Can one woman’s survival against few simple odds can be called success story?
Success Story of sorts…
It was more than 14 years ago (18th April 1996) that I heard the doctor saying “You have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (III grade) and you need to undergo surgery followed by other treatments. You have to be prepared with strong will power to fight and survive. You are young at the age of 29 and have small kids. You have life ahead of you. Initially you may find many things about you have changed but finally someday you will find that nothing much has changed”. All I could think then was “My two kids, my two small kids!!!!!!
Losing a breast did not mean much to me when I thought of my two lovely kids. Specially my daughter. I spent an hour or so feeling sad (short time huh?) and then I got up with a smile (a forced one, which formed on my lips)and went into the doctors chamber again. I had finished with all the questions like “why me?” and decided no one is going to answer them and anyway answers were not so important. I told my doctor “Doctor, I am sure of what I am saying and I need you to listen to me carefully. I want to live. Yes. I am willing to compromise on quality of life I will have. I am not much bothered about it. Concentrate on quantity. Just get me as many years as possible to be with my kids. I need to get my son educated and want to see him grow beard, struggle with shaving, learn swimming, learn cycling and become a good human being etc. I want to make sure my daughter is safe and will be cared for even after me. She needs me to know love. I can’t make my parents suffer losing two daughters within a short period (I knew my sister had just few months left as she was terminally ill with breast cancer progressing steadily, though my heart refused to believe that we were going to lose her). I have not yet seen life. I want to be myself someday after finishing my duties. So give me years. You can cut me, fill me up with medicines, prick me with needles and can be sure I am praying for you all through it”.
He said we should discuss about the surgery the next day. I agreed. When I came back home and told everyone I was supposed to go the next day to fix up my surgery, everyone was shocked. All were of opinion I was making a hasty decision. They wanted me to take some more time and see if there was any other option.
I went the next day exactly 10 minutes earlier to my appointment and my doctor was a bit surprised. He said I looked like a kid going on a picnic. Eager and excited LOL. We set the surgery for 28th April. He explained to me with diagrams what to expect from mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. He told me to get myself mentally prepared for the coming days. I had 9 days left for my surgery. That was quite a lot of time and I said I could prepare for a degree exam within that time. I wished him good luck for that was the first independent surgery the oncology surgeon was conducting. I had to choose between total radical mastectomy or lumpectomy. I wanted to be on safer side and opted for Mastectomy. I remember what the doctor said later because it really made me happy even during the stressed out time “It was nice talking to you. It was more like we are fixing up to have a dinner in some restaurant than fixing a date for surgery. I don’t know how good I am but I will be doing more than my best and I know you will live long with your will power to survive not only cancer but many other tough times. You will make me popular” I trusted him totally because he had concern for me. His wife was a pediatrician in the hospital where my daughter was being cared for. They both had known me and my daughter for quite some time and knew what I was actually going through. At the time I was diagnosed, I already had too much on my plate. My sister was in the last stage of her fight with the same demon, and I was fighting to find a solution for my daughter's rare kind of challenge she faced. Doctors were saying she would not be able to see, talk or walk. Her brain had atrophied. I was 29 and my children were 11 months and 4 years respectively. I was worried about the emotional trauma my son was going through. I had to prepare my him for the coming days. I told him my breast has been behaving bad and because I have already finished feeding my both kids I am not going to keep her anymore. He said I was lucky that it was just the breast that I was sending away because it was of not much use. If it was my leg, hand, eye or ear then it would be worse. Especially if my tongue behaved bad and I sent it away than he would be at loss. KIDS!!!!!!!!!! It was hard and tough thing to do. He was at a stage of life where he could both understand and not understand what was being said around the house. He was in a state of panic when I started because he had heard my family discuss about me seriously. My efforts did not go in vain but I couldn’t totally put him at ease. My 11 month old daughter was a bit cranky because I suddenly stopped breast feeding her and I had hard time managing her.
My husband came on 27th morning and tried to stop me from going for the surgery. He argued there should be some other easier way. To my horror my family joined him. I was firm and even after long arguments I stood my ground. They couldn’t persuade me away from my surgery. I went into the hospital just a simple person and came out of it as a Breast Cancer Survivor and it has been nearly 15 years of survival. All I can say about life is that it has been adventurous. Like a roller coaster ride. Ups, downs, fear, screams and fun.
