. Little did I know that a while from now my life was going to change in a major way.
In the month of Nov 2001, I was diagnosed with a case of Multifocal plasmacytomas, a variant of multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. In myeloma, a single defective plasma cell (myeloma cell) gives rise to a much larger number of myeloma cells that build up in the bone marrow.
The diagnosis wasn’t easy, I had surgery for a lytic bone lesion(initially diagnosed as osteoclastoma) on my left leg (tibia) on 8thNov 2001 and a biopsy reported it as “Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” at Base hospital Delhi. A sample sent to Tata Memorial reported the tumour as Plasmacytoma. Further investigations confirmed diagnoses as Multiple Plasmacytomas. Over a period of 5 months, I received 6 cycles of chemotherapy. I was immobile because after surgery my leg bone had not healed (Non-United Fracture). I was still not in remission after chemotherapy and so I went through an autologous bone marrow transplant on the 3rd of Sept 2002 at Army Hospital( R&R), N- Delhi. I was admitted for a total of 20 days and kept in isolation in a BMT centre. This transplant according to my doctors was a chance to buy time for me to fight this cancer.