I am Amanpreet, 47 years, married and mother of two children. I have a daughter who is 23 years old and a son who is 19 years old. I am an Architect by qualification but currently a homemaker for past ten years.
I was fighting cancer and I would like to share my experience with you.
For about a year since I had been feeling a small lump in one of my breasts. I was confident that it was harmless and to satisfy myself, I surfed the web. My notion was that internet will have all the answers I need and I was looking for rationalising what I thought was not a serious problem. I rationalised that it was some kind of fibroid as there were no other symptoms that I could see on my breasts or body.
This ignorance was bliss for me until on one fateful day in September 2013, I felt the lump again and realized that it had probably increased in size. I got a very strong gut feeling about it could be cancerous. I informed my husband who took me for a complete check-up to the hospital, the next day. After the mammography and ultrasound, the doctors suspected that the lump could be cancerous and suggested we go for an FNAC test which is a rapid test to detect cancerous cells. Since hospital had outsourced the test and asked us to enquire after two days. We had an anxious night but prepared ourselves for the worst by doing some more internet research and this time on the right lines.
The news came over the phone the next afternoon when the doctor confirmed the worst fears and called us to hospital. We were shocked but were also prepared so the realization of the ground realities set in fast. In an instant, we decided that there is no point in pondering and crying over why me and what will happen to me but to face the situation boldly and fight the disease. There was no drama but absolute calm and composure.
The next big question was where to go and whom to consult. Word of mouth is what enables you to decide. Fortunately, the recommended doctor had moved to a reputed hospital close to our home. Within 30 minutes of the news being broken to us, we were in the hospital.
Then started a series of tests – a repeat FNAC which confirmed the bad news again.This was followed by an advanced MRI which highlighted spots in both breasts further clearing the mist. The doctor explained to us the various steps of the treatment and we listened calmly. Our biggest concern was if cancer had spread. I was next advised PETSCAN of the entire body. Unfortunately, the PET scan was occupied for the day and we got the slot for next day. At this point, I realized how grave the situation was and for the first time, the thought of not making it through occurred to me. Thoughts of my young children having to live without their mother tore me apart. I had tears but held them back as we had to face the reality. The toughest part was to appear normal in front of my son when we went home. He had no inkling of the turmoil that I was going through.
Next morning I went for the PETSCAN a bundle of nerves. All throughout the scan, I kept asking God for an early stage tumour in the breast and rest of the body clean. After the test, the doctor called us to explain the results. We spent some very anxious long moments as the doctor very patiently explained the scanned report to us. On seeing spots on the scan, it appeared to us as though the cancer had spread to many parts of the body. It was such a relief after the PETSCAN when the doctor informed that the whole body was clean except for the two spots and concluded that the report as I had prayed for. My belief in God strengthened so much. We thanked God for being kind and came out so happy from the PETSCAN room that other patients would have thought that our treatment is over. Since that moment I was very confident of recovering well.
For us the first battle was over, knowing the enemy location. The next stage was to understand how strong is the enemy and it would be possible through a biopsy which confirmed my ER, PR and HER2 status.
We confided this news in the close family and a few friends. Everyone was shocked and wanted to help. There were many suggestions for a second opinion but we were firm that since we are in good hands and a good hospital with excellent facilities, we have to have faith in the doctors and not get distracted and confused.
I was advised for 6 cycles of chemotherapy, lumpectomy and 31 radiations followed by Hormonal Therapy. Exactly two weeks from my first test, my treatment started with a chemoport implanted in my body to deliver the harsh chemotherapy medicines. It made sense as I have thin, deep-seated veins.
My first chemotherapy went smoothly but there were some hiccups within a week’s time when WBC counts went way below normal despite having taken injections to boost their growth. There was diarrehoea, pain in the bones, a lot of weakness, nausea etc. I had to be admitted to hospital for five days.
The after-effects of chemo started showing and nothing I ate tasted good. Everything seemed to have lost its flavour. However, I was determined to have the right diet. I always had my food and never gave up on eating which kept me nourished and hydrated.
The other expected and most visible side-effect was the loss of hair and I lost all my hair sometime before the third chemo. I was prepared for this. I opted to cover my head with various colourful scarves, caps etc. instead of wearing a wig. It did not bother me much as I knew my hair would grow back. This seemed a small price to pay to get rid of the dreadful disease and be around my family for a longer time.
My life had changed completely. It revolved around doctors, medicines, tests, precautions and eating right. Everything else for me and my family had become secondary. I avoided meeting many people to protect myself from infections. However, I kept in touch with my friends over phone and internet.
I got immense support from my family – my husband, daughter, son. My mother and parents-in-law came over from Chandigarh took turns in helping run the house. My sister also travelled as frequently as possible to provide the much needed moral support.She was there for each chemo and surgery. Her lively nature kept our spirits up. The entire team of doctors were very helpful and kind and were available on phone and whenever I visited uninformed. The environment around me was kept cheerful and we never felt that we had anything to fear. It was a matter of seeing the treatment through with confidence and all of the above combined to helped me remain positive throughout, which was very important. The doctors were also appreciative of my positive attitude and complimented that it is probably due to the mental strength that I was able to come out of the treatment with some lesser side-effects.
Then came the much awaited day of 23rd April 2014, when the treatment was over. It was as if I was a free bird and with no borders or boundaries. I am enjoying it and look forward to a new phase of my life.
My advice to people detected with cancer :
- Cancer is curable.
- Accept the fact as soon as possible and be ready for a fight.
- Have faith in Doctors and the Hospital. It does not mean that you don’t take the second opinion but make a well-informed decision and then leave it to the doctors.
- Believe in yourself and be positive – it is not only that patient but it is the entire family that gets impacted. Everyone goes through the mental trauma and the family needs to take care of one another. Panic does not help.
- Network with other patients and learn from their experience.
- Remain in touch with friends.
- Be ready to share your experiences and go out of the way if possible. You will feel good about helping someone.
- Create awareness on preventive tests – insist on close relatives and friends for a preventive health check-up. Be persistent in your message.