I don’t hate breast cancer all together. I know it is wrong to say that when it has snatched my mom and sister from me. But cancer was the magic mirror which showed true colors of people around me. The masks fell down so fast that I had trouble recognizing my own people. It showed me how precious every day is. I take in everyday as a present now. I know the value of the 24 hrs I get to spend on this earth. It was after cancer that I ventured out and met few people who are very good friends and great human beings. Most of the wonderful people I have met are somehow related to my going through breast cancer and so I can’t even curse it……….I got so close to few of my BC survivor sisters that I went with my two kids to USA to meet them. What a sari party we had there! Wow!!
Today I am happy to see that my kids are almost adults and I have simple things like exams, contests, weight, white hairs, etc to worry about. I could even forget that I had fought the battle so hard few years ago because it now looks like a long long time ago that Cancer had invaded my body and demanded that I suffer chemo, go through hair loss and give away one of my breast. I had to do it for my survival and had done it grudgingly. I hated it with all my heart and considered BC to be one of my worst enemies ever. It went on to prove me right by taking away my sister and mom in years to come.
Today after all these years I am sitting here and thinking of personally what did I lose and what did I gain from breast cancer or precisely gain in my life after BC. Loss of one breast. I had lost my hair too but it has come back. Self confidence has grown much more than what it used to be. I value my life more now because I had to fight for it.. and that too with a demon named cancer. I feel my life is something I have earned now. I have enjoyed watching my kids grow into their teens and loved every moment of it (other than few moments like Farheena going through her surgery etc). I would never have known how wonderful my kids are and how blessed I am to have them if I had not fought cancer furiously years ago.
My son has turned out to be exactly the person I wanted him to be. Loving, caring and adapting.
I turned into an extrovert after my cancer experience. It was just too much to keep in my chest and I felt my ribs breaking out. So had to pour out everything and found out how good it is to share our feelings. I have found amazing friends in the past 14 years. Some wonderful people who made much difference to me. They changed me into much better person and also made me realize my own potential and resources. When I had slipped into a great depression, one of the counselor , who used to visit us during my sisters illness suggested I go to helping hand which is a free counseling center in Bangalore. Initially I was very hesitant but when I visited helping hand, I met people who changed me for good and also made me much better person with my kids and all kids in general. I cannot forget how helpful the people at Helping Hand have been for me and my kids. They are the ones who do not give you fish but teach you fishing. I was so impressed with counseling that I completed a course of diploma in counseling skills from their institute.
There have been friends who have made me realize that it is not necessary to be rigid. Sometimes it helps to flow with the tide and enjoy life. I don't know where I would be today without the help from these people. Farheena being a special needs kid, me getting BC and losing my sister to BC all in a span of year made it very tough for me to handle it emotionally. Rizwan (Dear Hubby) was being nasty and was not much of help. He came out with his worst self when I was going through worst period. May be he was not tough enough to handle the pressure cancer brings with it and also he was not willing to accept that he has a special needs child. He was living in complete denial. Strangers supported me emotionally where my close ones failed.
I hear all the horror tales of doctors and wonder where they are because all the doctors I have met so far have been very kind and helpful to me. Most of them are sort of like good friends. I have wonderful friends half way across the globe who I may never have met if not for cancer. I don't like having cancer but when I think what would I have missed in life if not for cancer then may be I don't hate it totally. I have found more friends recently again who have been through this ordeal like me and it amazes me to see how quickly we bond together, even though we have a grand canyon of difference between our cultures and lifestyles.
I know I bitch, groan and moan and also at times squeak and squeal (LOL)at life but then realize how much I have and feel grateful to God. I feel angry at my friends and family when they misunderstand or under estimate me and my values but then I realize no matter what I still love them and I may have lost them. Cancer makes it easy to forgive follies.
I have lived for fourteen years being NED and enjoyed my life with my children, family, friends, books, studies and computer. I am realizing my dream of pursuing higher studies along with the dream of being a teacher. Have loved playing games, tasted new food, dressed in a new ways and become totally non-religious person. I trust and believe in God a lot but realize I am not meant to belong to any religion. The battle has been won and has remained on my side until now and the life after cancer has been worth fighting for.
So to anyone who is fighting cancer -> Kick hard and fight with all your might and will power. Don't give in. I know I will not.....
My advice to people having rough period is don't quit.
So here I cheer up for over a decade of survival (MY!!! What a survival it has been……..) And look forward to sharing my feelings of another decade with everyone which I suppose if I will be blogging after 6 years.