Friday, July 1, 2022

How it started

I live in Bangalore. I am an Educator. I was diagnosed in 2001. At the moment, I was 71. One day I felt a lump in my left breast but I thought it could be a blood clot as I am a diabetes patient from the age of 23. I went to the nearby hospital; at that time, the size of the tumor was equivalent to the size of wheat grain. They did a needle biopsy. After that, I went back home. I just left it that way.

After some time, I felt something odd; something serious. I then again consulted the same doctor. There they did a mammogram & the lump showed up. This time the lump had grown to 2 cm. In between, I went for Homeopathy for a month. My daughter was unmarried at that time, she was in the final year of her college. I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the lump so I told the doctor to remove the lump through surgery. Then doctors send it for a biopsy. After seeing the reports, doctors said that the results are negative & they have to take the line of treatment. I asked them about the Breast Cancer treatment then they told me about what’ll happen. I then called my brother. He reached there & then we spoke to the doctors. On the 7th of Feb, we went back & we decided to go for a second opinion & get the lumpectomy done. They also said the same thing. The Internet had just come up at that time and my son found a similar case of an Australian Teacher. The treatment was the same for both of us. 

How family reacted

In the evening, I told my daughter & my brother to inform the rest of the family. My brother’s mother-in-law had Breast cancer on her jaw because he had some knowledge about Cancer. When he disclosed the news, my mother was listening calmly but my daughter was frightened. My mother inspired & motivated me to fight cancer. She said whatever the doctor says, do that. 

Treatment

The very next Thursday, Surgery was scheduled & I had my surgery done. The hospital didn’t have much experience with Chemotherapy or radiation. They suggested Ramaiah Hospital for Chemotherapy. Most of the hospitals were Government hospitals & the treatment for Breast Cancer was very expensive. At first, Mastectomy was done & my brother paid the bill but I can’t expect everyone to pay the bill for me so then I researched about this & collected some information. My mother had lost both her knees. She sat with me through my mastectomy. She was my Emotional support. My daughter completed her graduation & she was working with just a handful of 3,500 & she said “You don’t take the tension regarding money”. For one month after the surgery, I stayed at my brother’s house. He looked after me. The Doctors removed all the lymph nodes so it was difficult for me to move my arm. It was difficult to lift my hand to drain the lymph nodes. I didn’t take any painkillers. I know my body & I understand that the healing would be slow if I take painkillers. 

After 1 month, the doctor removed the stitches & I went back to work. I had one of the best surgeons. My blood count went very low. So, my daughter & daughter-in-law arranged two bottles of blood & at that time HIV was new; so, the doctor had to check the blood. The Doctors kept on visiting and I asked them why they keep on visiting. They told me that they want to see who this patient is who is not willing to take painkillers. It’s all on the perception, we got through this. 

They then guided me into radiation for Cancer. I used to have 25 sessions of radiation; five a week & sometimes 10. It lasted for five weeks. I had Chemotherapy at a Government hospital. The doctor scolded me for removing my breast. She said I could have saved my breast & I didn’t know about that. This is the reason we should question doctors about everything. She told me that I have two options; one is I can have one Chemo in every 15 days, which would take up to six months, another was they will give me a combination of 1 in 21 days. It will be 4 times but before chemo, I should do the blood test. I started taking Chemo. Till the second Chemo, there was no hair fall. After that, I had a meeting. After coming back home from the meeting, I was combing my hair and all my hair just came into my hand. I showed that to my daughter. She felt bad. It all passed by. After the third Chemo, ECG was abnormal. The doctor asked me to get my echo cardio done. When they checked the reports, they asked me to take in more nutrition. There were so many people from every religion who prayed for my recovery. I felt overwhelmed. I used to pray & meditate to keep myself calm. Finally, it was all over. 

I used to go for frequent check-ups. There was a social worker, who helped me financially. She said I can get the money through ESI. So, I got my chemo subsidy and it helped. After some time, the CT Scan was done which was pretty expensive at that time. After that, I was on Check-ups only. 

In 2005, I had metastasis. I went for the CT scan and it showed that Breast cancer is coming to my trachea, the base of my head, and my ear. Once it travels to another part of the body it automatically becomes stage 4. I went to the Sai Baba Institute of research. They were the first to conduct a PET Scan. They didn’t charge me anything as they were doing research. I had to go 2-3 times for a scan. In that, all those tiny things showed up. It was only less than a centimeter as it was detected early. I was lucky for that. They asked me to go for Chemo again. I asked the doctor if there is any other option or not. The doctor said there is a study going on for a tablet and if I am ok I should participate in the study. That tablet is common now. The tablets were expensive and I was supposed to take 28 tablets. They conducted the scan again for Breast Cancer. After the radiation, I changed my diet to curd rice without salt & green vegetables. Ginger, garlic & Haldi were added to my diet. Meanwhile, I was on tablets. In 2008, my granddaughter was born, and that too was on my birthday. We have a bond & she is 13 right now. 

It was around 2010, the last 3-4 PET scans came clear. Meanwhile, the doctor told me that now the insulins & medicine can be stopped. After stopping the medicines, one more PET Scan was done which came clear. There the doctor declared that I am cancer-free & discharged me. 

Parting message

Learn to balance out. After turning 40, focus on your body and health. Illness will come to us but focus on finding out the information, work without fear & don’t hide anything from the doctor, don’t follow shortcuts just follow doctors’ advice. Talk to experienced people, don’t do something on your own. We have to be responsible for ourselves. 

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