Hello, this is Gayathri and I am about to share my story with you. I am a Cancer survivor and this story is about how my life was before, during and after Cancer. You may wonder how my story is going to be different from those of other Cancer fighters/survivors. Well, everyone has a unique experience and I personally feel it is worth sharing with the world. Other friends who are fighting this disease will be able to relate and there is some kind of strange comfort in knowing that you are not alone!! This is how support groups also function. People suffering from cancer get together and share their experiences. So here is mine.
Life has been challenging for me, I am sure for many of you as well, and everyone is dealing with their own set of issues and experiences. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood, great family, and fantastic friends. At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with diabetes and since then I have been insulin dependent. As a teenager, the first challenge was the diet control and to avoid everything I used to love especially sweets. Thank God my health issues never interfered with my studies or career. I was privileged to take up my family’s responsibilities and support my sisters at a young. Our father was not keeping well and we had to run the show. Eventually, we lost our father to end-stage renal failure. Four years down the line, we lost our mother also to the same renal failure. Me being the youngest and my sisters already married and settled with kids was privileged to care for them till their end. So hospitals have not been a new concept to me!
Life continued, eventually, I got married and settled in Bangalore with my family and continued working. Marital life was not very easy on me. It proved to be very stressful, which led to further complications to my health and in 2015 I had a serious health issue and had to undergo regular dialysis as I also had end stage renal failure like my parents. I took it as yet another challenge and fought, in fact still fighting. I continued running the chores at home, went for work and for Dialysis as well. I was able to manage this along with the stress on personal relationship level and work.
In May 2016 I started feeling very weak, and a local doctor suspected that I might have Jaundice. I got admitted at a nearby hospital. There was a small lump formed on my neck, it was not painful though. The doctors wanted to examine the lump and a series of tests ranging from ultrasound, MRI and CT scan followed. A series of doctors visited me and examined me, I was alone all this time in the hospital, as I did not have a great support system from my husband’s side. I was anxious to know what was happening. Not in my wildest dream did I think that Cancer would be the cause of my illness. The Oncologist visited me and told that 90% it was confirmed that I had Cancer and would have to proceed for a biopsy of the swelling on the neck ASAP.
It took a while for me to process this information, I did not know how to react at first, alone in the hospital room, I said to myself, yet another challenge, and I had to face it!! I informed my sisters both settled in different cities. The very next day my elder sister from Chennai was by my side. The Biopsy was done. The biopsy report normally takes a week’s time to arrive. It was decided that I will move to my sister’s place in Chennai for further treatment. The news of Cancer was also a breaking point for my marriage. My husband decided he wanted to file for divorce, divorce was mutual consent but the timing he chose was great. He could not wait for my treatment to get over!! I also decided to go ahead and file for divorce and get out of an abusive and unforgiving marriage.
There I was empty handed at my sister’s house, completely dependent on both of my sisters. They have been taking care of me emotionally, physically and financially. The Biopsy report from Bangalore arrived and it was positive for Cancer. My sisters’ confidence gave me strength to fight Cancer.
I underwent treatment at Adayar Cancer Institute which is the best cancer hospital in India followed in Bangalore. After a bone marrow biopsy and PET scan I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 3. I was advised to take 12 sessions of chemotherapy. As I was a renal failure patient, extra care was given to my treatment. The doctors at Cancer Institute were extremely helpful and gave me personalized care. The only challenge faced was long waiting hours to meet the doctor, or to get the Chemo. I cannot complain, the sheer number of patients at the hospital were huge and doctors had to attend to everyone. One good thing happened through this is it has improved my patience levels to a great extent. I cannot thank enough my sister who accompanied me to every doctor visit and chemo sessions. She had to run around to pay the bills, get the drugs, and patiently follow up with the nurse for my turn.
Luckily in my kind of cancer, there was no surgeries or Radiation required. Having said that Chemotherapy was no cake walk. The process of Chemotherapy was simple, they just injected some combination drugs via intravenous. Finding a good vein in my case was a challenge every time! The side effects that followed are worth sharing! After my second Chemotherapy, I started losing my hair. I was mentally prepared for this, I had even chopped my long hair into small pixie boy cut. I kept saying to myself that it was temporary and I will get back my long pretty straight hair soon after the treatment was over. This followed by me losing my ability to taste for a couple of days after the Chemo. After about 5 days of every Chemo, I used to experience this unexplainable pain all over my body. Every cell of the body used to ache, I could not bear a gentle touch. My blood levels used to drop drastically, the WBC, the hemoglobin, the platelets everything used to drop drastically, because of which I had chest infections, high fevers, chills etc. I had to take injections to improve my WBC counts and take blood transfusions to improve my hemoglobin and platelets. All this I had to handle with my regular weekly thrice dialysis. I was very weak. There was no strength in my legs. I was hospitalized 4 times for various reasons during the treatment. In last few Chemo, due to poor veins I suffered Chemo burns, again the pain was excruciating and still I have the marks.
Throughout the ordeal, what kept me going? My positive mindset to fight Cancer, my prayers and unconditional love from my sisters. Also the experience of receiving help from many known and unknown sources towards my crowd funding for my Cancer treatment. It was such a humbling experience and I cannot thank enough the people who came forward and helped me at my time of crisis. Finally, after 12 chemos, the reports came out to be negative and I was told that I am cancer free. Now I go for a monthly follow-up checkups.
From my Cancer experience, I have known one thing that every day is a gift. You never know what’s in store for tomorrow. I have decided to live in the moment. Slowly trying to build back my life, getting ready for another challenge that will be a kidney transplant after a couple of years. I am still at my sister’s house in Chennai, My divorce will be through next month. Now slowly started to focus on rebuilding a career.
There may be many of you in the worst condition than mine, the degree of pain varies from person to person. I have seen my co-dialysis patients cribbing and crying as to why they have to suffer so much. My condition was worse than their Kidney failure and Cancer, it all depends on how you approach a crisis in your life. It’s in your hands and mind if you want to see it as a huge mountain it will consume you. On the other hand, if you look at it as yet another small hurdle/ Challenge and that your aim is to cross it, you will succeed.
Never give up! Nothing is permanent on this earth. Live in the moment. As they say, add life to your days then adding days to your life!!