“I have cancer, but cancer will not have me. I sincerely believe in this quote, and it has helped me even during the most challenging times. I am Ruchi Gokhale, and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I never imagined something of this magnitude would happen to me at any point in life, but I have learned a lot through my journey. I’d love to share my story with everyone out there, fighting their own battles.
First Encounter with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
I am a student residing in Mumbai. Before cancer, I led a typical teenage life. I recall being in the 12th-grade, preparing myself for the upcoming board exam. The exam determined my next step towards a promising future. I had big dreams and even bigger intentions to make it a beautiful journey. However, life has its own twists and turns. In February 2012, a month before my board exams, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for the first time.
I noticed a small lump in my neck region. At that time, the thought of having cancer never crossed my mind. I had just turned 18 and was hoping for a good life ahead. Due to my prelim exams, I hadn’t met my friends and hoped to meet them once I finished my board exams. However, life had something else in store for me.
The lump was somewhat unusual because I had never experienced anything like this before. So, it was surreal to experience this. The next day, we visited our family doctor, who thought it might be a case of TB. I would have readily accepted TB in the place of cancer as I would have had a speedy recovery. However, the lump never disappeared.
I underwent a Biopsy to examine it further. The doctors took almost 7 to 10 days to get back to us about the result. Maybe they were shocked, or they were checking the results once more. The next day, they called my parents and summoned them to the hospital while I was studying at home. Later, my parents came home and explained the situation to me. I was shocked and couldn’t find any words to speak at that moment. I didn’t know what to do next. My parents and siblings supported me during this time, and this is how my journey began.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment
The next day we visited the best oncologist in town to understand the procedure. I was glad to know the survival rate was high, and I would be able to cope with my age. I was also allowed to give my board exams while I regularly visited the hospitals for my tests. I spent most of my summer vacation going from one hospital to another. My treatment was exhausting as I had six Chemotherapy sessions and 15 sets of radiations to undergo. The worst side effect of this process was losing my hair. It shattered my confidence and self-esteem. Although my loved ones knew I was suffering from cancer, I never wanted others to sympathize with me because of the state of my hair.
Additionally, it was difficult for my friends and family to see this too. Fortunately, my first Cancer Treatment didn’t have any other harsh side effects. My body reacted exceptionally well to the treatment.
I had immense support from my friends during my Chemotherapy sessions. Even though I wasn’t allowed to meet more than two visitors, I managed to sneak in most of my friends. They distracted me from all of the Pain and kept me entertained. They made me happy, and I looked forward to their visits.
During such times, you meet people you barely remember. My dad crossed paths with a school mate he hadn’t met for over 20 years. They supported us a lot through my chemo sessions as they stayed near the hospital. They would visit me with food, and my parents would often rest at their house too. These experiences have left a deep impression on me.
At present, I am beaming with positivity and happiness, but it isn’t easy to stay calm when you are going through something like this. People with cancer will feel like it takes forever but look at me. I have evolved, and I am in a better place now. I am an average 18-year-old who has managed to fight cancer twice. If I can, so can you!
I was blessed with incredibly supportive and caring doctors and nurses. I relied on their advice and trusted every one of them completely. The only part that broke my heart was the waiting line to visit a doctor. There were many patients waiting to be checked, which included aged individuals and infants too. Seeing these infants motivated me to keep moving ahead. They were oblivious to the process. However, I had enough knowledge to process everything around me. It helped me channelize myself towards positive vibes.
Second Encounter, with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
After being cured, I was religiously following my diet and sustaining a healthy life. However, 12 months later, I relapsed. I was shocked because this time, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By now, most of my body was covered with cancer cells.
I was shocked when I saw these scans. I had reached a point where I started questioning my beliefs. I felt like things weren’t working out for me, and everything I had planned was falling apart. In such a situation, sheer willpower helped me. I started picturing my life once I was done with this, what I could achieve, and began to dwell on positive thoughts. It is not easy, I agree, but it’s a choice we need to make.
I had to undergo a stem cell transplant for the second cancer treatment, which was extremely painful and scary. This process lasted for four months and was a difficult time for me. I was an extroverted individual who was kept in isolation with my mother. I started watching YouTube videos to keep myself occupied. I have a YouTube channel where I share my journey and hope to help people going through the same.
After a long and exhausting journey, I am now cancer-free and living my life to the fullest. I wake up with gratitude and positivity. My advice to everyone out there is to believe in themselves. Believe that you can defeat this, and this too shall pass. Your mind is an essential part of this journey. You need to keep moving towards your goals and have faith in the process.
Along with this, a bit of spirituality brought peace to me. Make sure to absorb positivity and focus on your willpower. Trust me, and you would be able to overcome all your hurdles!