My cancer journey started in April 2013 when I got my routine exam done, and the doctor found a lump. My doctor immediately ordered a mammogram, and I was diagnosed with (ER-positive) breast cancer. It was challenging as I also had an ostomy from ulcerative colitis. I underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction and six months of chemotherapy. Cancer taught me that I must put myself first and care for my physical and emotional needs. And that I am a badass resilient warrior. I would say to all cancer patients, be patient through the journey and do not forget to love yourself through the journey.
Family history and their first reaction
There is a history of cancer on the mother’s side of my family. There have been many cancer-related deaths as well in my family. When I was first diagnosed, I was in complete shock, and I could not believe that I had to journey through another disease. I fell on the ground and started crying hysterically. I already have an ostomy from ulcerative colitis. It was extremely hard. I was scared and terrified. Everyone in my family was also equally shocked. My husband was very upset and was in tears. Even my mother stood by me and talked to me even just before I went to the doctor and discussed the treatments.
Treatments I underwent
I did a double mastectomy with reconstruction at that time. And then, I had to do hard-core chemotherapy for six months. A year later, I had to start a treatment called Zolodex, which was to induce menopause. I had an (ER-positive) breast cancer, and this kind of breast cancer has receptors that allow it to develop by using the hormone estrogen. I had estrogen-positive cancer, and to stop the proliferation of the cancer, they had to induce menopause. And I could not have a hysterectomy because I had an ostomy earlier and a lot of surgeries along with it.
Treatment side effects that I experienced
Chemotherapy was physically and mentally exhausting for me. During the chemotherapy sessions, my blood count was minus three. I had to be admitted to the hospital with round-the-clock blood transfusions & antibiotics to help increase my blood count.
My mental and emotional well-being through the journey
The chemotherapy I was then undergoing affected me a lot, both mentally and physically. And I tried to commit suicide twice during the treatments. I had a support team for breast cancer at St Vincent Hospital that would call me each week and check on me, which helped me a lot. They were breast cancer survivors themselves who would call women going through cancer and listen to them. They would listen to them and talk about the treatments and what kind of support they needed.
Lifestyle changes during and after treatment
I am a very spiritual person. I pray, meditate and do yoga. And I have learned a lot about myself, how I got my breast cancer, and why I got it. I did a lot of healing, and I was affected by PTSD as well, which was from childhood trauma. A lot of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with PTSD. Having faith in god is something I did not have earlier, and now I do.
My top three learnings in this journey
I learned that I have PTSD was the reason for a lot of my behavior, like my suicide attempt. It was also the reason for my anxiety and depression during cancer. I learned that it is the ACEs of PTSD that influenced the onset of breast cancer. And cancer taught me to take care of myself and understand that I need to prioritize myself mentally and physically.
My message to Cancer patients and caregivers
Be patient with yourself and love yourself through it. In my cancer, I did not know how to love myself through it, but now I do. So give yourself time and grace to heal. And I would sum up my entire cancer journey in one line as, “I am a badass resilient warrior. “