It was just another day in the shower when suddenly the soap in my hand dropped. I had just felt a lump in my left breast. In those few seconds, a gamut of emotions flitted through my mind! And the mind being what it is, only the worst of thoughts overpowered me. But I quickly regained my composure, came out of the shower as normally as possible, though my mind was running haywire! I decided to do a consultation before letting anyone in the immediate family even know what I had discovered. The physical examination confirmed a lump but there was the hope that it would be diagnosed as a benign lump which unfortunately was not to be!
It was in June of 2016 that the dreaded word cancer was staring at me. Though of a nervous temperament in health-related issues, I managed to hold my emotions in check when I was told that I was in stage 2 of breast cancer. The factors that probably made me bold were that I had access to good medical care, family support, monetary stability, and most of all faith in the Supreme Power which has been my anchor and strength through difficult times.
“Why me?” was a question that went over and over again in my mind for more reasons than one. I had never skipped my prayer a single day in the last that many years. I was 57 then. Even my morning tea is taken only after a bath and prayer. And I had lent physical, moral, and financial support to quite a few cancer patients. I asked God if this is what I get in return! And then my mind told me that probably these good acts cushioned me against what could have been a bigger blow and my karmas were probably rearranged. I believe nothing in this world happens by chance and there is no effect without a cause.
I dreaded the treatment comprising surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. So I wanted to consult practitioners of alternative medicine as suggested by some people, even highly educated ones. I now realize this could have been very detrimental to my health for I would have lost some very precious time. And in cancer treatment TIME is a factor that decides the course the disease takes. By God’s grace good sense prevailed and compelled by family pressure I took the right route! In retrospect, I wonder what exactly it was that I feared! Just scary stories we hear I guess.
The next 6 months were a tough time. I sailed through surgery. Radiation that followed the chemo was a breeze of course. But chemotherapy was the challenging part. Every two weeks I had to undergo the chemo session. In all, I went through 8 sessions of chemo. In the initial phase, every time I went to the hospital for the chemotherapy, tears would start streaming down uncontrollably the previous day. The fatigue that followed the chemo, the total distaste for food, severe constipation, lack of sleep, ulcers in the mouth, severe pain in the legs, and constant discomfort in the stomach made me dread those sessions. But gradually I learned to cope. Patient counseling by Dr Suraj Manjunath and team and my own small ways of coping helped me immensely in dealing with these issues. For instance-
1. Most foods caused puking. But curd rice used to taste best. So, I mostly ate just curd rice.
2. I rinsed my mouth with salt water to prevent ulcers
3. I substituted for disturbed sleep in the night by sleeping whenever I could and felt rested.
Also when in hospital, I would see kids as young as 5 being treated for certain cancers. That made me think I should practice some amount of resilience.
The illness taught me the value of simple pleasures like sipping a cup of hot tea, for most drinks and food had become unpalatable during the treatment. I recognized the value of family support. My family took turns to either be with me or to invite me over. Their prayers for my recovery and care and concern is something that I can never forget. And I am especially indebted to my aged parents who in their eighties took such good care of me for close to a month.
Total hair loss didn’t perturb me much. In fact, I looked forward to seeing new hair follicles that may be black and not grey! Some wishful thinking that was. And one day my little grandson asked me how I became a man! I burst out laughing. It had been ages since I had laughed during that period. There were other things too that made me laugh. But the lows were more than the highs and my husband had to face the brunt of these mood swings.
It has now been six years since I fell ill. But the very next month after my last chemo I bounced back to good health. I never think of myself as a cancer survivor or live in fear of the illness visiting me again! My busy days and my interests keep me so occupied that I have no time to live in past memories. It is over and done with.
Blessed is the medical fraternity that is doing yeomen service in treating patients like us and giving us a second life as it were!