‘I WAS SCARED TO TELL MY SON I WAS ILL’
Sudha Subramanian, 43, freelance writer, from Chennai, India
Ihave always taken my health seriously as cancer runs in my family. I did all the routine checks and examined my breasts – then four years ago I found a lump. It was 1cm in diameter, the size of a pea, and although I was scared, my doctor said it was nothing to worry about. She examined me and told me to monitor the lump and get a mammogram and ultrasound done every year. My husband, Anand, 45, told me to follow her instructions.
I wasn’t unduly worried and as advised, monitored its growth. During a mammogram in late 2013, the lump showed calcification (a build-up of calcium in the tissues). Doctors decided to remove it and a biopsy showed the tumour to be malignant.
I was confused more than scared. Why hadn’t I done anything earlier? It was stage 1 cancer. Then fear took hold. I was scared for my family – my husband and 12-year-old son Siddarth. I was worried about how my son would react, so I didn’t tell him.
A fortnight after the first surgery, I underwent a mastectomy and my left breast was reconstructed using a silicone implant. Then I started chemotherapy. That’s when it hit me – I had cancer and I had to tell my son. He would soon see me being very ill and my hair fall out. But I didn’t know how to tell him.
One day I gathered courage, sat him down and told him about my condition. After the initial reaction, he took it well.
I shaved off my hair and wore a wig so people didn’t ask him what was wrong with his mum. But one day in class last October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, he stood up and spoke about me when asked whether anybody knew someone who had breast cancer. He went on to do a campaign in his class where he got his classmates to wear a pink ribbon for me for the month.
After six cycles of chemo, I was prescribed Herceptin, which is used to treat metastatic breast cancer, for more than a year. I’ve been given the all clear.
Some days I feel sad but then I think I should be glad to be alive. I would not have spoken to Friday a few months ago, but sometime back I spoke to a couple of women about my experience and advised them to get a check-up. One of them took me seriously and found she has cancer. She was saved because it was detected in time. That changed everything. Now, I take that extra step to enable women to get checked and make informed decisions if they’re diagnosed.