'God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers'. I believed in this adage and fought through one of the toughest battles in my life - Cancer. As a 38-year-old, who was finally settling down with her loving family and desired career path, the news regarding my cancer came as a blow to me. The biopsy reports came across as a surprise to many since I have been particular about my health and well-being.
However, I knew I had to stay strong through it all for the sake of my family as well as myself. Battling with the deadly disease and its treatment routines, I made it through all with a strong heart. Today, I hope I can tell my story to more women and build awareness around the need for regular and mandatory checkups, especially after the age of 30.
Being Diagnosed With Cancer
I was born and brought up in Hyderabad and have lived most of my life here. After my education, I worked with several reputed companies, and later on, joined my husband's company to manage their accounts and finance department. Everything on a normal checklist -- from education, career, and family to health -- was checked off on my list. So, the surprise was obvious when I got to know that I had breast cancer.
I first detected a lump in my left breast in February 2022 and approached a gynaecologist regarding it. She did a mammogram and a few other tests, after which she put me to relief by saying that it was a case of fibroadenoma and I had nothing to worry about. However, it did not feel right after a point of time, and I could feel that my body was giving me signs that the lump was not harmless.
After discussing it with my family, I consulted an oncologist and went through another set of tests. A month later, in March, I received my biopsy reports which confirmed that I had stage 3 breast cancer. They also informed me that if I had waited for two more weeks without getting the lump diagnosed, I would've entered the fourth stage, where treatment would get a lot more difficult. At the time of my diagnosis, my doctor told me that my estrogen levels were at 67 per cent, way higher than normal.
The reason behind this was what surprised me as I am someone who has religiously followed a healthy routine with a proper sleep cycle, intermittent fasting, exercise, and so on. I got breast cancer due to a hormonal imbalance that occurred after I had taken birth control pills after my delivery.
So, regardless of how careful one has been about a healthy lifestyle, diseases are unavoidable, and the only way to keep them at bay is through regular checkups with a professional. Especially for women after the age of 30, there's a switch observed in the hormonal conditions, which makes it necessary to either self-examine or get checked. Health is truly like wealth; we do not realise its true value until we lose it.
I Did Not Let Cancer Crush My Spirit
More than the diagnosis, the treatment is what frightened me. It is a whole lot of procedures and brings so many changes to your mental and physical being. It is a challenging time, and staying positive through it all is not easy. I could gather the courage to go through it all only due to my family's support and the counselling from the doctors through each stage.
There were six cycles of chemotherapy, and 25 fractions of radiation, followed by targeted therapy and hormonal therapy. By the second cycle of chemotherapy, it would be an understatement to say that I was petrified. Picking up a glass of water also demanded so much energy out of me that I had to depend on others for a while.
Gradually I started losing my hair, and the fatigue was slowly getting to me. But the realisation hit me when my younger one got scared to even sleep beside me. I would not blame her because even I could not get myself to look at the drastic changes that were happening to me. My elder child kept motivating me, saying that it was just a phase, and I saw the hope in her eyes.
My condition was something that affected everyone else around me. Seeing my helplessness, my children also began to worry and were unable to focus on their classes. The negative thoughts were not taking me anywhere either. It was at this point that I realised that I had to pick myself up, at least for my children.
For them, I woke up every day with the confidence that I'll make it through it all. I constantly kept a countdown and told myself that there were only a few more cycles of treatment left. After the fourth cycle, my PET scan and reports came negative, and my tumours disappeared. I was able to pull myself back to health and will now be undergoing hormonal therapy for the next five years.
Health Is Priority
Every sign that we keep ignoring, saying, "It is just a fever. Just a body ache," are all signals that our body is giving to us. Ignoring them and placing health in the backseat for reasons such as family and career would be the biggest mistake we would make. Thankfully in my case, the doctors were able to provide me with timely treatment and cure me of my cancer. However, in the advanced stages, it would have gotten a lot more difficult and would put even the medical practitioners in a tough spot. Getting regular tests would help avoid many of these healthcare expenses that would pile up as a burden later on. Overcoming this will be possible only through the adoption of preventive measures and timely care given to our bodies.
Breast cancer, in particular, has become so common these days that at least three out of four women are likely to be diagnosed with it at some stage. Through my story, I would request every woman to take care of her health and never ignore the signs her body gives her.
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