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A Chat With My Grand Aunt On How HER Mother Dealt With Breast Cancer

Through this piece, I wanted to capture how a cancer diagnosis can change your life upside down. Some stories, like the one I shared, end on a positive note, and the others may face a difficult path.

Trigger warning: This speaks of cancer and its fallouts and may be triggering for survivors.

Cancer tends to be a profoundly emotional experience with immense unpredictability. The feeling can be drastic, especially when one learns that their parent, the one they are most close to, has cancer.

To increase awareness about breast cancer, I spoke to my grand aunt (I call her Mami in Tamil), Mala Akshayakumar, about how her mother getting a diagnosis of breast cancer changed her life.

“My mom’s positive attitude made me forget that she was a cancer patient,”  she recalls about her mother.

A diagnosis of cancer

“I remember it was in December 2000 that she told me she had a lump in her breast for nearly two months,” she explains her initial reaction. “I was extremely shocked to know she had cancer. We went to the VHS Adyar hospital in Tamil Nadu. I should thank them first. They did a thorough screening, but, at no point did they alarm the patient or the person accompanying.”

How did you overcome your fears of her treatments and the possibility of side effects?

She never showed or expressed that she suffered. She was a bold lady.

“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about.” ― Jonathan Harnisch

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“We did not discuss the side effects of medicines. Whenever there was any discomfort, we attended to it,” she continues. “I did not try to know the side effects or think about the possibility of death. I just had faith in God and the doctors. Even now, I don’t know many prayer songs or deep meditation. Just a small, sincere prayer. God was kind enough to accept my prayers and permitted my mom to be with me for more than twenty years after that.”

What gestures from family members or friends meant the most to you?

More than me, all my relatives, especially my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, took great care of her. Nobody in the family discouraged her at any point in time. She was never treated as a cancer patient. This made her comfortable. I had never seen her telling others about her illness. If many relatives and friends cheer up the patient, I am sure the patient will feel better.

Taking care of mental health

When someone this close to you is diagnosed with cancer, you may experience a range of emotions. How did you feel it impacted your mental health?

Initially, there was a little uncertainty about whether she could withstand the operation. All of us tried to be optimistic while talking to her. But, seeing her boldness while undergoing surgery, we felt relieved. Her positive attitude made us feel confident that everything was fine.

For me, it taught me a good lesson in life. Don’t carry over your anger or quarrel with others for a prolonged time. Life is short. Let us make it sweet for all. Money is not everything. If you have genuinely concerned people around you, you can fight any battle. Whenever I hear about a person suffering from this illness, I see my mom, and I want to help them somehow.

Note: It is normal to feel shocked after learning about the diagnosis of a loved one. At times, you may feel perfectly well. The other times, you may become upset or anxious as time passes. All emotions are natural, although they can be challenging to deal with. If you are experiencing difficulty or want to talk about it, speak to someone you trust, or request an appointment with a therapist.

What would you tell a person who learned of their cancer diagnosis recently?

Face it with courage. Have faith in the doctor who treats you. Do not keep frantically Googling about potential treatments and side effects of medications. Instead, spend time on what makes you happy. Have good friends and relatives around you. Do not think about words that hurt you before but consider how kind you can be to others.

Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage do.

A cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down

Through this piece, I wanted to capture how a cancer diagnosis can change your life upside down. Some stories, like the one I shared, end on a positive note, and the others may face a difficult path. It is why awareness and empathy are essential. 

Breast cancer symptoms vary from person to person. Some individuals show no indications or symptoms at all. 

Some numbers: Breast cancer claimed the lives of 684,996 people worldwide in 2020. Breast cancer is expected to kill 43,250 women and 530 men in 2022.

Mammograms (breast X-rays) should be the first step in yearly breast cancer examination for women aged forty to forty-four if they choose to do so. The recommended age range for mammograms is forty-five to fifty-four years old. Women over fifty-five should begin getting mammograms every two years, though they are still eligible for annual screening. The advantages, restrictions, and potential drawbacks of breast cancer screening should be understood by everyone. Breast cancer is more common in women, but men can develop it too

In the month of Breast Cancer Awareness 2022, I urge you to be on the lookout for breast cancer. Early identification of breast cancer is significant. It frequently implies that the patient will have less aggressive treatment alternatives while still having favorable treatment results. 

Author’s note: This was edited by my friend Aswathy Dinesh to create this article.

Editor’s note: While this piece speaks of taking things positively, and that seemed to have helped in this case, we would urge women who feel the need, to take the help of counsellors to deal with such a life changing condition as cancer. 

Image source: YouTube

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Mirali Borde

Mirali Borde is a budding writer trying to make it in this world. read more...

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