Like most Chennai girls, I too had my entry into a Software Company right after my graduation. When I reached 23, I met my better half and tied the wedlock soon.
We had a cute little girl child the very next year. I changed my job and joined back after 7 months of maternity. Life was cool and fine with small hurdles that could be crossed with patience.
We are a vegetarian family and we have the habit of including fruits in our diet every week. I live with my in laws and having an active lifestyle with busy household chores, office and some workout routines. I eat all vegetables including plantain stem and bitter guard. I find so many adults pushing veggies aside on their plate.
It was around 4.5 years post marriage - during August 2014, I noticed a small lump on the right side of my neck. It was of the size of half of a marble. I couldnt figure out why it appeared all of a sudden. I youtubed and googled :) and finally found that its called 'Lymph node Enlargement' and I was clear that it wasnt Thyroid. It was hardly a week after the swelling when I got severe fever which ran upto 102 in the evening and fatigue. I'm generally very active in the evening when I prepare the vegetables for the next day and spend time with the kid - but I was falling on the bed as soon as I returned. I had a sore throat as well. I decided to check it with an ENT specialist who in turn gave me medicines saying that 'Lymph node' coud enlarge if we get infections. He's right actually and so I took the medicines for 3 days when nothing subsided. I went to my gynaecologist who has known my health condition thru out my pregnancy. As soon as I blurted out the word, 'Lymph node enlargement' - she immediately asked me to take it serious and perform a series of tests.
Note1: Your general physician would be able to guide you best since he/she knows your health condition better than anyone else
Note2: Please identify any small changes in your body and if its a non -painful lump anywhere, please show it to your doc immediately. It might also be non-harmful but ensure you get it clarified.
Note3: Never hesitate to take tests like blood test/scans. I'm aware that it requires a lot of money out of our hands. But in this world with adulterated food everywhere, the number of diseases are huge and most diseases do not show up with just physical examination.
It was a neck scan which showed multiple nodules inside apart from the one I could visibly see. My doc suggested FNAC which requires taking a sample using a needle from the nodule. The scan specialist was apprehensive and suggested a chest scan as well after discussing with us. He wanted that to confirm on something. We were not clear on what his suspicion was about. But still, we conceded since our doctor was informed well in hand before performing the scan. We were finally informed that I was suffering from Hodgkin's Lymphoma/Lymph node cancer. Tears rolled down my husband's eyes as he read the report online. My mother, in laws including my sister in law - were in tears. I could sense the tension but I suggested to discuss everything with doctor first. My doctor had got the news well ahead and she suggested a full biopsy to make a double confirmation. The histopathology report takes 3 days to come which confirms the stage of cancer and the type of cells which are active. This would help in identifying the treament mode as well. I was at Stage 2, Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My doc was cool in guiding us to an Oncologist at Apollo, Teynampet.
Dr. MA Raja is the oncologist I met at Apollo. He gave us a counselling session of an hour or so before talking about the treatment. We had a hundred questions to ask of course. :) Is it completely curable? How long would the treatment go? Will I lose my hair completely? What are the side effects? and many more... He was patient enough to answer every question that we had. The treatment for CANCER can be by the following methods: 1: Chemotherapy 2: Radiation 3: Surgery + chemo 4: Chemo + radiation 5: worst case - it could be Stem cell transplant. The PET scan (injecting radioactive element into your body to identify the areas where the cANCER cells have spread) - suggested that I had it in my neck and CHEST and hence Stage 2.
Since I was in stage 2 and young, my treatment included Chemotherapy alone.
Radiation, though has lesser side effects (you wont lose hair :) importantly) - is suggested for patients who are about 435-40 years since it might cause some other cancer in the future.
This is my first day of Chemotherapy - which included a 5 hour session of injecting drugs into my veins. ABVD were the medicines offered to me.
I told myself that the road ahead is going to be too rough. I took an LOP from work after 2 rounds of chemotherapy since I was too tired to work
I can quote some side effects of chemotherapy for you to know.
