The evening of June 19th, 2011 was a turning point in my life. My doctor shared the outcome of the Colonoscopy test with us. He said, “I am very sorry to tell you Usha, that you have upper rectal cancer.” My husband and I were stunned and tears welled up in my eyes. But we remained composed and positive, unsure from where or how we got the strength. Perhaps our strength came from my unconditional faith in God.
We often make the mistake of not acknowledging the symptoms and remaining in denial of the symptoms. Here is an important message I want to share with all of you: “Please do not neglect or overlook symptoms. Do not delay in consulting a doctor and undergoing the necessary tests as the disease can sometimes progress very fast.”
My Oncologist shared the stage of the disease, the treatment procedure, and the effects in great details with us. His calm and assuring disposition, his commitment and competence prepared me, my husband, and my sons for the upcoming battle. To perform the surgery my doctor said the tumour had to be shrunk. So I was started on radiotherapy and oral chemotherapy. After a month I underwent surgery, following which I had extra appendages – a colostomy bag and a chemo port!
The chemotherapy treatment started after a month’s gap, when my body had recovered from the surgery. I was nervous about the side effects of chemotherapy. However, due to advancements in medical science, they are no longer as bad as they used to be. Pre-medications lessen most of the side effects to a large extent. If one remains calm, positive, and cheerful, then half the battle is won.
Sometimes even a sense of humour helps. Though losing my hair was initially intimidating to me, I eventually decided to joke about it. I told my family and friends on a lighter note, that I looked forward to the re-growth, not knowing whether I’d come out ‘curly or straight, black or grey.’ My childhood friend, Jacqueline Colaco, knew about my apprehensions about going bald. So as an act of solidarity she also decided to shave off her hair. I am so grateful to her for this noble gesture. I also cannot mention enough, the unconditional support and love I received from all my family members and friends. During this dark period of my life, I realised the true value of my husband, sons, family and friends. Also worth mentioning, is the care and treatment given to me by all my attending doctors, without whose support the climb would have seemed much steeper.
I often remember the anxious moments that I went through. However, looking back, I would like to state that Hope, Strength, Faith, and Courage helped me win the battle against cancer. I want all of you to know that we are not ‘Cancer Survivors’ or ‘Cancer Patients,’ we are the ‘CANCER WARRIORS,’ who have fought the battle and have come out victorious.