In February, this year, my doctor announced that I have breast cancer. Life has changed tangentially ever since. My family life today is very different. My perspective on various aspects of life has changed dramatically. When I look at my life, I see two parts – one before February and one after February. But cancer had found its way into my family even before my diagnosis. My grandfather died of cancer.
Unfortunately, I saw him only as a kid and practically have no memory of him. My grandmother survived breast cancer. A distant uncle succumbed to stomach cancer. This meant – like the doctors would like to put it – I had to be careful. Careful? How can someone be careful about this? It’s not like we are leaving ourselves wide open to cancer attack, is it? Well, despite being ‘careful’, I ended up with the disease. It took nearly two months from the moment I got the mammogram to hearing the word ‘cancer’. Of course, there were many interludes in the name of biopsies, scans, blood tests and various other things, which I think are best forgotten. But the learnings, too, have been many; for which, in the strangest and the most concocted way, I am thankful for this disease!
Every year, during October, I have felt a strange connection to the breast cancer awareness activities. Perhaps, it was the universe’s signal that I had some kind of connection with the disease. Or maybe, it was simply because I had known so many family members suffer from cancer. Anyway, this year, I pledged to take part in as many cancer-related awareness activities as possible, and this article is one small initiative towards that. The reason is that I know exactly how important a mammogram is for every woman on this planet.
We, women, never give our health its due. We cook healthy, take our kids and husbands to the doctor, even as they show just a slight symptom of flu. In the process, we often neglect our own health. But then again, breast cancer is quiet, doesn’t show up easily. It requires deliberate hunting. The moment you feel a lump or are in doubt if it’s a lump, it is better to get it checked by a doctor immediately. Women above 40 are expected to get these tests done annually. Today, you probably know for certain that you will attend your child’s graduation ceremony, watch your child get married, play with grandkids, have numerous fights with your husband till you both have shiny grey hair and wrinkles. But cancer can slowly creep into your life and rob you of all those joys and dreams!
With all the campaigning over radios, television and numerous flyers at your doorstep, you would be surprised that, even the most educated of women have not taken any steps in clarifying if they are safe from this disease. Last year, I met a lady, who had many sleepless nights before she went in for a mammogram. She hadn’t informed anyone at home because she was scared of the result. But, that’s life. Of course, it is fine to be scared. But bravery is in getting the tests done, despite the fear.
Out of the many women I have spoken to, only a handful of them have got a mammogram done. And they are now at peace knowing that they are safe. Isn’t it better to revel in the knowledge of good health than to live in uncertainty? And what pain are you fearing? If women can survive labour pain, they can deal with this test, just fine. You may feel a slight discomfort, though. But that’s a very small price to pay when you can be sure that you have taken all the right measures towards a better and healthier tomorrow. What my prognosis has taught me is that I want to live, I want to experience a whole life, and that I will and must do all that it takes to get there. It is not so bad. I am on that road. And, from what I can see, there is a beautiful rainbow at the end of the road. I can’t wait to get there. I hope you never have to take this path. But, for that, you have to take that first step towards understanding your own health.