“My family and I were quite ecstatic when we learned that I was pregnant with my third child. As my pregnancy progressed, I discovered a lump in my breast. My friends and relatives tried to assure me that it was nothing to worry about. They were of the opinion that it was a normal development during pregnancy. However, I was not convinced. I decided to pay a visit to my gynecologist who referred me to an oncologist. Just a week before my expected delivery, the test results indicated that I had breast cancer. My world came crashing down. I was going to have a surgery as soon as I deliver my baby.
Although I was shattered with this news, I was hopeful of survival as I heard that breast cancer is treatable. But after further tests, I came to know that my case is a rare and seemingly untreatable HER2 type of breast cancer. I had given up hope and to some extent my belief in God.
We’re a middle-class family and my second child has a problem with his heart. It’s an inoperable condition and even if we go ahead with the surgery, there is no guarantee that he would be able to live like any normal child of his age. He saw me struggle with the breast cancer and one day, he came up to me and said, “Aai, I know my condition will not improve. But you can at least take treatment and get better. Let’s not give up.” That really put things into perspective for me. Here is a child that has made peace with his reality and here I was losing hope. His words gave me courage for myself and for him.
Our journey began with visiting a doctor in Borivali who informed us about multiple packages starting from 2.5 lakhs to 12 lakhs. The packages were based on the number of chemotherapy sessions. But it got me thinking, how could someone put a price tag on survival? We were then referred to another doctor who was associated with Jaslok. He informed us about the IAMHER2 initiative, through which a majority of our treatment costs would be covered. We would have to bear hospitalization and medication costs. The rest would be covered by the initiative’s program. This was a huge relief as we had just purchased a flat and the loan was looming over our heads. The initial chemo sessions were pretty painful. But then I got used to it. I was no doubt physically, emotionally and personally drained. My father-in-law had a heart attack and subsequently passed away and my father also had a cardiac event but came out of it. I also kept thinking that I was not able to give time to my new-born baby and my family.
My biggest support in all this has been my husband. He stood behind me like a rock. Never did he let me be affected by the immense burden he was under. All he kept saying is that we cannot give up. We have to go on, for ourselves, for our kids. Also, my immediate family and in-laws supported me every single moment. My sisters-in-law stayed home for 2-3 months while I was out for chemo sessions. They took care of my child.
I didn’t lose as much hair during the treatment but my so-called friends in the colony started avoiding me. Visits trickled down one by one, and even the occasional calls stopped. People would rather watch someone suffer and somehow be happy that it’s not them. It’s a strange catharsis, but I have made peace with that. I recently completed a year of treatment and now that I’m better, they have started coming back. I do try to maintain cordial relations with them but that old friendship does not exist anymore. I have my family, my kids. I don’t need anyone anymore.
Getting diagnosed with cancer, getting treated and coming out of it was a life changing experience. It has made me realize the value of family, of the real support one needs at a time like this. It has made me look at the future with hope. I do not wish to recollect that tough time; it was something I had to go through, call it karma or a cleansing of my soul, whatever it was, I have come out stronger with more love and a lot more hope in my heart.
Breast cancer patients should stay strong and not lose hope. There are initiatives like IAMHER2 that can provide much-needed help and support. Also joining support groups where one can listen to stories of struggle, survival and success, interact with others survivors will help to stay strong. And yes, trust your family. They will always stand by you no matter what. Trust yourself. Be positive, always. There is nothing the human mind cannot overcome. If we say to ourselves we can get out of this, it is half the battle won. The rest, the therapy will take care of. But that battle needs to be fought. I wish you all the hope in the world. I chose hope. You can too.
Submitted by – Surekha Bhor
This story is part of #unhook, a breast cancer awareness campaign by The Logical Indian. A breast cancer experience like this can inspire and instill hope in other patients and their families. If you or your loved ones have a breast cancer story, we urge you to come out and share it with The Logical Indian community. Unfortunately, it’s still a stigma in many parts of our country to talk about breast cancer openly. Let’s #unhook this silence. Please email us at [email protected].
At the end of this month, we will have an expert oncologist to answer any questions you might be having on breast cancer. Please send in your questions to [email protected] and spread the word.