by Asha Kumar as told to Megha Bajaj
Sheer determination, right attitude and sensibly caring for body, mind and soul helped the author get the better of cancer.
Why me? is probably the first question that the mind screams when the doctor pronounces, ‘It’s cancer.’ I decided to riposte, ‘Why not me?’ Diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in September 2004, it began with the hardening of my entire breast, which I kept attributing to lifting weights. Somewhere, we all convince ourselves that nothing like this can happen to us; it’s always a third person – someone else – who gets cancer. When the doctor informed me that the tests were positive for cancer, something in my mind immediately told me, ‘So what? I am a fighter and I will take the bull by the horns. Let’s see what cancer can do to me.’ I cried only once, on the evening I told my sister and she broke down. I could not help myself when I saw her cry. Even then, the tears were more from gratitude for having a caring sister like her, than of self-pity. And my son said to me, ‘If Lance Armstrong, after fighting testicular cancer, can go on to win the grueling Tour de France six times in a row, surely we can overcome this!’
I decided to tell very few people about the cancer. People may mean well, but this was a battle I was fighting with my mind – and their responses and opinions could make or mar, help or hinder the battle. The friends in the know came over every Saturday and we laughed and debated, celebrating life.
Due to late detection, the tumor size had grown quite a bit and was inoperable without undergoing chemotherapy first. Like all cancer patients I too was anxious about ‘chemo’ and everyone I spoke to confirmed its debilitating effects. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weight loss would soon become a part of my life, I was told.
However, when I shared this with my health guru and confidant Mickey Mehta, he said, ‘Nothing is impossible if your mind and spirit are strong.’ I believed him. Also, a booklet written by Dr. Khubchandani (herself a cancer survivor) that affirmed ‘chemotherapy cures, not kills’ helped me set aside my fears and trepidations.
So, arming myself with a novel, and an attitude as if I was going for a cocktail party, I set off for Jaslok Hospital. As the IV tube was inserted into my hand, I was laughing, engrossed in an amusing film going in the background and didn’t even realize when the chemo was over!
Six rounds of chemotherapy and 25 units of radiation with no side-effects, except hair fall and blackening of nails. Miraculous? My doctor, Dr. Advani, oncologist at Jaslok Hospital, thought so too.
I attribute my recovery to adequately caring for body, mind and soul. I now looked at food as something that would become a part of me and therefore respected it. I ate lots of vegetables, fruits (non-acidic ones), nuts, green juices and soups that helped maintain the hemoglobin level, which falls due to drugs given during chemotherapy. Also, after chemotherapy one is advised to drink up to four liters of water if possible, so that the body flushes off chemicals and dead cells. I saw every drop as nectar – and drank even when I wasn’t thirsty.
A believer in the curative properties of wheat grass juice, I feel all those undergoing treatment should have this green, earthy juice first thing in the morning for a full year so that the entire body is cleansed and rejuvenated.
Between my family, friends and myself – my mind and spirit were taken care of. Mickey comes everyday for at least 20 minutes to practice transcendental meditation with me. Deep breathing, absolute relaxation, affirmations, and visualization are all part of the therapy, which even involves colors; I visualize purple, which soothes the mind. Since breathing is the very essence of life, pranayama too helped tremendously.
By practicing forgiveness I let go of the unnecessary emotional baggage that I had been carrying for years. Loving others and myself has also started becoming more natural. I have also stopped postponing happiness – if I want to wear a pretty shirt, I don’t worry about spoiling it – I simply wear it to my heart’s content. I live life fully and don’t want to miss out on any moment of joy.
I underwent a successful operation seven months ago. Yesterday Dr. Goswamy, radiologist at Jaslok Hospital, after putting me through tests cheerily confirmed, ‘You are absolutely normal – please go!’
You may wonder about the future. What if there is a recurrence? I believe that the best way to predict the future is to create it . I know people who had a recurrence within six months and I know others who fought their cancer 15 to 20 years ago to lead extraordinary lives today. It does take courage, firm determination, faith and love and care of the trinity called body, mind and soul, but the choice is mine. For me cancer is not the end, it is a new beginning. As Helen Keller put it,”Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.’
(The author, who goes under a pseudonym, is available
on firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries.)
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