I Fought The Big C

Read how this brave woman keeps her spir­its up in the face of the Big C

Women's Weekly (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

A breast can­cer sur­vivor shares her jour­ney to re­cov­ery

For Sha­ran­jit Kaur, a former man­ager with a multi­na­tional com­pany, life took a dra­matic turn when she dis­cov­ered a lump a few days af­ter her 46th birth­day last year while in the shower.

“I felt a lump in the up­per area of my left breast. I tried to brush it off as maybe I had ex­erted my­self dur­ing a work­out at the gym. Know­ing that I had dili­gently been go­ing for yearly breast screen­ings both mam­mo­grams and ul­tra­sounds, I did not think any­thing of it. How­ever I mon­i­tored the lump daily and af­ter a week felt that some­thing was not right. I de­cided to make an ap­point­ment to see a doc­tor at the Breast Care Cen­tre in Pan­tai Hospi­tal, KL,” says this bub­bly mother of one.

Sha­ran was re­ferred to Dr Sal­ad­ina (Dina) who did an ini­tial man­ual check and told her there were two lumps. Not want­ing to jump the gun, Dr Dina sent Sha­ran to do a mam­mo­gram and an ul­tra­sound. She saw Dr Dina later the same day and af­ter tak­ing one look at the re­sults the doc­tor said that most likely the lumps were ma­lig­nant.

Af­ter that ev­ery­thing hap­pened re­ally fast. Sha­ran first saw Dr Dina on a Mon­day and on Wed­nes­day she went in for a biopsy and by Satur­day Sha­ran re­ceived the of­fi­cial re­sults. “It was con­firmed, I had the

Big C,” says Sha­ran.

The fol­low­ing week, on De­cem­ber 5, Sha­ran had a lumpec­tomy to re­move the ma­lig­nant lumps as well as some of her lymph nodes. Thank­fully her lymph nodes were clear, in­di­cat­ing that the can­cer had not spread yet.

Says Sha­ran, “I was truly blessed to have been in tune with my body to check and re­alise that some­thing was not right. I was di­ag­nosed with stage 1 breast can­cer, which is very early stages and there­fore treat­able with higher chance of re­cov­ery. “

FIRST THOUGHTS

Sha­ran had al­ways thought she led a healthy and some­what bal­anced life. She went for reg­u­lar health checks, worked out at the gym at least three times a week, was care­ful with her food choices and tried to main­tain a healthy weight. How­ever, she ad­mits that her job in the re­tail in­dus­try had been very stres­ful.

Ex­plains Sha­ran, “I guess with­out re­al­is­ing it, the stress lev­els were just too much for my body to han­dle. By the time I was di­ag­nosed, my blood pres­sure was sky rock­et­ing and I re­alised that it was not from the di­ag­no­sis but be­cause of work stress.”

“The de­ci­sion to leave my job was hard to make but I knew that my health was a pri­or­ity. I just had to trust that all else will find a way,” she says.

Through it all, Sha­ran has man­aged to keep an al­most up­beat man­ner and ap­proach to her can­cer di­ag­no­sis.

“When Dr Dina gave me the re­sults of the biopsy which con­firmed I had breast can­cer, I think I was in shock as I didn’t feel emo­tional at all. My only thoughts were what’s next, what do I need to do to re­cover from this. I looked at the sit­u­a­tion as I would a prob­lem, what is the next step and so­lu­tion. Later when I re­lated my story to a friend, she said, ‘you were in your man­ager mode’. That pretty much sums up how I man­aged the en­tire jour­ney!”

GET­TING TREAT­MENT

To treat her can­cer, Sha­ran was re­ferred to on­col­o­gist Dr Mas­tura who mapped out her course of treat­ment based on her can­cer di­ag­no­sis, which was triple neg­a­tive. She started chemo­ther­apy in Jan­uary 2018 and had to go through six cy­cles, with each cy­cle at three-to-four week in­ter­vals.

