Audacity of Hope: Breast Cancer Thriver With An Iron Will (1 of 2)

Rupa was in a happy space when she was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. Her life-changing experiences exemplify the saying ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’. This is the 1st article of a 2-part series.

The ‘C’ Word

My aunt (Rupa), along with her husband (Jay) and two daughters (Karishma and Mahima) had moved to Australia in April, 2010 to pursue a new life in Adelaide, one of Australia’s most magnificent cities.

In April, 2011, Rupa was diagnosed with breast cancer at the Royal Adelaide Hospital . She went through an array of medical tests and was naturally taken aback at the sudden and sad discovery of the ‘C’ word. Far away from her parents, siblings and relatives it was an even more bitter pill to swallow.

Getting Prepared

  1. Talk to cancer survivors or thrivers: As the days passed, Rupa felt better and braver and that’s when she met Helen. Diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, Helen shared her experiences with Rupa, who had Stage 3 breast cancer. She first had to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to shrink the tumour size, so that it could be operated upon.
  2. Research about your cancer: The hospital gave Rupa a kit which had very useful books on breast cancer. One book was very informative and covered the facts, tests, treatments and support options for early breast cancer patients. Another book provided contact details of forums and support groups, including various measures that can help during different stages of cancer treatment. In addition, the medical and health teams did a commendable job by informing Rupa exactly what treatments she would receive. This open and transparent dialogue was a huge step in preparing her mentally, for what was to come.
  3. Make important decisions about your treatment: Rupa knew that to be happy, she had to be with her family and friends back home in India. She, along with her family, arrived in India in May 2011. They visited a few reputed cancer hospitals in Ahmedabad, their home town and ultimately chose HCG Medi-Surge.
  4. Doing all that you can for a successful treatment: During her treatment she began keeping a close eye on her body, something which she had never done before. She interacted with her surgeon and oncologist to understand the medical terms and treatments that she would undergo. The medical team provided great encouragement and moral support to Rupa throughout the treatment. Since establishing a strong human connection is one of the most important aspects in the treatment process, the warmth of her family and the reassurance of her doctors was crucial in preparing her emotionally.

Life after cancer

  1. Feeling of victimhood: Shortly after the chemotherapy began, Rupa started losing her hair. Her pillow would be covered with strands of fallen hair. Her younger daughter (Mahima) would cry and ask Rupa why this was happening only to her and not to anyone else’s mother. She asked Rupa to wear a wig and that did make both of them feel a little better. Rupa realised that it is important to address the question of victimhood, when it comes to cancer.
  2. Dealing with effects of chemotherapy: During her second chemo cycle, Rupa had to deal with food infection, but fortunately her oncologist’s medication cleared it. Her diet consisted of home-cooked food, which had to be consumed warm and fresh. The third chemo cycle was the toughest as she completely lost her taste buds, developed a mouth ulcer and also lost her eyelashes. But she was happy because her surgery date was coming closer and closer.
  3. Strength from spirituality: Rupa had been brought up with spirituality as an inherent part of her life. After the positive chemotherapy reports, she went to various temples to show her gratitude and gain strength from the deities blessings. Being a strong-willed person, she made up her mind that she would have no fear even if the doctors were forced to remove her right breast during the surgery. Her spirituality gave her this fortitude.

Reflection

  • After diagnosis, how can you prepare yourself physically and mentally for the cancer treatments?
  • How can you engage in a productive dialogue with the doctors regarding your treatment and recovery?
  • Where will you can draw emotional strength from, during the difficult cancer journey? How will you stay positive?
  • If your loved one is going through cancer, what are the three most important things you can do to demonstrate how much you care?

Author

Saurabh Dubey is a student of Advertising at EMDI in Mumbai. It’s a bit strange to describe myself, as I’m a man of few words! I’m a blessed person who has incredibly loving and caring parents, siblings and friends. I love simplicity, sincerity and also to explore my surroundings. I’m also a yet-to-be-discovered poet!

More from this series

Title About the article
Part 1 This article chronicles the life changing experiences of my dear aunt, who lives by the rule, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’.
Part 2 After the surgery, Rupa didn’t feel great pain. But the very next day, when the surgeon came to dress her 30 stitches, she cringed and cried with pain. She experienced a strange numbness on the right side of her chest and then she realized that what she had expected before the surgery had become a reality.

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