How it began
I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer in January 2021; I was 55 at that time. I had no issues or symptoms; I had visited my doctor for my annual mammogram when she saw a tumour in my right breast axillary area. They sent me for an ultrasound followed by a biopsy on the same day.
5 days later my doctor called and shared the news that my biopsy came positive and I had to meet an oncologist as soon as possible. My husband and I were on speaker when my doctor shared the test results with me, and we both were calm even after listening to the life-threatening news.
I could face it without getting panicked because this was my second bout with cancer. In 2015, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer, so this one did not really feel like a shock to me. The radiologists, who did my ultrasound and biopsies, told me that the tumour looked like cancer, so I was prepared for this news. We knew we had to face it and be ready for the treatment.
How I coped up with treatments
I visited my previous oncologist who had helped me with stomach cancer and I knew I was in safe hands. A lot of testing was done throughout February and then I had a port inserted. I started on Chemo on March 10 and it made me super sick as I was triple positive, which meant cancer and treatment – both were very aggressive. I was having daily infusions and I was hospitalised a couple of times just because I became quite ill.
Afterwards, in June I had a double mastectomy with expanders inserted and in July I had got a serious infection in my left expander; I was in and out of the hospital a number of times and I had to have it removed. So I missed some radiation. I was doing Chemo and Radiation simultaneously and it was very tough for me.
What kept me going
Staying positive during my entire treatment gave me strength. My family, my friends, everyone was there to support me, to pray for me and to provide any kind of help I needed, from coming to see me to giving me a ride to my doctor’s clinic, they were always there for me.
Many people don’t like to share their thoughts and feelings with their loved ones. But I liked to talk. They were also concerned about me, so, telling them that I was doing okay, gave them strength.
I kept reminding myself that it is just one storm in life; it will not stay forever. I learnt to enjoy little things like spending time with my family, or watching my grandchild grow, or doing some craft work. My husband and my children (even though they were adults) were my inspiration. My grandchild – watching her was such a relief! I wanted to be their strength, not their weakness.
Another huge support I received was from my employer. I did not stop working during my treatment and kept getting paid. My work proved to be a healthy distraction for me, else I would be sitting around twiddling my thumbs and wallowing in my treatment or brooding over how bad I felt at that time.
I kept discussing all about my cancer and treatment with my family and friends. Any question they asked, and I didn’t have an answer, I would ask my health care team and get the answers. When my wellwishers couldn’t sit with me and empathise with me during therapies, they sent messages saying that they were praying for me. Those simple messages, that small act of showing love and care, also boosted my strength in this fight.
How Cancer changed my life
It taught me a lot of patience. Before, I was always in a hurry for something or the other, always on my toes. This disease forced me to slow down and take a break. I started realising how important it was to pause for a moment at least. I learnt to enjoy little things, those precious moments in life. I learned that everything will come in time; I just need to do my part.
I stopped drinking alcohol until my doctor permitted me to take one or two shots on special occasions. I started looking at the ingredients in everything I used, even my deodorant. I started opting for more natural products. I had never done anything like this before.
I wouldn’t know about my cancer if I had not visited the doctor for my routine mammograms. So do visit your doctor regularly to get the annual exams done. Keep checking breasts on a regular basis. There are so many ways to do a self exam; the earlier you catch, the more treatable it will be.
I had to slow down because there was no other way to deal with it. So slow down, rest, but do not quit; everything will fall into place in due course.
Stay positive; talk to your family about how you feel; take their help and remember – this is a storm which will be over soon!