1: Mouth ulcers which make you lose your taste buds - you cannot eat what you like even if you are double hungry due to steroids
2: Severe Pain in the veins - if the medicine is viscous (one of my medicines was too thick)
3: Water retention in the whole body which made my face rounded :) I started looking like a chipmunk :)
4: Hairfall- I started losing my hair after 2 rounds of chemo - and I had to do a short haircut to prevent hair knots. Then I started becoming bald when I decided to go for a full tonsure.
5: Buffalo hump - your neck becomes layered due to steroids - which make fat getting deposited in chest, back of neck
6: Weight gain - due to steroids
7: Nausea - which might in turn cause weight loss for some.
8: Nails and fingers getting discoloured - due to depletion of cells
9: Stomach burning - since the chemotherapy destoys all the cells in the lining of stomach
10: RBCs, WBCs go out of range and hence you are prone to a hell lot of infections. The injection 'NEOPOGEN (Cost: 12K) is given after chemo to trigger the bone marrow to produce more WBC - which inturn causes severe joint pain - I felt like I lost my hip and couldnt sit at times.
11: Mood swings - widely due to treatment and also due to depression.
The trauma of losing hair is just inexplicable. especially for girls, where hair literally means IDENTITY. Its a total change over of how you look.. I had to search for scarves - India doesnt have many varieties. Far east countries have a hell lot of varieties.
I started ignoring the mirror and cried sometimes to step out of the house. But still I had to engage myself into something. I started quilling, I learnt car driving and got my licence; I joined Aerobics. I spent more time with the kid though I couldnt help much since I would roll out in pain at times when my hubby and kid would console me to sleep.
My in laws and mom took good care of me but I started feeling too dependent on them. My dear hubby also did a tonsure to make me feel equal to him! There are guys who abandon their spouses as soon as they get to know that she is suffering from a dreadful disease. God, I cant ask for more!!
Note: You tend to realize the importance of your kith and kin only when you get a disease/ when you are unable to stay independent. You also tend to realize/find who your real friends are!!!
My scans after 6 rounds of ABVD(chemo) were normal and they told me that no more cancer cells were active. My doc suggested for 2 more rounds to wash out traces. Finally on December 6th 2014 - I took my last chemotherapy. I made quilling earrings and a 'Thank You' card to the 8 nurses who served me during my treatment.
I've been on remission since then. Its been 2 months now since my last treatment. My latest pic post treatment - lost some of the effects of steroids and my hair has started growing :)
My daily routine is: 1: I go for a morning walk for 40 min at 6 KMph.
2: I come home and prepare tiffin for the morning
3: Pack lunch for me and hubby and have breakfast
4: Washing machine
5: Give food for in laws and make kid ready
6: Clear and clean the kitchen - with utensils kept in place
7: Feed food for kid and start to office
8: I go to work in a train and a share auto - this ensures I get more exercise.
9: Reach home, have dinner and cut veggies for the next day lunch
10: Clear the clothes and spend time with kid
11: Read a book and sleep.
Though I still have pains at times, I feel I can come back to my own self soon. It would take around 2 years may be for my hair to grow back as before. My steriods are slowly leaving me but its too slow and my patience levels are constantly tested. I can bear the look of strangers who give a weird look at me - but I'm hurt by the way some ppl who know me best, treat me post this. Guys, there's a lot of difference between patronizing and showing real concern . I've already lost hope in myself. If you still try to press me down, I'm ready to take it.. Keep it coming!! I'll come out with flying colours soon..I met many ppl who shared their experiences about their kith and kin who had got this disease – I realized, life is not easy for anyone. Every person has a suffering that he/she has crossed or working upon. Name, fame, money – everything has lesser importance, the only thing which matters is the love you show on every person and the love you get from the ppl around you.
Never lose confidence in life. Even the deadliest disease has a cure if you have the confidence to face it!! Never waste your tears for petty things for it has the least value. The ppl who love you most will never ever leave you in whatever situation you are:) never lose those kind of people!!!
My latest gyan was that: Stress is an important factor for Cancer. So just dont get stressed if something is gonna hurt your heart, just come out of the place.. you have better things to do and better people who care!!
Keep moving on!! Life is too short to get stressed and get cancer
Guys - any inputs regarding CANCER and its treatment, its side effects, scarves, motivation etc I'm ready to discuss. Get in touch if you need. Thanks.