During weekends, Shreshtha meets her friends, goes for movie dates with her husband, and often plans the family vacations.
It’s these little things that fill up our life; emails, photographs, bills, and phone calls to friends and family. Like the buzz of traffic outside your window, you don’t hear it all the time but if it stops, you notice the silence.
What happens when, on a day as regular as any other, you happen to notice a lump in your breast? In June 2019, Shreshtha noticed the lump. Her initial reaction was one we can all identify with. “Surely, this lump can’t be THAT lump.” After all, she was only 32. “Doesn’t breast cancer happen to older women?” We refuse to take it seriously. We procrastinate. We convince ourselves that it will go away. But it doesn’t go away, and in her case, it persisted even after three months. The lump felt bigger with time. It became harder to ignore or to dismiss it off as something unimportant.
Subsequently, Shreshtha mentioned about the lump to her husband. He immediately suggested they visit a doctor. And so, after being in a state of denial for three months, she finally visited the doctor in September 2019. The doctor suggested a sono-mammogram. The report arrived – it said ‘malignant tumour’. There were still some traces of denial left in her mind. Maybe the report was incorrect. But an oncologist was to be consulted. The inevitability of the diagnosis was to be eventually faced. The process then began – treatment was to be initiated, the family was to be informed, colleagues were to be notified. The financial repercussions of an expensive cancer treatment was to be discussed. Suddenly, everything had changed.
A day before her surgery, Shreshtha was packing her bag for her hospital stay. She didn’t really want to go, but she knew she must. She was bracing herself for a surgery. She tried to hold back the tears. She hugged her two-year-old son repeatedly. Her husband tried to calm her nerves. The situation, overwhelming as it was, had to be faced.
Cancer is like an uninvited guest. We don’t know why it decided to visit us and how long it will stay with us. But for as long as we are forced to share our space with it, we might as well make the experience as pleasant as possible. Shreshtha made a few wise decisions in her journey that provide a valuable lesson to those in a similar path.
- Choose your circle wisely. She decided that she wanted nothing but positivity around her. In this phase, one needs to keep their energy solely to fight cancer rather than waste any amount of it on any form of negativity. So she chose to remain in touch and interact only with the people who offered her encouragement, and not pity. She noticed that if she thought negative she felt weak, whereas thinking positive thoughts helped her accomplish more in a day and weave good memories with her family to remember in the future. You cannot control cancer. But you can control your reaction to cancer. The thoughts that you fill your mind with, have an impact on your body. So, keep out thoughts that are not useful, to create space for positive and reassuring thoughts.
- Create a routine that supports your healing. She decided to apply the brakes on her life before cancer and now takes it slow by allowing herself the time and space to do what she wishes to do. She took a break from her job to avail herself of this opportunity. Now she meditates, practises pranayam/yoga, and goes for a walk daily. She has started to observe that if she invests time on her body, her body is listening to her and is supporting itself in the healing process from the side effects of surgery and rigorous chemo sessions. Hence, spend time understanding what your body needs and proceed accordingly.
- Keep yourself informed and take charge of the situation. Before Shreshtha started with chemotherapy, she found out about the side effects she would face. She learnt that her hair was likely to fall out. So, instead of feeling helpless about it, she decided to take charge of the situation and got herself a short haircut. That way, when the hair began falling out, she would only have to face short strands, in the place of long ones. She had prepared herself mentally and physically for this change. Interestingly, her short haircut was quite a hit among her family and friends. It gave her a new look to flaunt accompanied with multiple compliments, even if only for a few weeks.
Shreshtha found a way to share her cancer experience with others, like yourself, by blogging about it. These blogs are also a kind of self-initiated therapy. You can read her story, in her own words, here. Come, join her journey by sharing her blog with others who will find it useful. This chain of positivity might reach someone who really needs it today.
To follow Shreshtha’s journey, you can read her blog here