My name is Priyambada Pani. I am from Odisha, India. I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 at an age of 37. I was so panicked because I had three little kids at that time. Luckily, my brother who was a gynaecologist, helped me a lot. I moved to Varanasi for my treatment. I stayed there for 6 months and had surgery.
Symptoms and diagnosis
I had no symptoms like fever or fatigue. One day, while doing a self-examination I found a pea-sized breast lump. I had learned how to do self-examination from a friend who was going through a cancer journey. So, I went to the doctor who said that it was nothing serious. It ignored this for a month. Then, I went to another hospital and they said the same thing. But they recommended a biopsy to out rule any doubt. I got the biopsy report after one month. Within that time, my lump has grown bigger to be the size of a betelnut. So, I contacted my brother. I went for an FNC which showed positive for stage 2 cancer.
Treatments underwent and side effects
I went to Varanasi for further treatment. My brother had already set everything. I had all the tests on the day I reached the city. I had the surgery the next day. 18 nodes were removed during the surgery, out of which only two were cancerous. I had to go through radiation and chemotherapy after the surgery as insisted by my brother. I went through one and a half months of radiation conducted five days a week and had six cycles of chemo performed every twenty-one days.
I had a very bad condition during the treatment. My lymph nodes hurt a lot. I wasn’t able to eat properly and even lost my long, beautiful hair. I was worried about my little kids all the time. After the treatment was over, I had to go for regular checkups for one and a half years. I was on medication for five years. But I am cancer-free till now. I don’t have pain in my left hand because of the removed lymph nodes. I can do all kinds of chores.
I took pomegranate juice during my treatment. I started to take wheatgrass juice after the treatment which I think was vital in the regrowth of my hair. I took physiotherapy for my hand due to pain and swelling.
My support system
My family was my support system. My husband was very caring and even resigned for me. My kids helped me a lot, especially my second child. She did all the cooking. I am also grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for helping me out.
Coping up emotionally
When I came back after completing my treatment, I was depressed and didn’t like to talk much. I feared what would happen to my children if I died. I liked to design dresses. So, I took my interest to another level and opened a boutique. I even took a course to learn more about designing. Slowly, I started to teach others about designing. Now, my boutique is well established. My spiritual guru also helped me to lead a happy life and do prayers and puja. I even help other women to do self-examination.
Importance of self-examination
Self-examination is key for early detection. I feel that every woman should do it from time to time. Many women are not aware of this and don’t know how to perform it correctly. They can easily misunderstand the benign ones as malignant lumps. So, women must learn how to do the self-examination. When it comes to detection, I recommend NFC tests over other tests like biopsy.
I made some lifestyle changes, mainly in my diet. I became a vegetarian after the treatment. I also started to have my meals in a timely manner. So, I began to take care of myself.
Things that helped in my recovery
The support from my family and friends helped a lot in my recovery. I think that family support is crucial for recovery. My brother took care of all my problems. My sister-in-law took care of me during my treatment. I visited him often if I had any problems. I knew that my kids needed me. So, my kids gave me the strength and motivation to continue fighting and recover.
My experience with the medical team
I had a very great experience with the medical team, maybe because of my brother who was a gynaecologist there. All the doctors were supportive and took care of me all through the treatment. Whenever I thought I couldn’t take anymore, the nurses encouraged me to continue.
I learned through my cancer journey that life is short. I also learned that cancer can happen to anyone no matter what. It can happen to a healthy person too. So, one should not ignore even the slightest of symptoms and do a self-examination. One should pay attention to their diet and watch what they eat. You should fight any life situation with optimism and should not run away from them.
Message to cancer patients and caregivers
I would ask the other patient to seek proper medical attention. I know it’s hard to stay happy. It would be a bit unfair to ask someone to stay positive because a person going through cancer treatment knows how it feels. But one has to stay strong for their family and ask God to help them.
Fear of recurrence
I do have fear of recurrence because I have heard that it can reappear anytime and anywhere. Whenever I feel something is off, I get it diagnosed.
I think that cancer is a dreadful disease. Its treatment is certainly heavy on your finances. If you are rich then it’s not a big issue but the same is not true if you aren’t. I have seen people not able to bear the expenses and their condition is dire. Government hospitals are overcrowded and often have a shortage of supplies. I recommend people approach proper doctors if possible.
Thoughts about ZenOnco
I think ZenOnco is doing a great job in helping out cancer patients. It’s good to know that they provide an integrated solution to cancer like diet plans, palliative care, and even alternative treatment.