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Neerja Malik (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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Neerja Malik (Breast Cancer Survivor)

A Cancer Conqueror

I call myself a Cancer Conqueror, not a survivor. I have experience as both a social worker and teacher in various schools. I started the Apollo Cancer Support Group on 8 March 2014, on Women’s International Day. Since 26 October 2015, I have been counseling patients affected by cancer and their family members and caregivers. During the pandemic, I have been counseling through my residence, phone and zoom meetings, and I have been giving the session worldwide. I have also written a book named “I inspire”, narrating about the ten treasures I found in life. I have learned how to face my adversities and overcome them and conquer them throughout my life.

Diagnosis / Detection

I was very slimline, very athletic, and have been in NCC, so I think this physical activity during my childhood and later years have helped me through a lot.

In February 1998, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the left breast and then, in November 2004, in the right breast.

When aerobics, I felt a slight twinge in my left breast (outer side). There was a little pea-size lump when I touched it. I thought I had strained a muscle as I exercised furiously, and I forgot. I remember that it was 2 February as my father’s birthday. Ten days later, on 12 February 1998, I felt that same twinge, but I got the shock of my life when I touched that area. The small lump had become quite large, which alerted me. The same day I went to the Apollo Hospital for a check-up, the doctor checked me thoroughly while I explained how the lump became more significant. Then, he lifted my arm and was doing a thorough check-up, and he suddenly said, how long have you had this? I was confused about what he was talking about, saying this lump. When I felt the lump under my armpit, I was shocked as it was more significant than the lump on my left breast. He told me to get the mammogram, FNAC sonography, and fine-needle aspiration psychology. The results came out the next day, and I was told I had cancer. This was how I was alerted the first time.

The second time it was strange as I turned on my stomach to sleep, and then suddenly, I had the same feeling of cramp, and when I touched it, I said no. It was 17 November. I woke up my husband and told him what I had discovered. He told me to go to the hospital to get it checked up. The next day I got to know that it had happened. But it was a second primary; it had nothing to do with the first one. 

Journey

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my left breast in 1998, I ran to my father, and I told him I would fight it, but the reply I received got me to rethink and change my thinking. He said, why are you using the word “fight”? The fight is hostile and aggressive instead; why don’t you use the word “face”. From that moment onwards, I said yes, I would face it, and every patient I communicated with, I always start with, you know this is what my father told me and instead of fighting it but let’s face it together. Thus, when we face it, there is hope, encouragement and this thing about it, “Hum Honge Kamyab” (meaning We will overcome or succeed). I had my surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and conquered my first breast cancer.

After 12 years of my marriage, I had my twins, and they were also two months and five days prematurely born. When they were seven years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast. I was told that I had only a 25 per cent chance of survival, and that is also when I went to France or the U.S.A. for treatment because, in those days, they had started stem cell research. But I refused to go as I never knew I might come back if I went. I cried for 3 three days after learning this. I was not crying for myself but my twins. I was worried about what would happen to my 7-year-old twins if I was no longer around. However, a thought suddenly struck me: Did God come down and say that you will die, or did God say your days are limited? The answer that I got was no. I wiped my tears and said I would live for my twins. It was a lovely thought because if I can give cancer patients their reason and goal to live, it keeps them going. 

The veins in my arms could not be used, so all my tests and injections have been through the veins in my feet. When I was diagnosed with Septicaemia, the doctors tried to give me IVs through the veins of my feet, but by that time, the veins on both my feet had been punctured so frequently that they just collapsed and gave up. So, I got 210 injections in the jugular vein. I had to keep getting these intravenous injections. I have been through quite a bit, but I figured out that you can win if you do it smiling and have a positive attitude.

What kept me positive during the journey

My family support kept me positive during my first diagnosis, and I thought I would “face” it. While during my second diagnosis, the reason and goal to be with my twins kept me positive and gave me the strength to keep on going and not give up. The support group also helped me with my journey.

Choices during the treatment

I have gone through six major surgeries, six chemotherapies and 30 plus radiation both times. When I was diagnosed in 1998, I just went with allopathic treatment. Despite people saying that this homeopathy is best, or this naturopath is better, I had my surgery and continued with my chemotherapy and radiation. However, the second time I was diagnosed, they came to me before I went for surgery and said they would save me, but I still went with the allopathic treatment. I believe everyone has a right to an opinion and can do precisely what they wish. So, in my opinion, I lived a rocking life after my allopathic treatment as I lived seven years when I wasn’t expecting to. A lot of treatment has to do with your feelings, positivity, and some goal that takes you forward in life.

Lessons during the Cancer Journey

I was enlightened that we should “face” it and not “fight” it. Facing it gives us hope to keep living. I realized that our attitude comes from our resilience and courage, and I feel like, “yes, I can do it, and I can overcome it”. I believe the positivity and the power of prayer go a long way. Thus, you should consider your God, your Guru, your family, yourself, your friends, your doctor, and the support system you have that will help you overcome everything. We should live every moment instead of thinking about dying and dying.

Parting Message to Cancer Survivors

I will say that you can do it as well if I can do it.

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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