It is a day after New Year. I am in the ultrasound room – the doctor has asked me to get my right breast examined. My name is announced. I don that silly robe which could put the entire nudist colony to shame. Cold blobs of gel are squirted on the breast. The hard, rude probe follows. An indifferent sonographer. A bored nurse. About four minutes of snooping around mammary-land.
Could it be cancer? …….Naaah! No-one in the family has it. Some stupid fleshy lump, I guess. I need to lose weight. That’s it. The radiologist announces all of sudden – Okay – it looks like cancer only .Phlegmatic, indolent announcement. Loud. Care-a- damn loud.
What? WHAT? What did she say? I stare. I start shivering.
I could have cried. Maybe, yelled. Or, shrieked. Held her by her shoulders and done a filmy, ‘kyon, kyon, kyon, keh do ki yeh jhoot hai?’ So many options. But I choose to shiver. Violently. The voices in the background grind into an invisible mixie. In the next few days, when I should have been partying and breaking New Year resolutions, I am operated. It is a full mastectomy followed by reconstruction. When I regain consciousness, I feel like I have been out for an hour or so. But, it has been, actually a gruelling 8 hour surgery. ‘I have good news for you’, smiles my pretty doctor, ‘the cancer was contained in the breast. It had not reached the lymph nodes.’ I smile weakly at the first piece of good news in the year. The next eight days are painful.
Sharp Pain. Dull Pain. Slicing Pain. Hopping Pain. Spiralling pain. I have had caesarean section deliveries in the past. But this is worse. And, no baby either. But I have learnt, suddenly, to be grateful for being alive. It’s a soft, beautiful feeling that pats me on the cheeks and wakes me every morning. Nothing negative matters now. The first three days are unbearable. My head pounds. After-effects of seven hours of anaesthesia.
Maybe. I have tubes coming out my body. They are attached to containers that look like Chinese lanterns. Five sets of tubes and lanterns. I can’t move much. But, that was the easy part, I learn. The tough part begins now. It’s called Chemotherapy. I have 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Every time, within a day of the dose administration, I am throwing up.
Lifeless. Helpless. Sometimes I don’t feel strong enough even to breathe. I try to keep myself hydrated. It feels like tiny terrorists have infiltrated into my body and are destroying everything in sight. It’s so hard not to cry.
I am poked every week. Blood tests. Monitoring. I am hairless. Weak – it takes a huge effort to even take a bath and get dressed. Eight months are over. My chemotherapy ends. The doctor tells me I am fine. It takes me a few months to get my strength back. Yoga, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and exercising daily helps. I am back in business.
Breast cancer instances are rising in India too. The key is that we don’t pretend-live in our own
beliefs of immunity against it: anyone can get it – there is no known reason for it. It is important to be vigilant, do regular self-examinations and a mammogram once a year if you are above 40. Regular exercise is key. It’s wonderful that many women have taken to running. I too shall be running the Pinkathon 2017 to spread the message.
More strength to Pink sisters!
Rachna Singh is a writer with five published books. She is one of India’s leading humour writers.