I am Varsha Naran. I am a coach and mentor. I battled breast cancer twice. I first was diagnosed with when I was 25 years old. Ten years later, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer. I founded Lumière Coaching & Consulting which aims to empower women and raise awareness about breast cancer. I help my clients reveal the limiting beliefs and mindsets that shape behavior and impact relationships, health, and performance by focusing on emotional agility and mindfulness.
Reaction after knowing I had cancer
I had no symptoms or signs before being diagnosed with cancer. So, when I heard that I had cancer for the first time, it felt like the floor had opened up and I was falling down the unending rabbit hole just like Alice in wonderland. Nothing was coherent or made sense to me. My family was shocked too. But they were very supportive.
The first time, I had chemotherapy followed by bilateral reconstruction. I also went for alternative treatment. I consulted with my homoeopath which was helpful for my overall well-being.
The second time when I had cancer, I was in Mauritius. Because the chances of me getting the same cancer ten years later was so rare, doctors didn’t know how to treat it well. So I had chemotherapy again. They removed the lump under my arm. Then I went for radiation. This was followed by hormone therapy which is still going on.
I thought if I win the battle in my head, my body will follow. I recognize after my first diagnosis, I focused on a lot of things. And I tried to be grateful and happy and to live a good life. I was grateful for every day. I also felt that healing has to happen from the inside too. So with my first cancer, I didn’t pay attention to my body and mind. So the second time, I decided to focus on my body and on my healing.
The second cancer was a blessing. I connected back to my body. I made friends in the dance classes. I started taking yoga with new vigor. I focused on self-care and learned to love myself just the way I am. I think being able to connect back to myself has helped to heal my emotions, to come to terms with the traumas that I had, and appreciate everything. Now, I have so much energy to influence and empower and uplift other women who are going through this journey, struggling with trauma, and overwhelmed with anxiety. I feel that if I can do it, then anybody can.
During my first cancer, my support was my family, especially my brother, my sister, and my mother. I talked to my mother every night for hours about my cancer journey and my spiritual journey. We also had to process the loss of my father. My sister and my brother helped me to cope emotionally. They kept bringing me back from the dark side. Every time, I felt sorry for myself, I just cried. They allowed me to cry, but held my hand and encouraged me to not give up. They said to me that this is the essence of who you are. It is unfortunate but cancer does not define who I am.
Experience with the medical team
My oncologist was literally the person who kept me sane. I am really grateful to the nursing team. They assisted us and supported us emotionally. They helped me to get through those drastic times.
Things that kept me motivated
Thinking of what kept me motivated, the first image that popped into my mind was that of my beautiful sister. She just brought me back to reality. She helped me realize the importance of acceptance and told me “it is what it is”. Also, my husband helped me stay positive because I know no matter what happens, he’s there. I think I believe in myself and that I have a will to live. And no matter what happens, I believe that when you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go except to go up.
Nutrition-wise, we look at what I eat. I make better nutritional choices for myself now. I exercise because I find it joyful. I have started to walk on the beach a lot more. I do long yoga and also dance a lot. I practice mindfulness which has really helped me.
Life lessons that I learned
My life lesson is to be able to connect back to yourself. Also, I am choosing to be brave so that it shifts the way I interact with life. The third lesson would be to love fiercely, love so much that it makes you cry, and that it’s okay to love fiercely.
Message to cancer patients and caregivers
I would say that night will happen and it’s not always going to be pleasant. It’s okay because you can choose how you want to respond to what happens to you. And in that choice is your empowerment. When you have that empowerment, then you are home and in an amazing place to live.
When I was diagnosed the first time, some family members came to visit and they looked at me like I was dying. It’s something treatable. One of the biggest things that we got to know after founding an NGO was the stigma and the shame attached to cancer. For me, stigma is really sad. Our power comes when we learn more about it when we have the support structure and we believe that we can do something about it.
So I think awareness needs to be a shoot-up. We need to spread more awareness. We need more people who stand up and speak about it. The more we normalize it and talk about it, the easier it becomes. Only then, the stigma attached to cancer can go away.