I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2020 at the age of 34. I had a 17 month old son and the news came as a shock to me. At that time I could do nothing but to figure out a path and forge ahead.
I started preventative treatment at the age of 30. I started getting mammograms at the age of 30 just to be hyper vigilant. Actually it was the time for my annual mammogram, and I had a very persistent pain in my armpit.
After diagnosis I got to know that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes but that was the only sign I had. It had to be found with the mammogram and then an ultrasound followed by a biopsy.
I did six rounds of chemo, then 11 rounds of herceptin, followed by targeted immunotherapy. Afterwards I had 25 rounds of radiation. I’ve had a double mastectomy and I’m currently doing reconstruction.
Initial phases were much more difficult than the latter ones. Radiation felt less difficult than surgery and surgery was less tiring than Chemotherapy.
Chemo was exhausting and painful. I tried to keep my hair short but I had to shave my head after the second round. I lost my taste; I lost my smell. During a part of that treatment, you will feel hungry but you don’t feel any taste. I loved to cook and eat; eating something I couldn’t taste was really hard for me.
I can’t tell how much I love baking. During that time, I couldn’t bake because I couldn’t smell. You are inexplicably exhausted during Chemo sessions. Sometimes you don’t have an appetite and other times you want to eat but you can’t taste and smell.
I had 6 cycles of Chemo. I had to do this for 18 weeks. Being a Mom, I had to change diapers; I had to get up 20 times in the night; all of this was very strenuous for me with my weakened body.
Help from Support system
My family was my first and foremost support. But your family may not understand the pain and hardships you’re going through. I had to look for that support outside my family. I looked for someone who had gone through this journey and felt the ups and downs of being in a cancer treatment.
I was well versed in Instagram, so I started looking for someone there. And, to my surprise, I found a huge community on Instagram. I connected with many of them, some of them in person as well. They were just incredible. Meeting other women and a couple of men who have gone through what I was going through, proved to be really helpful. Real life experiences boosted my confidence; if they could do it, there were chances that I could sail through it too.
I wanted to protect my husband, I didn’t want to dump everything on one person. I never thought the internet would be so helpful. Whatever age you are diagnosed with cancer, cancer inherently has death attached to it. So, unloading gets crucial for a cancer patient.
I was really really emotional. I was facing my mortality at 34. I wanted to do many more things, and I had an infant in my lap. I took help from the mental health cafe professionals to deal with emotional anxiety.
My husband was my cheerleader. But my child was my motivation to keep moving.
Seeing the person I had created and he needed me kept me going. I needed to live and tell people that they were not alone, they had a community to support them.
When I had an appetite and I could taste, I enjoyed my food. I watched silly movies without commercials. I did anything and everything I liked like wearing crazy socks or sweatshirts and eating ice cream, something which I would probably not do otherwise.
Cancer and lifestyle changes
I kept working out as much as I could. I was a healthy eater before, but I still made some necessary changes in my lifestyle. I decreased my alcohol intake and started eating more veggies. I reprioritized my life, my family became number one, and work was not in the top 3 anymore. I started picking organic stuff as and when I could.
I wanted to advocate for cancer awareness and tell everyone that it’s manageable. I wanted to share everything I knew with my community, therefore I wrote a book about it.
A word of advice
Everyone says stay positive, remain surrounded by positive people etc., but I say BE NATURAL. Let the positivity come to you naturally; do not insist too much on it. If you try to force something, such as toxic positivity, it will just snap back twice as hard; so if you push or bend it too far, it’s going to break.
Getting outside is a natural antidepressant; you will get vitamin D, sunshine in addition. Be around people who make you feel good or people to talk about your diagnosis or even about the weather or a funny tv show. So, in short, do things like finding new hobbies, meeting new people or just do what you have always enjoyed doing like music, cooking…
With increasing usage of social media, it seems like cancer is more about losing hair and then wearing a scarf, which is not true. Cancer is a stressful event where you undergo surgery after surgery; it takes a toll on your whole body rather your whole life. Be wary of any heavily edited interview or any other material which is made for targeted marketing purposes. Only find information from your healthcare provider or other genuine resources.