About the Healing Circle
The purpose of the Healing Circle at Love Heals Cancer and ZeonOnco.io is to give a safe space to cancer patients, caregivers, and winners, to share their feelings or experiences. This circle is built on the foundation of kindness and respect. It is a sacred space where everyone listens with compassion and treat each other with honour. All the stories are held confidential, and we believe that we have the guidance we need within us, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.
About the speaker
Dr Aurora is a cervical cancer winner. She is a practising health consultant at Holy Spirit hospital in Mumbai and a family physician. In her 35 years of experience, she has counselled and worked on numerous cancer patients. She believes in “गिर पड़े, गिर कर उठे और उठ कर चलें। और चलते ही रहे। ”
That is to say, Dr Aurora urges cancer warriors and winners to rise from their fall, and make it their determination to continue their journey towards recovery.
Dr Anu Aurora’s Journey
My journey of illness started at the very young age of 17. I had a bleeding disorder at the age of 17, and before that, I never even had a cough or cold. I developed petechial haemorrhages in my legs, so the skin specialist in the hospital said that “You are young right now, you stand daily for 8 hours, and that is why this is happening to you, take vitamin C, and everything will be alright.” Then I developed heavy bleeding which went on for 15-20 days. That bleeding was so severe that I used to pass clots in my menstruation. Despite taking vitamin C, the spots were present in my legs, which landed me in a hospital. A doctor misdiagnosed it, and I was also given a blood transfusion. The next day I had full body petechial haemorrhages, even in the mouth. My father took me to JJ hospital, where I was a medical student, and the doctors there investigated and found it to be Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It was a rare disease. I was put on steroids, and it went on for 2-3 years. I ended up doing splenectomy because my platelet counts used to come down to 10,000. It was a very major surgery done under the supervision of the cardiothoracic surgeon in Bombay hospital as the doctors had to take out my spleen.
After the surgery, my platelet counts became stable, and I came back to my normal life, but due to the steroids, I had a lot of cramping sensations. After my spleen was removed, I was put on chloroquine as I was very vulnerable to malaria, then I was given penidure injections every month. Likewise, I spent some years of my life with many ups and downs.
Later I got married and had my first baby. But then I twisted my ankle so severely that I had four bones fracture. I got operated and had four screws in my legs. So, at the age of 28, I again had to undergo surgery. Then I got herpes, which was very painful, added by the fact that doctors couldn’t give me any medication because I just had my surgery, and my spleen had also been removed. I had to undergo Medical Termination of Pregnancy since I couldn’t go forward with my second pregnancy due to herpes. That again added to my mental trauma at the time.
Later, I had a son, and everything was going well, but the bleeding started again at the age of 35. And just six months before that, my vision had become blurred. I went for the check-up, and it came out as macular degeneration, maybe because of all the chloroquine I had taken for five years. I still have Macular degeneration, so I had to do a laser since I used to see flashes of light.
As I had heavy bleeding, I went for a check-up to confirm whether it was ITP again, but the doctors asked me to see a gynaecologist. It came out as dysfunctional uterine bleeding whose cause was unknown. I underwent hormonal treatment for two years. Ultimately, the doctor put a Mirena, which is an intrauterine device that releases progesterone in the uterus, which stops the bleeding. Those five years went very well for me since the bleeding didn’t recur, and I was well.
When I removed Mirena, I did my routine pap smear, which showed atypical cells. I underwent colposcopy, and doctors said that they don’t see anything, but when they did a biopsy, it turned out to be Squamous cell carcinoma. One Saturday, I had the appointment, and on the subsequent Monday, I got operated.
Through all these, the thing which kept me sane was exercise and lifestyle. I think everyone should follow some form of exercise that suits them. I am a person who likes a change in the activities that I do. I started with yoga, then went on to do aerobics, aqua aerobics, pilates and gym sessions. I wanted to do a 21 km marathon just to prove to myself that even after all this sickness, I could do it. I started running at the age of 52, and I have completed the 21km marathon twice.
I suggest that everyone should do exercise regularly since I believe that it is the reason why I recovered so quickly from everything. In three weeks after my major surgery for cancer, I could walk to my clinic, which was 1.6 km from my house. In my surgery, I had my sisters, daughter, son, husband, and my in-laws, who supported me a lot. My friends always helped me in a big way. From school friends to friends from medical college, they were my pillar of strength throughout the journey. I had a good friend who used to drop me home at 8:30 pm for three months. So, I always say that whenever you need help, just ask for it. In 2006, my mother in law had passed away due to breast cancer, and in the same year, I was diagnosed with cancer. I told everyone that it’s grade one, so no need to worry, but still, the fear was there in everyone’s mind. I am grateful to everyone who helped me on my journey because, without them, I would not have conquered this journey.
How to do Self Breast Examination for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. Every girl above 20 years of age should do a self-breast examination to screen from breast cancer, and even men should learn how to do it so that they can teach it to the women in their house. Even men can be diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Stand in front of the mirror (on the seventh day of menses) and see the position of breast, size, shape, and the nipples because you know your body best. Many ladies have one breast bigger than the other, which is normal. If there is any change in the size or shape of the nipple or breast, you should consult your family doctor. This examination is many times life-saving as it could breast cancer.
