About The Healing Circle
The purpose of the Healing Circle at Love Heals Cancer and ZenOnco.io is to give cancer patients, caregivers, and winners a safe space to share their feelings or experiences. This circle is built on the foundation of kindness and respect. It is a sacred space where everyone listens with compassion and treats each other with honour. All the stories are confidential, and we believe that we have the guidance we need within us, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.
About the speaker
Archana Chauhan is two times cancer survivor. She was 32 when she was first diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was affected by covid and recovered from that too. She is getting back to her everyday life. She has her own NGO named ‘Archana foundation’ and has also started an initiative called ‘stambh’.
Symptoms and diagnosis for the first time
I am Archana. In April 2019, I was diagnosed with stage IB cervical cancer. I was 32 at that time. I was busy due to working the whole day. My schedule was hectic and tiring. So, I thought my menses might be disturbed due to stress. I started having periods every 15 days. I never thought it could be cancer. After six months, I went to the doctor. I got the news during the physical examination.
My first reaction after hearing the news
When I collected my report, the doctor asked if anyone had accompanied me. I insisted that I could take the news. After hearing I might have cancer, I felt like someone had slapped me. The world started to spin around me. I was in disbelief because I had never smoked or consumed alcohol. I was active and worked for eight hours a day. I even had a healthy weight. The first question that came to mind was how long I would live.
Treatments underwent and side effects
After doing a biopsy and many MRIs, I had to undergo surgery. After the removal of uterus, I had brachytherapy for three months. It was harrowing. I was afraid of brachytherapy. It is a particular type of radiation therapy which is formed internally. But the desire to live outweighs the pain. I went forward with it. I had a lot of side effects like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, etc. I still have to deal with urinary bladder infection and swelling.
I started to write again. All of my writings were appreciated by all. My life view changed. I decided to work for myself and the people there for me.
In May 2020, one night, I was alone in the house as my husband was in the hospital after contracting COVID. Suddenly, I found a lump at my feet. I knew it was a tumour when I touched it. I was golf-sized. At that time, everyone feared coronavirus. So, it was hard to find a doctor who would diagnose me even after knowing my husband had covid. But a government doctor agreed to help me. Doctors confirmed in the ultrasound that it was a pathological tumour. It wasn’t even six months after the previous treatment. I had to go through all the tests and treatments. I couldn’t share this with my husband because it might affect my recovery. So, I kept the news about recurrence to myself and decided to fight myself.
Biopsy revealed that my cancer had become metastatic or had reached stage IV. Then, I learned that the doctor feared my cancer might be metastatic. During the PET scan, doctors thought that it was vulvar cancer. It was very rare for a woman to get vulvar cancer. Another strange thing was that a person got vulvar cancer after cervical cancer. They only found one such case. So, they referred other doctors who were also puzzled. Some said it was vulvar cancer, while others said cervical cancer. We all were so confused. I realised that much research is needed on cancer and its treatment. Doctors were divided on whether to go with surgery first, while others said to go with chemo. But, I decided to opt for surgery instead. Biopsy results were not conclusive. It might be stage 2 cervical or stage 4 vulvar cancer.
Since I had radiation only six months ago, I couldn’t do it again. Finally, doctors found a spot for giving radiation. I had 25 radiation and chemotherapy. My journey concluded in August 2020. Side effects were more pronounced than the first time. I was in a lot of pain.
Getting infected with covid during the treatment
Doctors became very concerned when I got corona. My immunity had weakened due to chemotherapy. So, I had zero resistance to this disease and might die of corona infection. I thought that if I were going to die, it would be cancer, not corona. Luckily, I had no fever or cough. I recovered from corona without much difficulty.
Helping other women
After doing some research, I found out about HPV and its correlation with cervical cancer. I am well-educated, but I still didn’t know about it. Then, it struck me that if I didn’t know about it, there might be many more who didn’t as well. Many women die of this cancer, yet no one pays much attention to this issue. So, I decided to spread awareness about HPV and the vaccine against it. This vaccine can be given to girls of age between nine and sixteen. The vaccine costs around five thousand rupees which can’t be afforded by the poor.
Even today, people buy gold and try to find a suitable groom for their daughter. They spend a lot of money doing this, but they don’t care to get their girls vaccinated. I have raised funding to vaccinate young girls. Right now, I am asking the government for funding for my cause. I am trying to help all other girls and women. If the government could make it accessible for free or give subsidies, it would be real woman empowerment.