Posted in bravery, cancer, discovery, happiness, health, strength

Me 1- Cancer 0

My travel, for the most part of the last two and a half years has been because of cancer. Either for it or from it. I globe trotted to London for almost a year for treatment, but also domestically to Delhi, Hyderabad, across Bangalore and other cities. There were leisure trips too, but now I was finally travelling for fun, love and life.

For my best friend’s wedding.

When I was announced as the Best Man, I was bestowed the responsibility of planning his bachelor party and given that it was an Indian wedding, the dance performances. He lives in the UK, so I coordinated with his friends in Bangalore, Birmingham and family in Kolkata for the wedding details. I thankfully had a year to plan all this and honestly, I needed the time. With my erratic health and susceptibility to anxiety, I could do things at a calm pace.

The biggest challenge for me was to feel well enough to enjoy the celebrations. This wasn’t easy.  While 2016 began splendidly with good health, new job and things going in the right direction, I had a mastectomy surgery, increase in brain lesions resulting in radiation and a line of treatments from June till September that didn’t suit me and sapped me of all energy. I was on bed most of the time and had to quit work too. The next treatment that was recommended wasn’t going to help me either. I would lose my hair, my immunity, be unable to eat out and pretty much be confined to the bed.

That’s when I decided that the type of treatment I receive should not be a hindrance to the kind of life I want for myself. After all, cancer shouldn’t be controlling me; it is only a small part of who I am and not what my life should revolve around.

Thus, began my war against the treatment. I was clear that I will attend my best friend’s wedding looking normal, with hair, strength and the ability to do all things others can.

And I did. I also lost my desired amount of weight so I felt confident and great!

We went to Goa for four days and I took part in all the water sports, ate in shacks and even had some drinks. Para sailing, banana boat, kayaking, snorkeling, dolphin sighting and then swimming in the middle of the sea surrounded with nothing but water. Enveloped with friends, sun and a festive atmosphere. What more could I have asked for?

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The wedding was loads of fun and I could be a part of all the functions. The DJ nights for dancing on Bollywood and Punjabi songs, mehandi function, next day engagement, then baraat and reception. Everything was a highlight. Yes, I did get tired faster than others and needed to sleep longer, but only marginally. I don’t think that anybody could tell that I am battling cancer and that is very important to me.

Before the functions, I had nightmares that my wig would go flying while I am dancing or that I would get tired and faint in front of everybody, but thankfully none of that happened.

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My best friend- the groom and me. My wig didn’t go flying while I was dancing because I didn’t wear one. Part of his many demands.

This success would not have been possible without mom. She understood the importance of me attending the wedding as Sonia and not a shadow of myself and stood by my decision of not letting cancer dictate my life terms. It meant her having to fight the doctor, make family and well-wishers understand my rationale, and that’s not easy. It’s not easy to take a break from treatment or refuse treatment while battling cancer, but we braved that.

From the day my cancer was diagnosed, mom has been my biggest support. From taking my temper, tantrums, me crying to eat non-vegetarian food, refusing to get chemo because I am not in the mood, having food cravings and ordering biryani from local joints, all without a complain. She also manages the house, her business and various jobs, liaises with the numerous doctors I am connected with, identifies and understands my often-changing treatments, raises funds for my medication all alone without batting an eye.

All I am expected to do is turn up, take treatment and stay strong. Everything else is handed to me on a silver platter. I don’t believe much in religion and my spirituality is shaky. But I believe the universe gives you what you want and she is my universe. My fairy, my angel, my God.

She has let me keep a puppy though I am unable to care much for him myself [my brother is the primary carer] because she knows how much I love animals.

Because in these 28 years, there isn’t a single wish I have made that my mother hasn’t made come true.

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Our tradition of morning tea and coffee, and eggs together at night are precious to me. We go for all movies and food outings together. She is my soul; my gossip partner and I am nothing without my mom. We always say to each other that it is dangerous to love someone so much. But there are very few people on a bad day who can motivate me to keep fighting cancer. She is the first of the top five people in my life, all others come later.

So, as I end 2016 with a bang, now looking for the next thing to obsess over, I want to dedicate my blog and life to you mom. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.

I don’t know what 2017 has in store, but with mom by my side, I can continue fighting cancer with the same resilience as day 1.

 

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Posted in bravery, cancer, discovery, happiness, health

Cancer, My Gift

People from social circles are getting married and having a child or two. They’re snorkeling their way through family bliss. There are others who are sky diving into their careers making a meaningful entrepreneurial life for themselves. Then there is me; happily unmarried and non-committed, floating through the abyss, rather jobless at the moment, sitting with my feet up against the wall, relaxing with my baby pug Chulbul while I read a book on my Kindle and nibble on a snack or two.

But I am also celebrating a very special occasion. It’s my second anniversary! Two years in the cancer universe. Woohoo! Thank you, thank you.