- When you stand in front of the mirror, see the skin for changes; if the colour of skin has changed, do you have redness, or if one nipple is pulled up or to the side. Notice if you have nipple crusting, and see the symmetry of the breast too.
- Raise your hands and see if you find any changes in the breast. The breast should rise evenly and watch for dimpling or retraction. You should also see that if there is any swelling on the armpits.
- When you examine the right breast, you should raise your right hand and check it with the left hand; never use the same hand on the same side because you will never be able to examine for breast cancer properly. We need to see the armpit too because the lump can come to the armpit also. You have to feel the tissues with the flat hand.
- Use the middle portion of the fingers to examine your breast. Go totally round the breast and try to find out if there is any lump, whether a hard lump or soft lump, which was not there last month.
- Work your way around the breast in a clockwise fashion using small circles of the hand as you go and make sure the entire breast is checked.
- The breast extends till the armpit, called the axillary tail. So, you have to go to the axilla portion, use the same circular motion, and feel for breast lumps and lymph nodes. Normal lymph nodes cannot be felt, but enlarged lymph nodes, which are about the size of a pencil eraser, can be felt easily.
- A nipple- discharge is a significant finding. Strip the duct towards the nipple. Usually, you will see one or two drops of clear milky discharge, but milk will come out only when you are feeding the baby, or if you are pregnant. If you have bloody discharge, you have to consult a histopathologist so that they could test the blood sample to find if it is cancer or not. If the discharge is in large quantity, squirting out or if there is a stain inside of a bra, you should take it seriously.
Every month women should examine for breast cancer on the eighth day after the menses, and menopausal women should do it on the first day of the month. If you do it regularly, you will come to know the changes in breast and nipple regularly. If breast cancer is detected early, doctors go only for lumpectomy and save the breast, but if the lump becomes big, then they have to remove the breast. So, do self-examination every month, and if there are any findings, please go to your local doctor or a gynaecologist without fail.
You are supposed to examine the breast in three ways:
- Physical examination
- Right hand on the left breast, and left hand on the right breast, around the breast and nipple.
- In lying down position, with the same process.
Don’t panic if you find something, because in most cases, it is Fibroadenoma, which is benign. So, the doctor will ask you to go for sonography, mammography and will keep you on annual check-up because those are essential. After the age of 45, we usually advise mammography. If there is no family history of breast cancer, you can do it once every two years, but if there is a family history, then you should go for a check-up every year.
The same goes for cervical and uterine cancer. Generally, women do not talk to her husband about their aches and pains of menopause or post-menopausal bleeding. These are often with white or foul-smelling discharge. Intermittent bleeding, which occurs after intercourse, is a very common sign of cancer. When a woman is menopausal, after intercourse, she might have breakthrough bleeding. Such things might occur after menopause, and they have to get it checked by a gynaecologist without fail.
Sometimes only when they see a cauliflower type growth coming out of the vagina, they come to us. But they have already ignored it to the extent that we have to start with active medication as it would have already spread throughout the lower organs.
So, unless the men also take an interest in what the woman is suffering, a change will never come. It becomes challenging for women to fight the battle because she has to look after the house, husband, and kids, and thus she always puts her own needs at last. These days women are also working, so they are multitasking, and the only person who is at a loss is herself. If you want to “Live,” then you have to “Leave” some duty and take care of yourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself, then nobody is going to take care of you.
We have to go for annual check-ups and take care of lifestyle diseases also. Nowadays, we see many lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. People don’t have time for exercise or lunch, so all these causes mental and physical stress, which is also one of the causes of cancer. You have to take care of your health and that too not just physical but emotional and mental health also. And if you ever have to gift something to your family, then gift them an annual check-up voucher.
Try your best to fight with whatever you have. You have to fight with it, you don’t have any other choice; “गिर पड़े,गिर कर उठे और उठ कर चलें। और चलते ही रहे।”
Common symptoms which we should not overlook
- Sudden loss of weight.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sudden vomiting sensation.
- When you are becoming very pale.
- When you are feeling low while all your reports are normal.
- Any lump in the body.
- Change in skin colour.
- When you have a severe headache with vomiting, but you can’t find any particular cause.
- Sudden blurred vision.
Taking care in COVID time
Everyone wants to get out of their homes, but stay home, stay safe, and wear a mask till these days pass. “Don’t touch your face,” remains the golden sentence. It is said that we touch our face at least 2000 times a day, although we never notice. We should always wear a mask when we are moving out of the house. We should be scared of spreading it to someone else unknowingly. If you are feeling sick, then stay in one room. When we sneeze, cough, or touch anyone, we may give the virus we are carrying to the people near us. We should practice social distancing until this passes.
Avoid 3 Cs
- Crowded places
- Close-contact settings
- Confined and enclosed spaces
Low risk isn’t no risk. Follow your national health advisory to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Now, after five months of Covid, mental health is being affected a lot. We see a spike in cases of depression and anxiety, especially in younger people. Everyone should take care of their mental health by:
- Reaching out to a trusted adult or professional if you need help.
- Limiting social media use to avoid misinformation.
- Doing a physical exercise or meditating at home.