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Rohini Patil (Breast Cancer): I Had Someone Special to Live For

Rohini Patil (Breast Cancer): I Had Someone Special to Live For

It's not easy to rewind the clock emotionally and fully remember the trauma of being diagnosed withBreast Cancer. But I feel it's important to share my ordeal with the women who dread going for a checkup.

My journey with cancer started in July 2002, when I was 36. I was very fortunate to have been diagnosed at an early stage. My son was eight years old, and I was his superhero. As a single mother, I was his world, and he was to me.

The rude wake-up call

On a lazy afternoon on 20/7/2002, I noticed an abnormal nodule in my breast which initially looked like an abnormal rib. Later, after repeated self-examination, it turned out to be a nodule which was bony and hard.

When I met my surgeon, I was closely monitoring the expression in his eyes. He said clearly that unless proven otherwise, it's a malignancy.

Biopsy was done the following day.

My friends and colleagues were in a dilemma. Finally, it was conveyed to me that I had Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma. I underwent blood tests, sonography,chest X-ray,CTscan, and bone scan, ensuring it was limited to the breast. Later, mastectomy was planned as a treatment protocol.

The news of cancer diagnosis brings your life and your plans to a screeching halt. I never thought something like this would happen to me. Suddenly I was surrounded by chaos. I was devastated, shocked, numb and went through PTSD. The Breast Cancer diagnosis completely turned my world upside down.

My precious world

My life revolved around my 9 yr old son Aniket. I was overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, insecurity and worries about him as I was unsure how my cancer would behave. And, my sweetheart's son was constantly trying to find out what was going wrong with his Maa, whom he had never seen low.

One day he overheard that I was suffering from cancer. Being a 9-year-old kid, he asked me, "You don't smoke, eatTobaccoor have alcohol, so how did you get cancer?" Oh, my darling. I didn't have words to answer him.

My Firm Resolve

I have always been strong, positive and a risk-taker. But the cancer diagnosis had brought me down. Everything happened quickly, and I was walking fast, driving fast, and eating fast. I decided immediately; I pulled myself from the gloomy clouds of my thoughts and started working towards the treatment.

My focus was on undergoing Surgery, thenChemotherapy,followed byRadiotherapyas per the need and getting back to normalcy. Because I wanted to have fun with my son, go out with him, play with him, and do everything I used to do before.

The D-Day

Then came the day ofSurgery. I could not sleep the night beforeSurgery. I knew the survival and the recurrence rate ofBreast Cancerbut tried not to think about it. I took a deep breath and narrowed my focus on what mattered now.

Post-mastectomy, I started planning my diet, my short walks, my wrinkle-free clothes to be used during a chemo session, a short haircut so I don't see long strands of hair falling, and scarves to cover baldness.

The Nasty Chemos

Then came the 1st Chemo. I started having hair loss, bone pain, nausea, vomiting, oral and throat ulcerations, loss of appetite, dry skin, hot flashes, mood swings, low energy, and exhaustion. All I could do was keep myself composed rather than cry about its side effects.

It's tough for me to imagine the fear, anxiety, stress, agony, faith, hope, love, trust, and gratitude I experienced while the chemo infusion went on.

I knew losing hair was inevitable. But to experience it while seeing myself in the mirror was nasty. This is because appearance used to remind me of my illness. Still, the love in my son's eyes and the care he was taking made me more robust than before.

How did I pull through?

What helped me get through was my innate love for life, my love for my son, my belief that life is worth fighting for, and knowledge that cancer is beatable. My son, family, friends and, most importantly, my patients helped me go on.

On the last day of Chemo, I fought back tears looking at the nursing staff, the junior doctors I had started to adore. I was so thankful to all of them also, including my surgeon, my anaesthetist, my pathologist, my physician, my friends and my colleagues.

A lesson learned well

Cancer is not only about Pain, stress, or agony. It's a learning experience.

I learned so much while going through it. I felt the unconditional love of my family and friends, as they were and are precious jewels. The realisation of how blessed I had been over the years taught me to be more patient than ever.

My innate need to control situations has stopped dead in its tracks, most importantly, I have learned to accept help from others, and I am more compassionate to others' needs, care and troubles than ever before.

Now I say 'I love you' more than ever. I want to inspire and serve others as I move forward with a greater sense of purpose.

In our country, 70% of cancers are detected very late, so the treatment results are limited. This lack of awareness and late detection leads to a misconception that cancer means death.

This is how I help other women fight back

I have started working with the 'Snehaanchal Palliative Care Center' to make a difference for terminally ill cancer patients through their last journey. They have medical, psychological, physical, spiritual, emotional and socialPainaddressed during our stay with us.

Yes, these patients have unique needs and need special care and love. We go for home visits to take care of patients who wish to be at home during their last days, and all of this is free. Being with these terminally ill cancer patients, a thought came to my mind: Why not limit the disease before it limits our life? Hence, I started awareness and screening at the site free of cost.

I started working with all sections of society through awareness presentations and free mammography and Pap smears. I tried giving special attention to rural and low socioeconomic strata that cannot reach screening and early treatment due to financial constraints or inaccessibility.

Therefore, I want to reach as many people as possible to make them aware of the disease and promote screening for early detection and treatment, which is highly effective in controlling the disease. I want to let everyone know that they should not be just aware of cancer but should act on it and get screened for early diagnosis.

Many of us think we are invincible but should start putting ourselves on the to-do list. Up to 90% ofBreast Cancercan be self-diagnosed, so it is essential to know the early signs ofBreast Cancerand regularly do self-examinations.

Resting Words

I want to salute all women who do not live in fear but value their lives enough to go for their annual checkups and do their monthly self-examinations.

I survived cancer because I had someone special to live for. My son's touch and smile were the most significant treatments that outpaced the drug's impact.

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