About the Healing Circle
The Healing Circle at Love Heals Cancer and ZenOnco.io aim 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
Gyanu Veena is a two-time cancer survivor. Gyanu was diagnosed 20 years back with Breast cancer in 2001. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation for the same and had good family support. In 2008, she had a relapse and was finally declared cancer-free in 2010. Gyanu says, “learn to balance out. Focus on your body and health. Illness might come but focus on finding the right information and treatment. Never hide anything from the doctor, and never follow any shortcuts”.
Gyanu Veena’s journey
Signs and symptoms
At that time, I had just turned 50. All my family members were happy. In November, during my Diwali cleaning, a cartoon fell on my chest. I felt a lump in my breast. I tried to get rid of it with warm compresses. It was strange that it didn’t go away. I was on medication for diabetes and thyroid problems. I went to the local doctor. The mammogram revealed a little bit. Then the doctor asked if the lump hurt. If it hurts, then it is not malignant. Earlier it was not easy to gather information. There was no internet to search online. I opted for homoeopathy, which didn’t help me. The lump had grown from the size of wheat to a pea. So, I consulted the doctors again. Again a mammogram was performed, which didn’t reveal anything. Then I asked doctors to remove the lump anyway. The biopsy further showed that I had cancer.
Treatments underwent and recurrence
Doctors tried to reach me, but I didn’t know about it. When I went to them, they informed me about cancer. They suggested removing my breast and doing radiation after the surgery. My mind went blank for a minute after hearing this news. But I decided to go to the surgery as soon as possible. We also went for a second opinion who said the same thing. My daughter was scared after hearing about me. She told me to listen to the doctors and leave the rest to God. I had surgery and rested for a month. I had a lot of bleeding due to diabetes. Even my healing was slow due to my thyroid conditions. I had to be extra careful due to my complications. I asked doctors not to give me painkillers after the surgery. I spent a week in the hospital without painkillers. But I had to take two units of blood due to my low haemoglobin levels. An HIV test was performed to ensure the blood transfused were safe.
I had to go to other hospitals for chemo and radiation. People had minimal experience with these treatments. I went to the government. The doctors said she would have saved my breast if I had approached them. I felt that it is vital to know. When we lack information, we can’t make the right decision. But what has been done can’t be undone. So, I proceeded with the chemo there. The doctor gave me two options for chemo. One was to take twelve chemos once every fifteen days. Another option was to take four chemos once every twenty days. But the twenty days of chemo would affect the heart or liver. Initially, for two weeks, nothing happened to me. They performed a lot of tests before chemo. Many people don’t know that right after chemo, and you should have glucose saline to clear out the veins. So, I insisted on it even though they said it was optional. Even after four weeks, everything was normal. I went to work as usual. My mother’s words were very encouraging. My brother and my daughter were a massive support for me. My daughter gave all her savings to me for the treatment. She helped a lot and asked me not to worry about money. Even now, she still supports me.
After the second chemo, I felt a tingling feeling in my head during a meeting. When I touched my head, all the hair came to my hand. It was okay because I expected it. During my third chemo, my ECG was not normal. So, my doctor decided to perform an echocardiogram again. Then, she said chemo wouldn’t affect me so much and asked me to take a few precautions. Finally, after the four cycles, the chemo was over. After chemo, I had radiation. For follow-ups, I had to go for a nucleus test and ultrasound tests. I went through these follow-ups for four and a half years.
But I still felt uncomfortable and wanted to go for the PET and CT scans. At that time, only Satya Sai hospital was the one to have these tests. It wasn’t easy to get an appointment in this hospital. A student helped to get an appointment in a week. The scans revealed that I had small tumours of about one centimetre in my chest, trachea and head. Earlier, I had stage two cancer. Whenever cancer comes back and has spread, it automatically means that it is stage four cancer.
I didn’t want to go with chemo again. Then, my doctor told me about a trial drug. It was oral chemo. I had to take 28 tablets, each costing around five hundred, which was hard on the pocket. But my friends came forward to help me. I took tamoxifen, a hormone blocker, for four to five years. After ten years, they said they wouldn’t be able to administer these drugs. I followed the doctors’ instructions very strictly and cleared my doubts by asking as many questions as possible. As I was a diabetic, I had to take insulin regularly. After nine years, three consecutive PET scans came clear, and I discontinued the medicine. So, my doctor said I am cancer free and can live my life now. I still try to be helpful and self-reliant. I try to keep updated with the latest treatments so that I can help other patients.
Message to other cancer patients
I feel that cancer is not a death sentence. If you detect it early, you can quickly treat it. Earlier, treatments were limited, and we didn’t know many things. You should follow the doctor’s instructions strictly. Also, the medicine will help you. I feel that the treatments have advanced, and you have many state-of-the-art medicines. So, you shouldn’t be afraid. Just keep trying and trust God.
What I learned from my cancer journey
If you exercise, you can deal with oedema. When I had cancer for the second time. The doctors said it could come back after five years, which was the life expectancy. One thing to keep in mind is that you should watch your BP and sugar level. I didn’t eat much sugar. After the second time, I refrained from any form of sugar intake.