Payal is from Delhi and currently studying in 11th standard. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2017 when she was in 7th grade.
It was like every regular morning, when Payal went to school and had severe pain in her left leg. She ignored the pain as she was a very active child involved in physical activities. But after some time, the pain started increasing day by day and soon She started facing difficulty in walking. After that she underwent many tests like X rays, CT scan, PET scan, MRI. But the results were inconclusive. The pain had increased a lot and her leg also had swollen. The doctors prescribed her painkillers and calcium supplements which had no effect over a period.
So finally, a doctor suggested a biopsy and this time too the report was inconclusive. Payal underwent 2 more biopsies, and it was then diagnosed as osteosarcoma stage 1 bone cancer.
Payal was only 13-year-old and had never heard of cancer or was familiar with the disease. And here she was suffering from osteosarcoma – a rare and aggressive bone cancer. She just couldn’t react to her situation. Her family was totally devastated and traumatized seeing their young daughter suffering from cancer. But eventually they all mustered courage and decided to fight cancer together.
Her chemotherapy started and she still remembers when her doctor told her that her chemotherapy would start that day. Being so young she didn’t understand about the drugs and thought it was just saline going through her veins. The doctor told her that she would lose her hair because of chemotherapy. Payal was numb hearing about her hair loss as she had lovely long hair. Her family assured her that was temporary, and she would regain her hair after the treatment. She had to undergo a surgery to remove the tumor, so her hemi pelvic girdle – hip bone was removed. Because of this surgery she had a limp in her left leg as there was a difference of about 2 inches in both her legs. She was in ICU for 15 days after the surgery and then shifted to the pediatric ward for the rest of her Osteosarcoma treatment.
She lost her hair, had unbearable pain, acidity issues, vomiting, loose motions, mouth sores and other related side effects. She used to get paralysis attacks because of the unbearable pain at times. But she followed her doctor’s advice and tried to manage the side effects during her Osteosarcoma treatment. She used to think why she was subjected to this condition and what wrongdoing she had committed to undergo such a situation. Eventually she made peace with herself and thought that the universe was preparing her for a better future. And she entirely focused on her road to recovery.
Her path to recovery
Payal’s Osteosarcoma treatment was done in Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Resource Center. She underwent 15 chemotherapies and 10 surgeries including biopsies. When she saw small 5–6-year-olds battling cancer, it gave her immense strength and will power that she too could overcome this disease. Her doctor said that she would be bedridden for six months. Payal couldn’t imagine herself being in the same position lying bedridden for 6 months. She decided not to lose hope and focus on her recovery. She had made a resolve to recover fast and with the help of exercise, physiotherapy and keeping herself motivated, she stood on her feet after 3 months. Her doctor was surprised to see her recovery and said she was an inspiration to many. She slowly started walking again, but with a limp on the left leg. She had lots of difficulty walking straight, but she never gave up and accepted the reality. She had resolved that this disability will never obstruct her path or stop her from doing her work. She was told that she would miss 1 year of her studies and repeat 7th grade again, but she attended her school with the help of Walker, appeared for her exams and cleared it.
Life after Cancer
Payal is a dancer, and she has given stage performances on cancer events and I also motivate people through social media by creating cancer awareness. Also, she is the youngest leader of her hospital team, Ashayein, which is a childhood cancer Survivor Support Group.She is a member of Sumita Cancer Society, and in future she plans on running an NGO where she could help cancer patients.
From Being a Cancer patient to a Cancer Fighter
Payal’s mantra is – Never lose hope because losing is not an option. Problems are a part of life and there is lots of negativity because of a lot of stigmas about cancer. She got immense strength from the small children of People equating cancer with death. They feel that cancer is not curable or it is a communicable disease. Also, one stigma is that there is no life after cancer. All these negative notions about cancer should be removed and people do get cured completely and live a very normal life even after having cancer. Interaction with people and doing things which gives us pleasure should be pursued. Life doesn’t end after cancer. In fact, we can raise the quality of our life after cancer. She has two inches of difference in her leg, but she has never let this disability come and stop her from doing anything.
Managing Emotional Well-being
According to Payal, being strong, positive, and having strong willpower is the only choice one has once he or she has cancer. After her first chemotherapy, she posted her picture on Facebook without hair and felt nice about it. Find happiness in small things and find a reason to smile. And be content and proud about your situation and circumstances.
Support system throughout the treatment
Her family was my support system, but on top of all this her uncle Mr Mukesh was a pillar of strength, always there for her and supported her from the diagnosis of Osteosarcoma cancer. He motivated her to write blogs and create cancer awareness. Her friends also played an important part in her recovery. Initially thoughts like why this happened to me came to her mind, but then she accepted that it is not only karma, but God is guiding her towards some good things in life.
Fear of cancer coming back
There is always this question whether cancer will strike back but inculcating positive changes in our lifestyle really helps to keep it at bay. Eating lots of fruits and veggies and avoiding junk food, regular health checkup and follow ups, taking medicines as and when prescribed and doing exercise and yoga are some key steps to prevent cancer.
Promoting awareness regarding the cancer signals going and best possible solutions
Payal promotes cancer awareness through social media. She makes YouTube videos on different topics of cancer. Her aim is to create awareness in the rural areas where there are a lot of myths about this disease. She wants people to adopt a healthy life and avoid smoking. She encourages people to take regular health checkups and cancer screening so that the disease can be found at the initial stage only. Currently she is working on cervical and childhood cancer awareness programs. She is a part of Aashayein – a childhood cancer survivor support group of the hospital.
As per her, Prevention is better than cure. Life is full of ups and downs and if we lose hope then nobody will help us. Life is a battle, and one should never lose hope.
Hope this session really motivates people out there who have traveled or are traveling through cancer.