‘I WAS SCARED TO TELL MY SON I WAS ILL’

Sudha Subra­ma­nian, 43, free­lance writer, from Chen­nai, In­dia

Friday - - The Big Story -

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.

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