Survivor Speak: Partying with Cancer

by Team Onco
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I got into trouble with the law once. I used to ride my Hero Honda Splendor way over the speed limit on the highways around Mumbai. 

My motorbike was red and you could spot her from a long distance. Strangers would ask me, “Do you want to race?” – and I would never miss a chance to race. 

The traffic policemen in that area began noticing my bike. They would chase me, trying to catch up with me, to fine me. They couldn’t do it. 

I became a repeat offender and they started keeping an eye out for me on the route I used to frequent. I was in my forties, married, with two kids. How can I be on the wanted list of the traffic police? So I decided to put an end to it. I drove to the nearest garage and spray painted my bike black. Now, they wouldn’t know it was me. 

This is how I’ve always been: rebellious and fun-loving. I grew up in an orphanage as my parents chose not to take care of me. I was a dark and overweight child and was bullied by my own siblings due to this. 

I was conscious of not being wanted at home, but there was plenty of love in my orphanage. When I was older, I attended typing classes and there I met my future husband through a friend. He was surprised to hear about my childhood. We fell in love and got married. We have two lovely children and I am now a proud grandmother too!

Some confusion, some fun

Apart from bikes, I am into health and fitness. So when I developed a pain in my wrist, I thought I must have hurt myself while working out. 

When the pain did not subside, I visited a doctor who put me on a three-month treatment for arthritis. My fingers were bent and the wrist began to lock. 

This pain extended to my shoulders and then my back as well. Neither I nor my doctor could understand the reason for this pain. Then, that same year, 2015, I found a lump in my breast. 

First, there was a biopsy. The reports came positive for cancer. Immediately, I underwent a surgery to have the lump removed. After that, I began my dance with cancer. 

I didn’t know what to do next. I visited several doctors, trying to find out what the next steps in my treatment should be. I spent Rs. 50,000 in just consultation fees. Each doctor had something different to say. Some suggested breast reconstructive surgery. Others suggested chemotherapy. Finally, I decided to go for chemotherapy. 

Scary: that is the word I use to describe chemotherapy. Yes, it is scary. But even something as scary as chemotherapy cannot stop the party for me. 

After my chemo session, I was in the reception area of the hospital, taking selfies with my friends. We were having a party even in the hospital room. 

I would carry my makeup box along and we would play dress-up in the hospital. I love my lipstick. I wore lipstick for all my chemo sessions. You never know when you might meet a handsome doctor. It’s best to be prepared! 

We just joked and laughed through the entire treatment. Yes, the side-effects are terrible and it’s not easy to overlook them. But you have to learn to laugh, whenever possible, wherever possible. 

After my first chemo session, I came home and slept the entire day. My worried husband came to check on me. I told him I wasn’t dead yet. I would take everyone with me, if I was going. We could have a party in hell too!  

Bald head and bold heart

My son who was aboard for his studies at the time, flew down to join me. He brought some fancy wigs with him. I had lost my hair to chemo. I tried them on but my scalp got itchy under them. So I decided to go for colourful bandanas instead, flaunting a boho chic look. 

Do you know the best part of losing my hair? My husband would massage my bald head for me daily. It helps the hair grow back. I enjoyed them. He even noticed that I had a mole on the back of my head! Even my mother didn’t know about that mole! Little things like that kept us laughing. 

After completing my chemo cycles, I went on a routine of self-care. I still follow that routine for my overall health. It includes exercise, a balanced diet, body massages and regular medical check-up. 

When you survive cancer, you get a second chance at life. I believed that this was my second life. I had to make it even more fun. 

There is no opportunity I overlook. I try everything that interests me. As a child, I used to love watching actress Helen dancing in the movies. I decided, I’m going to dance like Helen. Soon, I started learning belly dance, cabaret and folk dance. 

I now give stage performances. I even act in Hindi plays. I am currently rehearsing for a play, and it’s keeping me very busy. 

Additionally, I took up pole dancing. My one hand is still weak from the chemo and surgery. So I dance, using my weight onto just one hand. In December 2019, I was crowned ‘Mrs. India Iron Lady’

All my talents were covered on social media by different organisations. I believe I deserved all this love, after the tough journey I had been through. I wanted to share the same love with others. 

Cancer tried to spoil the party for me. It tried to get me down. But I fought like a queen, and won like a boss. That’s been my response to anyone who asks me how I dealt with cancer. 

Some scars from cancer last longer than others. I still have the pigmentation from the chemotherapy on my skin. But it’s easy to cover it with make-up! I am 57 years old, but most people guess my age to be about 40. It’s because I take care of myself. 

Remember, but also rejoice

What’s more, I also got a tattoo on my back that says ‘cancer free’. When you go through something big, like cancer, you can’t try to forget it. Why would you want to forget it? It makes you who you are. 

You have to remember how brave you were, how hard you fought and even what you lost. But you have to also rejoice for what you did not lose. Your life, your family, your body, your talents, these are things cancer cannot take away from you. 

I am Anjali Gadoya, a breast cancer survivor, here telling you my story so that you know that it is possible. It is possible to beat cancer. So if you are up for a chemo session soon, remember to ask for a room with a mirror. How else are you going to put on your lipstick? 

 

Do you have a story that you would like to share with us? If so, you can email us on community@onco.com

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