It all started in 2019 when I went to my gynecologist for an annual checkup. It was a routine checkup, and while checking my breast, she felt a lump and asked me if I had noticed it before. I had not seen it because my physical appearance was normal, and I felt fine.
I asked the doctor if it was anything I should worry about, but she said no, but told me to get it checked just to be sure. I was not too concerned about it because cancer did not run in our family, so it was not genetic. I even mentioned it to my family, and they told me not to worry about it, and it could just be a benign tumor.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call from the doctors to start testing. I had a biopsy, a CAT scan, and several other tests. While waiting for the results, I began to get worried, but my family was there for me and told me not to worry. The day I had to collect the results, my husband asked if he should come with me, but I was fine going alone because I thought there would be nothing.
I went to the doctor, and they told me I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I didn’t know what that meant; they later clarified that it was cancer. As soon as I heard that, I burst into tears because I did not expect it. I will never forget that day and that moment ever.
I tried to collect myself because I had to see what to do next.
Breaking the news to my family
I went home and told my husband that I had stage 2 cancer, and I knew the news affected him, but he took it very well and was very supportive. He told me he would be there for me every step of the way. I have three kids, all younger, so I have to tell them the news in a way that they understand. So I told them I would be sick and more tired than usual, but I will be strong and needed them to be strong for me too. They seemed a bit confused and concerned but took my words to heart and were understanding.
My first priority was to find a great oncologist, and I did. She told me that I had to do 7 months of chemotherapy. For the first month of chemo, I started with the red devil drug because it was red in color and was that difficult on the body. I had really adverse reactions to the chemo, and the doctors had to put me on fluids and give me medications for nausea.
I had three more weeks of chemo treatment, and my mother came to live with us and help the kids. I was pretty tired and fatigued, so I couldn’t eat much. But I never lost my spirit. I always had hope and kept pushing.
Switching to a new drug
After a month of this chemo, they switched me to another drug that went on for six months. I did really well with that drug because I had no side effects. I was pleased because I used to be in the chemo room and hear the others there complain about so many things, but luckily, I had no problems with it.
Surgery and Remission
After six months of chemo, I had a single mastectomy in March 2020; I was terrified of it. Losing a part of you is the scariest thing for me. I’ve had surgeries before, but this was hard. But coming out of the surgery, I was amazed at how easy it was. I was not in pain, and it was a breeze.
The moment I was most afraid of was removing all the bandages and looking at myself. While removing the bandages, I didn’t even have the time to process them because the nurse came and quickly removed them and went on her way. I took a good look at myself, processed it as much as possible, and then carried on with my day. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was all just in my head.
After the surgery, I took a month to recover, and since there were a few lymph nodes removed, the doctors gave me a few exercises I could do at home to get my strength back in my arm. That part was a little frustrating, to be honest, but I did not give up because I knew it was temporary and I would get through it.
A couple of months went by, and it was time for radiation. I did 33 rounds of radiation. I went to the hospital every day for fifteen minutes and had treatment. The side effects I had were tightness around the arm, discoloration of the skin, and feeling a bit tired. After the radiation, I had to go every two weeks to get blood tests.
After all this treatment, right now, I only take one pill a day until it’s five years because only after that is a patient declared cancer free; till then, they are classified as NED – No Evidence Detected.
Surgery to remove my ovaries
My cancer was caused due to overproduction of estrogen, and I had to stop my menstrual cycle to avoid recurrence, and the medications the doctor gave did not work. So they gave me two options, either switch to another medication that might not work or have my ovaries removed. I was not happy about another surgery, but I still went ahead with it and had my ovaries removed.
The surgery had a lot of effects on my body. I am tired and sometimes fatigued, I also gained a lot of weight, but I am working on it and focusing on being as healthy as possible and helping people as I can through my journey.
My support system through the journey
My family and friends eventually came to know about the process I was going through, and they were devastated, but all of them were so supportive. My friends and family were not even in the same state I lived in, but they ensured they were there when I needed them. They were my biggest support system, and I couldn’t have asked for more. There were a lot of messages and calls constantly checking on me.
Instagram was also of great help because I got a lot of tips and helpful suggestions from there. For me, I would say that mental health matters. If your mind is fine, your body and health will also be okay. I’m not saying everything will be great and go away; I’m saying that it will be easier if your mind is in the right place. That’s what helped me.
My message to cancer patients and caregivers
To the people going through this journey, one thing I would say is, don’t give up on yourself. Have faith in yourself, your body and on your health care team. Your doctors know what they are doing; if it does not feel like it, find someone who makes you feel like it.
Find a support system; even if they aren’t present at that time, you can find new ones online. There are Facebook groups and plenty of websites where people will support you. Find a safe space. Everything happens for a reason; you will be fine as long as you don’t give up.