Living the dream of a happy family life in Gurgaon, Ambika faced a breast cancer diagnosis out of the blue.
Research shows that 1 in every 10 Indians will face a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. So, a cancer diagnosis is no longer a very rare occurrence, but the way Ambika handled her diagnosis and what came after is exemplary.
Cancer does not wait, neither should you
As soon as she felt the lump in her breast, Ambika knew something was wrong. Her intuition told her that this was not a benign lump. She immediately called her daughter to check her lump. Her daughter confirmed that she could feel it too.
Without losing any time, Ambika immediately booked an appointment with an oncologist to confirm if her lump was cancerous or not.
Many women, on spotting a lump in their breast, leave it for extended periods of time, without taking any action. Some may think it is a milk lump, or some think it will go away on it’s own. Even if a lump is not cancer, it still needs to be checked by a doctor. Ignoring any symptoms of cancer, be it a lump, or unexplained weight loss, or bleeding, discharge, change in colour or shape of any body part or skin, can be indicative of cancer. It’s true that there is a very good chance that it may not be cancer. Either way, it does need to be checked by a doctor.
Ignoring symptoms and not starting your treatment immediately, leads to growth of the cancer. When you finally experience worse symptoms and decide to go to a doctor, the stage of the cancer could have advanced and now the treatment will have to be more rigorous.
Cancer is more easily curable in the early stages, and treatment in the early stages also tends to be less expensive.
Ambika was wise to not ignore her lump. Once the doctor confirmed her diagnosis, she immediately informed her husband and they started on the treatment journey without any delay.
This could be one of the reasons why Ambika is healthy and fine today.
Preparing for a tough journey
Another interesting aspect of Ambika’s journey was the way in which she began preparing for her cancer treatment. She knew that hair loss is one of the side effects of chemotherapy. Anticipating this, she cut off her long hair even before starting treatment. She felt it would be easier to manage short hair at this time.
She also knew chemotherapy would require her to have tubes running into her chest. So she bought front open shirts with holes to allow the tubes to run through them.
She made plans for how her family would have to manage without much support from her during this time. During chemotherapy, there were days when she could not eat, or even get out of bed. During these times, she needed her family to be independent so that she would have the chance to rest till she felt better.
Ambika advises that we need not feel guilty about the days when we are unable to work or do anything productive. Cancer is a very grueling journey and comparing ourselves to healthier individuals is not appropriate. There will be days when we are unable to do much, and that’s understandable.
Ambika explains, “During chemotherapy, I used to talk to very selective people over the phone; not more than two people a day. This was so I could avoid talking about my illness and avoid listening to diet advice from different people over and over.”
“I feel sometimes just sitting with your pain and suffering is also fine. You don’t need to always keep yourself occupied with something or the other. There will be days when you don’t feel like pushing yourself at all. In my case, I found it more peaceful to feel my pain without developing any negative thoughts or fears,rather than to keep doing something forcefully, when my body and mind were not supporting it.”
During this journey, Ambika found some important things to be grateful for.
In spite of the very tough treatment that Ambika went through, she looks back with gratitude. She feels blessed to have survived cancer and is now a cancer warrior who motivates and encourages other cancer fighters.
In Ambika’s words, “I feel grateful that my brothers took care of my work in my absence. I feel thankful to my husband and my family for supporting me through this journey. This was a tough time, not only for me, but also for my children. Despite academic pressures, my son was there with me throughout my chemo sessions. My daughter put her board exam studies aside to massage my feet for hours. I had unbearable pain in my feet at that time. I am glad we finally won this battle together.”
There is no denying that cancer is tough. It’s possibly one of the toughest struggles that anyone can face. But Ambika reminds us that it is temporary. The side effects too are mostly temporary and reduce in intensity as time progresses.
Knowing that this storm will also pass, and that things will get better, helps us stay motivated. Ambika proved that she is tougher than cancer. She hopes her story can help others who are still fighting cancer to not give up hope.