Today is February 4, World Cancer Day…
It was on Feb 23, 2009 that I found a small lump on my right breast. I did not find it when I was doing self-examination but while taking a shower. I met my physician (a South African) in the afternoon who advised me to get a mammogram and other tests done. Easy to say, but when you live in a place like Liberia in West Africa it meant travelling to another continent to get it done and I mean it literally.
It was a Monday and I booked myself on a flight out of Liberia on Wednesday, February 25th. My husband was insistent that I meet the doctor the day I landed in Chennai. So we looked up the Apollo Hospitals Chennai website to fix up an appointment with a surgeon. We didn’t know the doctors from Adam but had to make a choice. We zeroed in on a surgeon Dr Prithviraj whose qualifications and experience caught our eye.
When I met with him on the 27th morning, he advised me to get an ultrasound, a mammogram and FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology) done. FNAC is where an aspiration is made with the help of a needle from the affected area and then it is sent for testing.
On Monday when I collected my report at the appointed hour, my heart was beating wildly. The mammogram and the ultrasound reports were not alarming, but the FNAC report was very clear. The one dreaded word was up there… CARCINOMA of the right breast.
For a few seconds I was paralysed and almost in tears. I then realised it wasn’t the end of the world. Cancer is just a disease and not the end of the world. It can be cured. I called my husband who was in Liberia to tell him. He was shattered but he too said ‘it is alright. We will find out what is to be done next.’
I met the surgeon with the reports. He was shocked to see my reports because he couldn’t believe it. He then looked at me and asked me if I had gone through the report and understood what it said. I told him that I had been diagnosed with carcinoma which meant cancer. I still remember his reaction vividly. He walked around the table and came up to me, gave me a tight hug. I was wondering if this was what he did with all his patients… smile emoticon
I remember the conversation like it happened yesterday.
He asked me just one question ‘how is it that you still have the same smile on your face that you had on Friday when you came to meet me with a cheerful good morning doctor?’ And I said ‘I am willing to cry if it will change the report to negative for carcinoma. Instead of crying I would like to know what I need to do now because I am young and I have a long life ahead of me.’
The good doctor after a few minutes suggested I get admitted right away and get myself operated the very next day. I was stunned. I was all alone at the hospital. My husband was in Liberia, my daughter was at the University in Gujarat. My husband when we called him from the doctor’s chamber bluntly asked him if I was dying. The good doctor was at a loss for words. We then asked to the doctor if waiting 4 more days would be life threatening for me. It was decided that I would get myself admitted on Thursday and the surgery would be performed on Friday morning. My husband would land on the midnight of Thursday. All appointments fixed accordingly.
I asked the doctor if the report was correct because I had no symptoms at all (I do read up on stuff and keep myself updated). No fever, no weight loss, no tiredness, no loss of appetite… He explained patiently with a smile that I was very lucky not to have any symptoms because that would mean my cancer had progressed. Lucky me…
Now came the big question… what to tell my 70 year old mom and 72 year old mother in law? They were waiting at home for the reports. It was possible to hoodwink my mother in law, but difficult to do so with my mom. She is going to be a curious cat wanting to look at the report. She knows enough to recognise the CA word though spelt medically .
The doctor advised me to explain gently to them that it was the early stages of cancer and that after surgery and treatment I was going to be fit as a fiddle. Telling a lie wasn’t going to help anybody. I came back home and told my mother with a smile on my face that her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She is one bold cookie, didn’t breakdown in front of me, no scenes of any kind, took it stoically and accepted it when I told her that I planned on living a very long life. My mother in law was shocked and upset.
The worst reaction was from my darling girl, Nisha. She broke down completely and was inconsolable. But she had a wonderful circle of friends who supported her through this.
I underwent the surgery, I diagnosed with Stage II A CA Breast, followed it up with 6 cycles of chemotherapy and 28 sittings of radiation (all that reserved for posts to follow) and here I am sitting penning my thoughts about my journey after 7 years.
I was diagnosed with Stage 2A CA Breast.
I am really thankful that I found the lump when I did and could get it removed before it started to grow in size.
There was going to be some discomfort during the period of the treatment but I was not too worried about that. I was looking at the rainbow at the end of the cloud. And it was bright. A full life ahead!
I was really lucky I moved so fast and got operated upon so quickly and followed it up with the right treatment.
All you guys and gals out there, keep checking for small changes in your body. React quickly, that is the key. Stay positive.
And like any other award winner, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dear husband, my daughter, my two moms, my family and all my friends for their love and support through those trying times… smile emoticon(tacky, eh???)