Saturday, March 20, 2021

#25SilverLinings - The D Day - Day of Diagnosis

 The D Day - Day of Diagnosis

As I stand today near the 25th milestone of my journey down lane C, everything behind me appears to be so smooth and clear. Distance and time are great illusionists of our lives. They make everything appear small and smooth.
25 years is not much to consider as a time, but it has worked wonders in allowing me to gain balance to stand steady on my feet, since the time when ground underneath them was suddenly snatched with the utterance of those three words on April 7th 1996. I still feel it in my bones, the mild shivers that ran down my spine, the sweat that wet the napkin in my hand, my burning cheeks and wild heartbeats. It is so etched in my mind that I still remember the Yellow and black sari I wore that day and also the white cotton napkin with yellow bell flowers that lay damp in my hand.
If asked to guess, many would say that it was my reaction to the words “I love you” uttered by some handsome hunk. No, this is not the typical love story because the words weren’t “I love you” but “you have cancer”.
It is funny that our response to the words “I love you” and “you have cancer” are the same. Talk about jokes of our lives. God indeed has a humorous streak in him, and so do I, but it did not surface at that moment.
The comparison with romance and love ends here since the initial rush was followed by a silent numbness in place of a passionate kiss.
I don’t remember how long I sat there in front of my doctor waiting for him to say something, but he just waited for me to reply. It is one of those times of our lives, when time loses its importance and meaning. Hours may turn into minutes and seconds may look like hours. I said ‘Thank you sir’ and the doctor looked puzzled since he did not know what I was thanking him for. Nor did I know why I was doing it. Must have been a habit… I needed time to process this new information so I walked out without further discussion.
Flashback -
Just a few days ago, I had no clue that I had cancer growing in me. I was breastfeeding my daughter who was nearing her first birthday in a month. I was worried about the milestones which she hadn’t reached. One big relief at this moment was that she was able to see things around her which she couldn’t earlier. It was in mid February that she started responding to visual stimuli. Lost in my thoughts about her future, I was checking for milk to feed her when I felt something different in my breast. It was as though a small pea had been inserted in my left breast. It kind of gave me a scare.
My sister had found a lump in her breast 2 years ago, and it turned out to be breast cancer later. The cancer had progressed in her. Lumps were scary. But then I brushed it off. I thought it must be clogged milk duct, a problem I had faced earlier or must be the effect of working hard in a canteen I was running back then in a hospital. Even though there was a bit of fear peeking somewhere, I rubbished the thought that it could be cancer. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer in 1992, my sister in 1994 and now me in 1996 looked absurd. Such things don’t happen to a single family.
Few days later, while having a bath, I remembered the pea sized knot and checked it out by applying soap and lifting my hand up over my head. I could feel it very clearly now. The tissue was nothing like something I had in my body. It felt as though a pea with rough bony edges had been inserted into my breast. If this was a movie, then I would have heard the loud drum beat indicating something wrong was going to happen. As this was real life, all I heard was my increased heart beat and tricking of water and sweat on the bathroom floor. I felt scared and weak, as I knew this was not right.
I was getting ready to take my daughter for her physiotherapy session, so I pushed the thoughts of lump aside. When in the hospital, I brought up the topic about the lump with her pediatrician. She felt it and immediately ordered me to consult a surgeon who was on a visit to the hospital.
. I did. He was a man of less words. He said “It looks suspicious. I think it is better to get it removed through biopsy and send it for a test in the lab. We can do FNB or small surgery to remove the lump itself. Since you are breastfeeding your child, I would suggest you remove the lump and stop feeding your child on the left breast for the time being. It is OK if you start weaning her off from now”.
WHAT? For a moment there I felt he must be joking. But this elderly man did not look like someone who would crack jokes.
At that moment I wasn’t thinking much. I just went through the procedure as though I was in a dream. In two days time, I set it up for a biopsy with local anesthesia with the surgeon and walked home after completing Farheena’s physiotherapy session. Casually I mentioned it to my family and suddenly all the hell broke loose at home. My family panicked but then everyone calmed down and said it must be a milk duct clog.
Two days later, I walked alone into the hospital. People at home were confused since someone had to be with my daughter, someone had to take care of my canteen, besides my sister was going through metastasis and was struggling a lot. She needed care both physically and emotionally. Our family was on our own. My sister’s husband was in Qatar and my husband in UAE. My mom, dad, brother and sisters were all I had and they needed support at this time. I had to be strong. So, I decided to handle things alone quietly without disturbing anyone.
I was awake through the procedure when the lump was cut and removed from my breast through local anesthesia. I got a few sneak peaks at it as well, since I have always been a curious cat. The lump was put in a small bottle with formaldehyde and handed over to me to take it to the lab. It was the time of landline phones and our phone connection was not available yet. We had newly shifted this home. So, I arranged for my husband to call me on the landline number in the hospital after the biopsy. I scared the receptionist with the bit of my breast I was carrying with me. She shrieked, “OMG, how can you just walk so cool with that thing in your hand. Please don’t give me another shock like that ever……..ever”. I mumbled, “Oh, I am so sorry. I thought it was normal since this is a hospital”. She looked aghast and replied, “No, people do not carry their own body parts as though it is a candy. They have someone with them to do it. Why have you come alone? Why is no one with you?” I had to calm her down and make her sit back on her seat.
By then the call came. I had a tiny chat with my husband, who was talking in high pitch. I couldn’t make out much of the message but I could know he was tense and was not going to be emotionally helpful. Somehow the wiring in my brain started to make adjustments for things to come. High pitch sounds are good at rewiring our brains.
The specimen was given to the lab. The reports came .. Now you can go back to the scene that I mentioned earlier. After sitting out for a few minutes, while the doctor attended another patient, I walked back in. The doctor confirmed that I had breast cancer, in stage 3, possibly some lymph nodes are involved. At this, I was wondering who is this lymph node? It is amazing how doctors assume everyone knows the terms they use. He further continued that I had to consult an oncologist for further procedures. Somehow my brain had processed this but remained in denial as well. Now there was no room for denial. This was the D day- The day of diagnosis. Cancer was here. I was connected to Cancer from today. My life would change drastically from this day. I wasn’t sure of anything anymore. I was still in confusion. I walked out and went home carrying with me a lot of questions for which I had to find answers.
a Christine Ceglia and Sweta Tiwary
Rayyan with Farheena - being her protective brother. Poor guys had no clue what awaited their mom.

May be at this time I had teeny cells of cancer growing in me..
Farheena was with special needs. But, I was unaware of all this.
Here I was trying to capture us when Farheena arrived home
to share the picture with my husband who was in Abu Dhabi.

1 comment:

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