Monday, June 27, 2022

The Cancer journey

My name is Dr. Kiran, I am a doctor. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, it started as a pain in the breasts with no other symptoms. The pain is constant for 2 to 3 days. As a doctor, I did a self-breast examination and felt a little lump in the left breast. I have contemplated and related to trivial matters like when menstruation time. But after two days of the symptoms, I consulted a gynecologist and got tested. She asked me to undergo a few diagnostic procedures like the FNAC test and sonography. The reports came out positive, confirming breast cancer. 

I went alone to get all the tests done. When the family members knew about me being diagnosed with breast cancer, they were dismayed as there were no other symptoms of cancer. As a doctor, I was aware that it would not show any symptoms and be painless most of the time. It is not necessary to have a malignant tumor, so whenever any abnormal lumps are observed they should check with a doctor. It would be advised that everyone should do a self-breast examination once in a while and check for lumps. And for every 2nd birthday after 40 years of age, one should get a mammography, regardless of any symptoms or signs.

Then we moved to Delhi for better access to the treatment from Mumbai. The initial thought was to remove only the lumps and conserve the breast. But in the MRI reports it was observed that the lumps were larger than assumed. So I underwent mastectomy where the whole breast is removed so that there will be no further risk. 

Along with surgery, the treatment plan also included four chemotherapy sessions and thirty-five radiation sessions.

Of all the treatments and procedures, the hardest is chemotherapy. While undergoing chemotherapy there was a lot of physical pain, which was expected. But the emotional pain like distress, anguish, agony overtook me as side effects of chemo sessions. The chemotherapy did take an exaction on my mental health. For me, it was that I got suspicious thoughts about every small event or situation that happens around me. For every chemotherapy session, I was affected by a different set of side effects.

While getting cancer treatment doctors were fulfilling their duties by providing the right treatment, there were medicines for physiological support, then coming to the mental health and physical support there are caregivers, which is my family for me. Without the support of family and friends, it would have been near impossible to go through the emotional turmoil during the chemotherapy

There is no single person in my family that hasn’t supported me. Everyone around me was so patient, strong, and persistent till the very end of the treatment, not only taking care of me but also taking care of my responsibilities. I could not point to one person that has supported me in every aspect. At the time of diagnosis, my daughter’s admission was scheduled beforehand, but to the sudden diagnosis of breast cancer I couldn’t go along with my daughter. Then my sister-in-law came to help me by taking care of my daughter by helping her settle down in a new city. The rest of the family came along with me to Delhi for treatment. Everyone around me took care of me in every aspect, tolerated the tantrums I threw with patience, they were persistent till the very end never leaving my side in any situation. When I was not able to take in solid food, my brother prepared foods that I can have comfortably. One day when I was not able to contain my anger, I took it out on my younger daughter but in the end, she understood me and supported me indirectly. My mother-in-law said that everything at this point can be considered after my comfort when she got to know about my condition.  

For the discomfort and side effects of the surgery, I have taken physiotherapy. During the radiation therapy, everything went well until at the last few sessions my skin was burnt due to radiation. For treating the radiation side effects medication was given, which helped in reducing the side effects. Music has helped me a lot to manage the side effects. 

After experiencing cancer the fear in me vanished, I developed a positive attitude toward life. The enthusiasm and positivity in me have multiplied after going through cancer. 

After the treatment, I started going to cancer care societies/ organizations. There were a lot of survivors, patients, and caregivers then I realized I was not alone, that many others have gone through a lot more than I did. Those people I witnessed in society, have changed another perspective of my thoughts that one has to share their experiences. Our experiences and stories can give support to others that are going through pain. I attended cancer care works as a seeker, later I became a volunteer and started helping others. I joined a music therapy group. I participated in events, marathons, and many while spreading awareness and support.

My perspective towards life has changed after surviving cancer. I found the importance of life, that life is not about length but it is about depth. I started living life in terms of happiness. 

Thoughts about cancer treatment

Many people try to avoid cancer treatment due to various reasons. But once cancer is diagnosed it can be overwhelming, and confusing but talking to a doctor for the available options regarding their cancer type and cancer treatments or therapies can help to make a better decision regarding the choice of treatment. Even though the path of treatment is painful it leads to a beautiful ending.

Parting message 

As a survivor and a doctor, I would suggest all women above 40 years get a cancer diagnostic test for every second birthday of their life. 

One has to speak their heart, sharing experiences. When we share our pain, it reduces. 

Live life in terms of happiness. 

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