This special moment has left me misty eyed and I can’t help but put my book down and conjure up revoked memories of the time passed.


Cancer Diaries – 2014

Salary hike. ‘Employee of the Quarter’. New job opportunities. Possibility of a romantic relationship. Lost weight and looking fine. Family doing well and me sitting on a shooting star that was going towards the land where all dreams came true… Or so I thought.

In January ’14, when I discovered the lump, my predictable reaction like any 21st century human was to refer to Dr. Google. The 3:00 am investigation concluded as breast cancer and I went crying to mums room giving her the news. She was quite perturbed and probably thought the conversation was her hallucination given my abrupt entry and drama during the darkest hours of the night.

Long story short, I got an FNAC and ultrasound which diagnosed me with Fibrodinoma. Apparently very common among women my age [evidently not] and after a 10 day sample of a stressful life, mine was a happy and normal one again. Who would have thought that the sample was just a trailer of what was to follow?

It was silly of me to not have realized that a growing lump could be a sign of cancer and I still feel very betrayed that the doctor didn’t take the opportunity to educate me on the symptoms or call for a follow up.

In July when the lump had grown uncomfortably large, I told mum I need to see a doctor again and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting cancer to be the diagnosis. Somehow it had haunted me since January anyway.

There it was – Malignant positive! High grade cancer. The sentence that demolished me. What followed was an abrupt exit from my job, shattering of dreams, ego and vanity, loss of interest in the romantic relationship I was pursuing and running to doctors, trying to comprehend what was going on. Will I live? Will I die? Was I already dead? Is this a joke? Please be a joke. I am too young for this and cancer certainly does not go well with my image.

What followed was a series of extremely brave steps from me. See, I have always been at the epitome of health since a young age. No fractures, bad accidents, illnesses or visits to the hospital until I was diagnosed. [Except when I was admitted for food poisoning and then banned for the ruckus created while they inserted and removed the Iv]. Therefore, needles and medical centers were largely alien to me and my fear of pain very real.

I do feel fate has a role to play and maybe the destiny of our lives is predetermined.

I had got a tattoo done on the nape of my neck in 2012 to get over my fear of needles [what a random rationale]. It feels like a mock of kismet that this very tattoo helped me realize that though I don’t like it, my threshold for pain is high enough to get through treatment. Funny how certain incidents intertwine into the fabric of our life to make more sense later.

I am very proud of myself for starting treatment with no tears or fear; except when I lost my hair. My doctors, nurses,support group, everybody said I was brave with the way I was handling my horror movie and that watching me gave them strength. I don’t understand what that means. Maybe I wasn’t cognizant of what was being taken away from me and what I was losing as a consequence of this disease. But I guess my detachment helped me live each day at a time and get through treatment with blissful ignorance.

Yes there were side effects to the treatment like heat flushes, nausea, weakness, restricted diet and I also experienced a bout of depression and major mood swings during one period. The death of my rabbit, my baby, my life, came as the rudest shock that I couldn’t cope with. It was the first big thing cancer had taken from me and my darling had to suffer because of my disease. I wasn’t there when he passed and that hurts me even today.

But apart from that, I think my life was great. I also got to travel to London for treatment.

Sight seeing, Winter Wonderland, New Years Eve celebrations by South Bank, Christmas dinner.. none of these experiences would have been possible without my cancer.

Summer- ’15

I had attended my dearest friends wedding and wore a gorgeous saree. Her wedding was an occasion I had been planning since we met in 9th grade and being a part of those beautiful celebrations was a dream come true. But back to treatment- I’m in London again! London is fantastic during summer, amazing weather, lovely sightseeing and Wimbledon! Center Court tickets to Andy Murray vs Vasek Pospisil and then the Djokovic vs Cilic match. What a fantastic day of quarter finals!

What more could I ask for? Meeting friends, pub hopping, devouring chips, Mugs of Pimms and Dissaronno, Nandos, Udon Noodles at Wagamama and my favorite weekend outings at Camden town. Of course, the fact that Oxford Street was two streets away from my hospital helped a lot too. Ahh life was a fest and I was there for my best friends birthday too!

So what if I was diagnosed with brain metastasis towards the end of the trip? I’m still alive and kicking aren’t I? From almost going into remission to getting a horrendous news, Summer of ’15 embedded every possible emotion within it. I came back, sulked over my fate for a wee bit but then picked myself up and started working by the end of the year.

Summer ’16

I don’t work where I began at the beginning of the year anymore, but mum is opening her beauty salon and make-up studio next week and I will help her with that. That will be our latest adventure.

 I don’t look the same anymore, I had a mastectomy surgery finally and feel liberated from that horrible haunting lump after two years.  I didn’t get the reconstruction done as the surgery isn’t curing me.

