Symptoms and diagnosis
I’m Mira Raj, 72 years old, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. When I went for a routine examination, I felt hardness in my breast. There was no lump. I did my test and was confident that it would not be cancer. When I saw the result, it was so shocking. While coming down the stairs, I stopped and sat on the steps. Fortunately, I had a close friend who lived close to me and was a clinical psychologist. So I spoke with her, and she calmed me down.
I had six chemos twice a week and then once in three weeks for about five months. I had all the difficulties of chemotherapy, first of all, the hair fall. My son came with the wick, but I didn’t want to wear much. Initially, I wore them when I went out. Then, when my hair grew about an inch, I stopped wearing it.
Helping other cancer patients
I moved to Site Care to help other cancer patients. I tell them it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a pause, not a complete stop. Do your best, give your best, and get back the best. After I recovered, I went to Doctor Pies. I asked him to let me speak and help all the patients. He agreed and said that I would be India’s first navigator. I have gone about six times abroad to help other cancer patients. Wherever I go, whoever I speak to, I tell them I’m a cancer survivor.
My support system
We need a lot of family support and encouragement for your family. For me, more than family, it was friends because I have a lot of friends. They would stay for days when nobody was around and things like that. Friends are family.
Positive changes in me
I’m a retired professor of English, and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. My surgeon always says that I can put a smile on anybody’s face. I always try to do that with all my cancer patients. To a large extent, I would succeed because it’s all about being with them and telling them that it’s okay and you can get over it.
Two people I must tell you about them. One lady asked me whether I had grown back. They don’t even know that much. Another was a very young mother who had two other girls. While feeding the third child, she came to know that she had cancer. And she must have been only in her mid-20s or early twenties. And then she used to come for chemo, and I used to go and speak to her and all that. But then she thought she wouldn’t die immediately because it was cancer. I said that she had some years ahead of her. How would that be if she walked out of this hospital, crossed the road, and met with an accident? Now she has another three, four, five. She didn’t know how many years she had had with her children. But she said at least she had some time with her children. I couldn’t imagine anything more positive than that. She got better. I saw her coming for the checkups before I left the hospital. So we lost touch like that—so many people. So many people have even had a recurrence. They are still working and optimistic because life is always more compelling than anything else.
The life lesson that I have learned
The first one is that you should pay some importance to yourself. I mean physically, mentally, and emotionally. Primarily whether it’s food or exercise, don’t postpone it. My lifestyle has changed considerably. I exercise regularly now. Be careful and not eat a lot of sweets. I think for about three months I didn’t go for a walk. Then I started walking again. Keep your mind active and stay physically active as far as possible, don’t lie in bed and treat yourself as a patient. Avoid friends who fill you with negativity. Nothing makes you happier than giving something to others. If you can provide confidence and inspiration, and positivity to others, it’s very satisfying and rewarding.
Whatever the illness, you can always speak to somebody. I suggest to the breast cancer survivor that if they lose hair or breasts, not to worry. I can tell you that your hair grows back. And it’s only a matter of time before your breast is reconstructed. So you cheer yourself up and begin to care for yourself physically and emotionally. You may not feel the same, but you should always do your best to keep your benefits up.
How cancer journey changed me
It was initially a difficult journey when I was going through treatment. It opened up my life, gave me a new profession, and put me in touch with thousands of people. I have a thousand stories, and everyone has met and blessed me. I wonder how many people’s blessings have I got? Even now, I keep getting those feedback, so it’s been an incredible journey after my cancer. I can say it was much better than earlier also. I could influence and interact with so many people you see on TV on paper. Initially, journalists used to interview me. I used to go to General Gods. They didn’t know anything about the disease.