Says Sha­ran, “Even though I’d read and heard from other can­cer sur­vivors about chemo and its ef­fects, there’s noth­ing like go­ing through it your­self. Each cy­cle and its ef­fects were dif­fer­ent, so I re­ally didn’t know what was com­ing and what to ex­pect for my body.

“Some ses­sions the nurses had trou­ble find­ing my vein for the in­tra­venous in­jec­tion and took two to three tries. I went into one ses­sion feel­ing down and even be­fore the med­i­ca­tion could take ef­fect I was throw­ing up and feel­ing sick.”

While ef­fects af­ter each cy­cle dif­fered and ranged from severe body aches, sore throat, con­sti­pa­tion, and di­ar­rhoea, a few of the side ef­fects were con­stant through­out the six cy­cles – loss of ap­petite, ex­treme fa­tigue and loss of sense of taste. The first week af­ter each cy­cle, with­out fail Sha­ran would strug­gle with th­ese ef­fects, the worst be­ing the loss of sense of taste. “I’d be dream­ing of eat­ing all kinds of food and when I do eat it, I’d feel up­set be­cause it didn’t taste like how I’d imag­ined it would taste like,” she shares.

Treat­ing a dis­ease like can­cer of­ten can wipe out some­one fi­nan­cially. “I can­not stress enough the im­por­tance of hav­ing your own med­i­cal in­sur­ance,” ad­vises Sha­ran. “It’s the pay-out I re­ceived from my in­sur­ance that’s help­ing me sus­tain my day-to-day ex­penses with­out my hav­ing to dip into my sav­ings or think about get­ting an­other job for the mo­ment.”

A TURN FOR THE WORSE

The months went by. On May 3, 2018, Sha­ran com­pleted her fi­nal ses­sion of chemo and be­lieved the worst was over… or so she thought.

“I started ra­dio­ther­apy that month and worked with Dr Mas­tura to en­sure I fin­ished the al­lo­cated 15 ses­sions be­fore I left for a long hol­i­day in June. Ra­dio­ther­apy was a breeze com­pared to chemo. For three weeks I went to the hospi­tal ev­ery af­ter­noon for my 4pm ses­sion and I got through the three weeks with­out any side ef­fects.

“On June 9, I left for my hol­i­day to Europe. The fol­low­ing week, all hell broke loose. The skin around my breast started turn­ing black, part of the skin tore off leaving the area raw and ex­posed. Due to ex­treme changes in weather – hot, cold and then hot again – the af­fected area be­came in­fected.”

STAY­ING POS­I­TIVE

It’s been 11 months since her di­ag­no­sis. “I am get­ting through one day at a time. While the phys­i­cal scars have healed I still strug­gle with fa­tigue and a gen­eral feel­ing of my body op­er­at­ing on a slower mode than it used to,” shares Sha­ran.

“I know women who have been di­ag­nosed will prob­a­bly feel tired of hear­ing this but be­ing pos­i­tive re­ally helps. I be­lieve it’s half the bat­tle won. Keep your spir­its up and sur­round your­self with pos­i­tive peo­ple. You de­serve a happy and pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment to heal.”

I now look for­ward to a bat­tery of tests in De­cem­ber and get­ting an all-clear from my doc­tors, which will tell me that for now my body has been able to fight the can­cer and it has gone in re­mis­sion. It will not be the fi­nal prog­no­sis as I will have to con­tinue be­ing tested and mon­i­tored pe­ri­od­i­cally, while pray­ing that the can­cer does not re­turn. My jour­ney is far from over.”

I’m glad I in­vested in a med­i­cal in­sur­ance from when I was younger and health­ier. There’s noth­ing like hav­ing the bene t of your own med­i­cal cov­er­age as a back-up

From left: Sha­ran now, 11 months af­ter her di­ag­no­sis; She had been a busy man­ager work­ing in the re­tail in­dus­try; Apart from hair loss Sha­ran ex­pe­ri­enced other un­pleas­ant side ef­fects from chemo­ther­apy; Her 14-year-old daugh­ter has been her great­est cheer­leader.

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