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Anuradha Saxena (Breast Cancer)

Anuradha Saxena (Breast Cancer)

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

My life started taking me on a different path than what I had planned when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, that too on my birthday, i.e. 12th November.

Breast Cancer Treatment

After my diagnosis, I was initially puzzled as to how to move forward with my treatment. I was confused about whether to start my treatment in Indore itself or to go to Delhi for it. But I finally decided that Indore would be better suited for me, as after the Surgery I would need more care which won't be easily accessible in Delhi with my family settled in Indore.

We consulted the oncologist in Indore, and on 22nd November 2008, I underwent Breast Cancer mastectomy, and the doctor also removed the lymph nodes. The size of the lump was 6-7cm, and out of the 33 lymph nodes that were sent for biopsy, 17 came back positive. The doctors planned six Chemotherapy cycles which were to be followed by five weeks of Radiation therapy. Since the port wasn't much preferred at that time, I took all my Chemotherapy through veins. I have since been on Hormone therapy.

During my treatment, I always held onto the belief that I could confront cancer head-on and overcome it. This conviction continuously circled in my mind, giving me the resilience to embark on my journey towards recovery. After the chemotherapy cycles, I faced various challenges like depression and mood swings, but having witnessed my aunt navigate similar circumstances, I drew strength from the understanding that this was just a phase I had to endure. My steadfast belief centered on one principle: with faith in God, faith in my doctor, and faith in myself, I could conquer this illness. Whether it was cancer or any other obstacle, unwavering faith was the key to successfully reaching the end of the journey. Throughout my treatment, these thoughts buoyed me, providing the strength and assurance to emerge from the other side of the tunnel. Additionally, I found solace in chanting. Whenever I struggled to sleep or felt negative thoughts creeping into my mind, I turned to chanting the Gayatri Mantra. This practice helped divert my mind from my body and illness, allowing me to relax and regain my composure.

Positivity all around me

Another major factor that helped me immensely in my battle against Breast Cancer was the support I received from my family and relatives. My husband and daughter were my pillars of support throughout my journey. Thanks to their continuous support, I never panicked in any situation. There were days during my Chemotherapy when I was not able to eat for 7-10 days continuously, but even during those days, they helped me to be confident and optimistic.

Dr. Anupama Negi, the founder of the NGO Sangini, played a pivotal role in my journey. Following my first chemotherapy session, she provided invaluable counseling and guidance on maintaining a proper diet, incorporating suitable exercises, and navigating every aspect of the disease. Sangini, the rehabilitation center she established, goes beyond counseling to offer lymphedema management, teaching patients exercises, massages, and bandaging techniques to alleviate lymphedema, a potential complication following breast cancer surgery. Inspired by her dedication and support, I resolved to assist cancer patients in a similar manner after completing my treatment.

Thank You, Breast Cancer

I know this may sound strange, but in hindsight, I would thank cancer for coming into my life. My life underwent several changes after cancer. I started helping and counseling other patients which gave me a great sense of fulfilment. I started getting recognition as a counselor amongst doctors and patients in Indore.

Once my Radiation therapy was over, my husband had to go through bypass Surgery. During his treatment, I saw several cancer patients in the same hospital who were upset, and I started talking to them about how I had defeated the disease, how I was perfectly alright now and how the Cancer Treatment had become so much better now that everyone stood a good chance of getting cured. Gradually, I started counseling more patients. Being able to give back to society made me very grateful. It became a motto in my life to help as many cancer patients as I could.

There are many queries that cancer patients and their family members may have, and since doctors can't be expected to answer all of them, I started doing what I could to alleviate their concerns. It's been ten years since I began this journey. I started with a self-examination program and have now conducted over 125 programs. I also began gathering a team of volunteers to assist me, and now I have 15 volunteers who currently counsel patients in different hospitals across the city of Indore. We have also participated in marathons and conducted a fashion show to spread positivity and raise awareness about the disease. Additionally, we provide wigs and prostheses to cancer patients. I always tell patients that they can approach me 24/7. I also provide them with a diet plan that they can follow to ensure they receive necessary supplements during treatment. Some of my young patients tell me that I'm like their mother. The sense of fulfillment and gratitude that I receive from these patients makes me thankful for cancer, for giving me this opportunity in life. It's always encouraging when you are appreciated for your efforts. I was also one of the 15 women from MP who received the Devi Award from CM Kamal Nath. Additionally, I received the '51 Most Influential Women in Indore' and the Akhil Bhartiya Award.

I tell the patients that unlike conditions like diabetes which can stay with you for the entire life, cancer has a cure. While we don't have a choice as to how we die, we do have a choice as to how we live and enjoy our life. So I always tell my patients to enjoy their life to the maximum and not to let cancer overcome them.

Recently, in February 2019, I found that my cancer had relapsed to metastatic Breast Cancer with involvement in spinal cord and bone. After the diagnosis, I was given palliative Radiation therapy for two weeks. I am currently on hormone therapy, fighting the disease and continuing to counsel cancer patients. But I am sure that I will be successful this time also, with the added knowledge of the disease and the belief that I have in myself and my doctors.

Breast Cancer Warrior: Parting Message

This is a short marathon. You are given a torch, and you have to carry it to the final destination. Always remember that you are not a sitting duck for cancer to come and affect you; instead, you will fight cancer with all your might, and you will win. Have complete faith in God, your doctor, and yourself. You should always fight with confidence; cancer is just a word, not a death sentence. Don't ever try to hide your disease; instead, tell people that you are facing the disease with pride.

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