I am Swagatika Acharya, and I am a Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma survivor. My cancer was diagnosed in October 2017. I am working for a cancer-free nation ahead and believe that if we accept & believe in ourselves, not only cancer, we can face any life challenge. I love challenges & working dedicatedly for whatever comes on my way. My strength is my positive approach to life & battle with cancer. I love travelling, trekking, gardening & living a quality life with a big smile. I love smiling & sharing smiles & happiness. When we smile back at our problems, they run away from us & that’s the formula of how I deal with my problems.
I was only 19 years old, and I played for my college cricket team; I started getting a sore throat pain. When I consulted the doctor, he said that maybe it was because of the cold. I was getting exposed to cold every day because of cricket practice.
After a few days, I noticed a lump below my neck on the left side. And the lump started growing day by day. I consulted the doctor once again; they misdiagnosed it with tuberculosis. The doctors advised me to take medicine for tuberculosis. But the report for tuberculosis tests was negative. The doctor felt that tuberculosis is not diagnosed in the primary stage. After taking continuous medicine for four months, my health did not improve. Instead, it deteriorated day by day. The small lump covered my full neck. It was very painful. One day after returning from college, I collapsed. During the test, my WBC count was 45000, which was not normal. And then, the doctor felt that it is not gland tuberculosis; it is something else.
Within two to three days, my biopsy was done, and when the report came, I was the first person to see the report. At that time, I didn’t have much idea about cancer and the term carcinoma. So I just googled it, and I found that it is a type of cancer. My family was under tremendous stress after knowing that I had cancer. I am the eldest kid in the family so they were not ready to accept it.
I was taken to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. They conducted a test, which was detected as Stage 2 Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. The doctor gave us a complete protocol of treatment. Finding an appointment at Tata Memorial Hospital was difficult, so we decided to start treatment in Odisha itself.
I got an appointment for my first chemotherapy. It was my first birthday also. As a side effect of chemo, I started losing my hair just after 2 or 3 days. My parents were agitated about it; They were sceptical about how I would take this. They were worried about it. When I used to sleep, My pillow was full of hair. Instead of repenting of my hair loss, I decided to go for a hair shave.
When I used to go to the hospital for treatment, I saw patients worried about it. It seems that they have received a life sentence. At that time, I decided that it was not only about surviving cancer but letting others also know or educate about cancer. They should take it like any other disease. I took social media as my medium to educate people. As soon as I got my hair shaved, I started posting my pictures on social media. I started writing about my experience and journey on different platforms.
I was given three cycles of chemotherapy. I did not have many side effects of it. After that, I was given seven doses of radiation. Before radiation, the doctor told me that it would be painful and that it had lots of side effects. It will change my taste bud and all. I won’t be able to eat food properly. I did not care about it, I was committed to go ahead. When the radiotherapy started, I lost my voice for four months. I was not able to eat anything. I was surviving every day on just four glasses of liquid- one glass of water, one glass of barley, one glass of rice starch and again one glass of water. And taking a glass of water took almost one hour for me. It was very painful also. My skin was getting darker day by day. When the pain started, everyone in my family was very much stressed about how I would handle all this pain and suffering. There were a lot of changes, but mentally I was strong, and I was determined that I would win it.
I am also very thankful to my family, friends and everyone who stood by me during that tough time and supported me. They were the ones who always stood by me, inspired me and consoled me that I could win this situation.
This journey has taught me so many things. It was not an easy journey, but I won this battle with the help of experienced doctors, family, and friends. When I was declared cancer-free, I thought that now I am cancer-free, but the journey is not over here. When I see the reality in Odisha, I see that people don’t die because of cancer here, But they die because of fear of cancer, fear of not getting treated for cancer, and fear of getting the pain through treatment. Many people don’t opt for the treatment because they think that they can not bear the pain.
I decided to work for cancer awareness in Odisha, and the motto is that by 2030 people living in rural and urban areas will be able to know about cancer. I want to spread cancer awareness and the value of early diagnosis and treatment. People should not have that fear about cancer when they hear this word.
Our positivity and acceptance will kick cancer away. There are a lot of problems in life, but we can solve them with our attitude. Miracles happen, but we have to trust them. We can win this disease with confidence and trust.