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HomeCancer Survivor StoriesIndira Kaur Ahluwalia - Breast Cancer Survivor

Indira Kaur Ahluwalia – Breast Cancer Survivor

Indira Kaur Ahluwalia – Breast Cancer Survivor

I’ve been living with cancer since 2007 and have had an incredible life despite it. I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer with bone metastasis in April 2007. There were no typical symptoms of the disease; all I had was a pain in my hips and back which started in the second half of 2006. As time went by, the pain became unbearable to the point where I could not even walk or climb stairs. I went to the doctor, who ran some tests and found nothing, and eventually gave me some painkillers. I thought that was the end of that issue.

But by March 2007, I noticed a thick lining under my right nipple and understood that it wasn’t normal. It did not cause any pain initially, but as time went by, there was pain that went right through the breast. It was then that we took tests that showed that I had advanced breast cancer that had spread through my bones too. 

My first reaction and my family’s reaction

 I don’t think it is ever easy. Initially, there was a lot of fear and doubt. We had to sit with the news for some time to understand that we were going through it. You are in this discovery phase where you have a lot going on in your mind and don’t know what to do. But with all the things going on around me, when I got a moment to sit and face my fears, I understood that my faith would take me through it. My father was a cancer patient, too, and he showed me that even if it seems to be impossible, you can control your reaction to it and overcome the disease.

Treatments that I underwent

Since cancer had already spread through the body, our first choice of treatment was chemotherapy. The idea was to address the cancer aggressively with the treatment. So, I had a combination of four drugs with the chemotherapy, along with another medicine that I still take to this day, to make sure there was no relapse. I take the drug every few weeks intravenously. 

Alternative treatments 

At the time of chemotherapy, I did not take any other additional treatments, but after the treatment, I went through acupuncture treatment to manage the side effects of chemotherapy. There was no set routine to this treatment, and I just took it when I felt the need. I also chose meditation as a means of dealing with my emotional well-being. 

Mental and emotional well-being during the process

I don’t think I could manage their emotions to a point where I could control them, and I just managed to a point where I could function and be the person that the people around me wanted. I had to be there for my children, who were very young and the business I was running, which provided me with the money that I needed to get through life. 

More than that, I feel that keeping up with my life gave me a sense of normalcy, while I was going through a deadly disease and made me feel like I was myself instead of just a cancer patient. 

My support system through this journey

My primary support was spiritual. It was unconditional and constant. I would strongly suggest people have faith in whatever or whoever they believe and give it a strong chance. I believe letting that faith guide us through the journey without judgement will be of immense help. 

Materially, the doctors stood by me in a way that made me believe them completely. They treated me as a human being rather than as just a patient, and that gave me a lot of strength. My family held me through the journey, and I had a lot of friends and even strangers who supported me. 

My experience with the doctors

I had doctors who spent a lot of time on my case and made sure they had all the knowledge they needed to treat my issue. At the same time, I also had doctors who were hesitant about treating the cholesterol I had because they wondered if it was necessary given the cancer I had. These experiences made me understand that I should take major responsibility for my own health rather than relying on others to do it for me.

Things that made me happy during the journey

 I believe that despite the disease, I have been blessed with good fortune, and I want to be as grateful as I can for it. Having gratitude for the things I had in life so that I can continue to be a good mother and be there for the people who need me is what kept me motivated greatly through the treatment.

Being there for my children and knowing that I had a responsibility as a parent and that I should not walk away from it was the prime reason that kept me going through the journey without giving up. 

How cancer changed my life

The journey has made me believe more deeply that there are good and bad things you can learn from an experience, and all you can do for the events you can’t avoid is be grateful. No matter who you are and where you are from, the gratitude that you show always has a positive impact on your life and the life of others around you.

Life lessons that cancer taught me

One of the very fundamental lessons I’ve learnt is to have your power and your own idea of self. The fear that you feel at the time of adversity is something that you can either overcome or wallow in. So, it is essential to take a breath and focus on facing the fears with your power and self. As humans, we are given a choice and what we choose shapes how our life turns out. 

My message to cancer patients and caregivers

 I think the main message I would give is to never forget that you are a human being. It is easy to get stuck with the tag that you are a patient, and when you lose your essence of self, it is easy to go down a spiral that you can’t come out of. Cancer is just a part of you, and the rest of you is still alive and vibrant, and people need to remember that. And even the people around the patients should treat them as more than just their disease, which will allow them to live a life beyond the disease.

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