According to the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India. Our country still continues to have a low survival rate for breast cancer, with only 66.1% of women diagnosed with the disease between 2010 and 2014 surviving, a Lancet study found. Most of the women find out about their cancer either mid-stage or during the last stage. This indicates a lack of awareness in the country.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we bring you stories of hope from real-life survivors who have a positive message to share. These survivors share their words of inspiration, wisdom, hope, and support. They have opened up about how their lives changed by cancer and how they still continue to stay strong despite the challenges they face.
"On July 1st 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As my husband Jayant and I drove home, I shed copious tears. Overcome with the enormity and the complete loss of control I asked him if this was the end of the road? The end of my dance? But Jayant, being the extremely positive person that he is, said, “No, this is only a hiatus and after treatment, you will be back to doing what you most love. I realised then that I, who thought I had complete control of my life, had control of only three things: My thought, my mind, and the action that derived from it. So here I was wallowing in a vortex of emotions – anger, fear, frustration, misery, with the enormity of the situation, wanting to go to a place of healing, health and happiness."
"I wanted to go from where I was to where I wanted to be, for which I needed something. I needed something that would pull me out of all this. Drawing succor from my husband’s positive energy and words, I dried my tears, pulled myself together, and declared to the world at large that:
a) I will ride this out, and I won’t allow cancer to ride me
b) I will not say "Why me?" - I didn’t say why me when I received all my awards. So why should I say why me now?
c) Cancer is only one page of my life and I will not allow this to impact the rest of my life
Further, I unburdened myself from the secrecy associated with cancer. I myself told the world about it."
-Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant, a Bharata Natyam & Kuchipudi dancer from Hyderabad
“I still remember on June 2017, I was sitting at my workplace accidentally felt a small lump and I was honestly very upset. I didn’t share with anyone except one of my friends, and then later got my tests done. When the doctors said I was positive, I shared it with my family. Initially, I was quite devastated but as I broke the news to my family (which was the hardest part), I somehow got so strong and positive. After that, through the entire treatment of more than one year, I was okay except the time when I started to lose my hair. But, the minute I decided to shave my head, I was my old self.”
“I didn’t stop working for a day which kept me going at all times. Though the work conditions at my workplace are very tough, I continued. I never stopped socialising or going for holidays and even got my daughter married during this time. I feel super blessed to have a wonderful family and such lovely friends who have helped me come out of this so smoothly.”
-Rita Nirula, a teacher from Noida, Uttar Pradesh
“Cancer is not a very unfamiliar word for me, as three of my family members have passed away because of it. So, I had all the information I needed to have about cancer and everything that comes along with it. But, I never thought that a small lump in my breast would gradually grow and become cancerous. I paid my first visit to a gynecologist in 2013 when my lump had turned into a pea-sized shape. Later, when I got myself tested, I found out I was already in the second stage of cancer.”
“When I started going through chemo and had to shave my head a lot of my friends started asking me ‘How it feels to have no hair?’ It was quite strange for me because that wasn’t the only thing that mattered but it was also my health.”
“But during those times, a friend of mine reached out to me and told me that writing is something that has helped many people to overcome their struggles and helped them be more positive. So, I wrote a lot of poems about my journey, my struggles and realised that it was therapeutic for me. Later, I even started my own ‘room theatre’ where several solo artist could perform including me. I got so involved with writing plays and conducting shows that I didn’t even remember for a second that I have cancer. That’s my message to everyone that ‘Life is short and you never really know what’s in store for you, so live in your present and enjoy your life while you are here.”
-The optimistic Vibha Rani, who is a theatre artist, a poet and a Hindi writer from Mumbai
“Like all the other women my cancer started with a small lump, and for a year I stalled it and over the time it became cancerous. It felt like my world had ended when I got to know I had cancer, my husband was also out of town and there was no one to talk to, at that point in time. But, my doctor really helped me through this which gave me strength and helped me to open up to my husband. It came as quite a shock to both me and my family and for a long time, I was in denial thinking that my life has no purpose anymore.”
“Chemotherapy was quite painful for me, emotionally, because as a woman I didn’t want to lose my hair. Every woman is so attached to their hair, so I didn’t want to take chemo. It’s only when my doctor pushed me and encouraged me to take it, I did. And it was life-changing for me! After multiple sessions back and forth, chemo is something that gave me a new life.”
“My message to the people going through the same would be to not give up on life or on themselves because this too shall pass. And it can be treated and taken care of if detected at the right time.”
-Monalisa Mahapatra, Breast Cancer Survivor from Bhubaneswar
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