I have put on and lost weight so often in this interim that I have ugly stretch marks.

Hence, with my bald head, single breast, and disproportionate figure, my vanity is below the poverty line and any hope of a relationship or marriage are presently out the window. But I don’t doubt for a moment that I am beautiful. I am!

Yes, I miss having someone to hug and call mine, but I’m glad I was single when I was diagnosed. I wouldn’t want to put the person I love through something as intense as this.


As I am sitting back right now, I won’t lie that I feel like a burden on my family. Cancer is an expensive disease and now after 730 days, the cracks begin to show. Private treatment in Central London wasn’t cheap. Nor are the tests, alternate therapies, living expenses and sundries. I wish I could take the pressure away from my parents. Or at least go into remission so that treatment can halt and I can resume being an asset rather than a liability.

But it’s something I don’t have control over. Maybe it’s karma. Maybe I attracted this so I am paying my dues, but that is fine. Life is Yin Yang and I have so much good come my way that focusing on the negative is very difficult.

My best friend is getting married at the end of the the year and I am his Best Man. From planning his stag do, to the dance performances at the functions, to my outfits; I am obsessed with the occasion and that’s keeping me going full throttle.

My soul sister will be getting married next year and then I will be obsessed with planning her wedding next.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is releasing end at the of this month and that has kept me going for long [OMG, I think I am going to hyperventilate into excitement on this]. Also, Sherlock season 4 will be out next year. Little objectives to look forward to, help me plan my life in short spans and not keep falling into the black hole of how long will I live? I have enough to keep me going.

So as I am celebrating my second anniversary in the cancer universe, I am only smiling and looking back with peace in my heart because I am alive and healthy and the more anniversaries I celebrate, the more cancer loses.

Will you celebrate with me?

 

Warriors are not always the fastest or strongest people. Warriors are those who stand between their enemy and all that they love and hold sacred.

We are all warriors against cancer.

Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer… scary word. No matter how many times you say it, you can’t befriend it. Cancer is that mysterious subject that we hardly know anything about. Except vague associations like chemotherapy, baldness and death… and some cases of survival. It has such a bad image given that it is passionately followed by Lord Yama, so dissociation is a natural course of action. Unless one is forced into circumstances that don’t give them a choice, why would one leisurely learn about this omen of death?

I didn’t know anything about cancer until it was slapped into me one fine day during my sense of self discovery. Cancer was this ugly slug residing at the bottom of an ocean bed that one could look at from above, protected by a body of water; we’ve all watched it randomly jump out and take someone for itself, but for me it lived in the abyss. I was far removed from this ugly slug with my belief that it would only take other people; never me or my family. That’s when the universe decided to humble me by flinging me into that abyss and even after a year and a half of choking and throttling, I am aggressively trying to swim upwards to pierce through the water for a gulp of fresh air… and I know I will get there eventually.

However, during this journey towards the surface of water, I learnt to live with my cancer too.  And that learning is the inspiration for this blog. The truth is that my cancer hasn’t been all bad. It’s been an odyssey of finding love, forgiving, healing, discovering myself, losing the people I don’t need, finding God and so much more. All these beautiful things came into my life only because of cancer. Cancer made me strong.  It taught me about accepting the changes that come in life and learn to live with them happily. It made me realize that happiness is my choice and taking back control of life is my decision. Cancer is only a state of mind.  I am confident that each cancer warrior has been faced with this choice and will have beautiful narratives to share on their decision on how to live with their slug.

See, a warrior can choose to live like a victim, be a patient on his bed and nobody would force him to do anything otherwise. That’s because his support group doesn’t know what he is feeling and will therefore let them be. A warrior has everybody’s unadulterated sympathy; hence he has to become his own motivator. Whether it is getting out of bed, talking, smiling, maintaining a routine or trying to not be envious of non cancerous humans. Every step is their war cry because a warrior holds his quality of life sacred and will fight for it. Cancer wins the day it beats a warrior mentally and he surrenders, but till he continue to treat it like a common cold and live life the way he wants, he is winning. The disease is scary, but our attitude towards it doesn’t have to be. Cancer can coexist with our normal life. It isn’t the end of the world and a warrior won’t let the thought of it tie a noose around his neck.

This brings me to my rationale behind this blog. You. You know somebody who has fought cancer; you may at some point be a support group to a diagnosed warrior. And you may not be prepared for it. Because nothing can prepare you for the intensity of emotions; neither yours nor theirs. Survival will happen. But the word cancer is so scary that we forget to focus on the happy moments and normal life that we live while with it. Your perception and reaction on cancer creates a domino effect to the supportive ecosystem. Don’t feed your fears to a warrior, don’t sympathise. Help them celebrate their life just the way you are celebrating your own. After all, it is the life in one’s years that count, not just the years in one’s life.

Cancer Warriors