Caregiver Story: Living with a Rare Cancer

by Team Onco
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Mornings are a busy time in every household. From making breakfast, to ensuring the children are fed, lunch boxes packed, and so many other little matters that need to be attended to, most women manage all of these on a daily basis. My wife Meenakshi too, has done this for me and our two children, all her life.

Not just her mornings, but all hours of her day have been dedicated to raising a family. She gave us her everything, and she was happy to do so. Her children are the centre of her universe.  Her sun rises and sets around them.

No concern related to them was too small for her. From ensuring that they do well academically, to checking that they have eaten on time, all aspects of their well being were supervised by her.

Into this world of domestic responsibilities and aspirations, illness crept in, silent at first, and then loud enough to have all our attention.

In 2014, Meenakshi started suffering from vaginal bleeding. Visits to the gynecologist were unfruitful. There was no affirmative diagnosis and the check-ups revealed no anomalies. By October 2017, she was experiencing discomfort in her stomach. The doctor began treating her for gastritis.

Yet her pain did not subside. My relative is a gynecologist and during both my wife’s pregnancies we consulted her. She took care of both deliveries as well. But even she was perplexed at what was ailing my wife.

My wife went through an ultrasound soon after and the doctor spotted some anomalies in the report. We were living in Trichy at this time and we immediately sought admission at the best local hospital there.

Meenakshi was discharged after three days of hospitalisation as the doctors could not find any further issue. But the matter was far from resolved.

The discomfort in her upper abdomen continued and we were clueless as to what was causing it. In November 2017, we decided to move to Chennai for uninterrupted medical care.

 Since most of my wife’s family lives here, we preferred to move here for the time being. We consulted a gastrointestinal surgeon here. He recommended a CA 125 test which is a blood test that checks for cancer antigens and for early signs of ovarian cancer.

When the results of this test showed abnormal levels, further scans were recommended. The investigation revealed that my wife’s omentum had thickened. Omentum is the layer of membrane that surrounds the organs in the abdominal cavity.

Thickening of the omentum is considered a sign of cancer that has spread to it from another organ. The diagnosis started to become clearer to us.

We waited a week to receive an appointment with a renowned oncologist in Chennai. He suggested a biopsy.

I remember that day in December 2017 when we received the reports of the biopsy. Meenakshi had adenocarcinoma of omentum- Mullerian Origin. This is a relatively rare type of cancer.

But my wife was positive as she had been at every point in our lives when we faced a difficult situation. She was sure she would overcome it through her sheer will power and determination.

We were positive because she was positive. We believed that everything would be fine because that is what she believed.

To be honest, my wife handled her treatment very well. When her surgery and first set of chemotherapy sessions was completed, she seemed fine.

In February, 2019, the word ‘cancer recurrence’ became a reality in our lives. Meenakshi was very disappointed. But she refused to give up. She is still fighting the disease that has taken up so many years of our lives.

She had bad days and even some very bad days but she just kept picking herself up each time. She hates taking help from others and likes to be independent. Although her parents, her brother and sister all live close by, she prefers to do her work herself.

I have only seen her upset twice during this journey. Once when she was diagnosed for the first time and second, when she was told that her cancer had relapsed.

The doctors tell us that her cancer is only controllable. But my wife lives in hope, and her hope gives us hope.

If you are wondering what motivates her to keep going ahead day after day while battling this disease for the second time, you are not alone. I too  have wondered about this many times. She has just one answer to this. “It’s for my children.”

Her own mother has been suffering kidney ailment for several years now. She has seen her mother face her kidney problems on a daily basis. Maybe it is this inheritance of courage that she has received from her mother that helps her face her own struggles.

Someone once said, “Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” I guess that is true. How else can I explain how my wife manages to stay positive while she battles cancer for the second time?

If you have a story to share with us, write to us at community@onco.com.

*names and places have been changed to protect the identify of this family

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