Battling Cancer

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No chance I was expecting the words, “Nitya, these lesions in your abdomen seem like cancer masses,” when I went to the doctor for a stomach ache. Though I was sick on and off for the past 2 months, and I knew deep inside that something was wrong, this wasn’t the news I was foreseeing. For a person like me who likes to plan everything in her life, this wouldn’t have been on my list for another 500 years. Yet, here I am, talking about my cancer journey 10 months later.

I took a quick look outside of the window. It was an ordinary Wednesday morning and the world out there went on as usual. Silly me was expecting the world would stop at the moment my diagnosis was given. And from then on, the timeline of the world would be divided as BC (Before Cancer) and AD (After Diagnosis). Sadly, none of it happened and that’s when reality hit me; the timeline is divided, but only for me.

The next 3-4 days went in a blur, with multiple scans, tests, procedures and nightmares. All the while I was hoping for some medical miracle to happen and I would be home soon. The universe didn’t show mercy. After 5 days, it was concluded that I had Acute B-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of blood cancer that has a survival rate of 60-70% in adults.

The treatment plan was given. We were told the entire chemotherapy process would take 6 months give or take. I had a hell of a lot of questions and Googling them doubled them up. Apparently, there is no specific reason why this disease occurs in a person and the treatment is very intense with a lot of side effects. 

It took me a lot of time to accept that this has happened. I was so deep in denial that I thought,  “I’ll be in those 1-2% of patients who complete their treatment without side effects” and “I’ll be in those 0.5% of patients who don’t lose their hair.”

The coming months were worse with every other possible side effect and infection. Some stayed for days, some for weeks, some even more. In no time, I lost my taste, all my hair fell out and I looked like a coconut, and my skin was much darker. All the basic luxuries of living — eating, sleeping, and functioning — had been taken away from me.

It was much harder for my family, my two friends, and my cousin. They literally took care of me like I was a baby. It was already very hard to manage myself, so imagine being needy and dependent on others for every little thing, both physically and emotionally. But my people were there for me throughout; in all my tiny to huge griefs, every instance I wanted to run far away and not take my intrathecal medicine, every moment I was anxious thinking about my future, and every time I kept contemplating my broken engagement (I was engaged 4 days before my diagnosis).

Seeing the efforts my people were putting in for me, I decided I should do whatever it takes to keep my body and mind healthy. I am not going to allow my body to face this battle alone. I should support my body just as my people supported me. Though a little voice inside me always murmured, “You can’t do this,” I shut it up and showed up to every damn appointment. My personal diary became my companion. I went back to my regular habit of reading, started talking to friends and fellow patients, and somehow, I moved forward, taking one day at a time. 

There were tough days, but there were good days too. I appreciated those little, good moments more than I used to, for they kept me going through the hardest of times. I don’t know how strong I’ve become after this journey, but surely I’ve become a person with more acceptance, mindfulness, and empathy. I’ve started cherishing my life more. After all, I’ve suffered a lot to keep myself alive. I am proud of how far I’ve come.

So finally, after 9 long months when I heard my doctor say, “You have completed your chemotherapy schedule Nitya, we are now putting you in remission,” I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I was marking the victory of resilience and the promise of a new chapter in my life.

By: Nityasree Vankadara