Shikha's Story - PART I

I am 33 years old and I am a proud breast cancer survivor. Had I been in my daughter's place, I could have been a previvor.

Who is a previvor?

A previvor is someone who would be preventative of cancer, a person who has more knowledge about their family history and wants to/ or is taking steps to be proactive and is battling cancer even before it strikes. To most people, cancer is a killer. It is. But the biggest weapon against this killer is information. If you are well informed, half the battle is won right there.

My mom had not gotten her mammogram done until the age of 52. WHY? because her daughter was diagnosed of breast cancer at 28 and was helping her fight it. At 52, my mom learned that 1 out of 8 women in the USA (I do not have the stats from around the world) is diagnosed of cancer. Thanks to research and INFORMATION and medical help, the mortality rate from cancer is on the decline. We wouldn't know all this unless I had gone through Cancer. But we have the resources to know more and get help before we actually go through this.

It was the 11Th day of January in 2008 when I read an article about breast cancer in the Glamour magazine. Of course, mine had to be a fashion magazine. :) I told a couple of friends that I have a lumpy feeling in my right breast. I knew inside my heart that the article had made me think that way. I saw my gynecologist on the 15th and she thought that since I was still a new mom, it could be fibroid from when I was breast feeding. I went home, read more on breast cancer and the lumps and found I have another lumpy cluster under my right arm. Now, my husband was also alarmed. He had read about breast cancer because some football player's wife, Bret Farve to be precise... had had it. :) Of course... in my husband's case following sports is also informative.... :)

My gynecologist had wanted me to have an ultrasound anyway. I had problems getting an appointment with any ultrasound facility due to my age. My husband was getting restless and asked me to see our primary care, Dr. Radha Kumar and thanks to her quick judgment and prompt action that I found one of the best doctors I have ever met, Dr. Swaminathan. On Jan 22nd I went into his office... I was still thinking that it is NOTHING. Nothing at all. His office had a lot of cancer related magazines and I smirked when I looked to see really old people sitting next to me. I said to myself... Cancer is not for me. I was filling out a form there that asked me all about my medical family history. Who knows all that? I called my mom and asked her of her history. No breast cancer in our family. But I did learn that my kind is susceptible to fibroids in the uterus later in the 40s.

So, I sat there at the Doctor's office until they called me in for an ultrasound. He says he's not sure if he can see anything alarming and would like to do a biopsy. I said it is alright. He asked me if I had a ride home or would if I like to call my husband. I said I'll try, but I am OK. You can go ahead with that biopsy. I had no idea what biopsy was until he took out 7-9 needles and told me they were going to be inserted in my right breast. He kept apologizing for having to do this on me and I kept thinking that this is all soon going to be over. I had other things on my mind which were more important.... like getting my daughter used to day-care, starting my career back again after that day care thing is settled.... and gosh... now this? I am thinking the worst it could be is some fibroid that we can remove with surgery. I am not scared at this moment of surgery since I've already had a c-section with Sasha. (In my heart I was a little scared of surgery). My husband came to pick me up and was very upset. He went into the doctor's room and burst into a crying hysteria. :( I felt sad for him and not sad for me yet because I thought nothing was really wrong with me. He was just being over-protective.

My reports were to come in later and I had to see the Doctor again on the 29th of January, 2008. In the mean time I was told that if there was any cancerous finding or not, they'd like it if I get a surgery scheduled, after the reports are out, to get the lumps out anyway. My husband who got a grip by now suggested that we should have my mom come from India and help us if there was a surgery coming up. I called my mom and told her to be ready to come here anytime after Jan 29 in-case I need a surgery and that it was not a do or die situation right now.

Jan 29 - Highly malignant metastatic breast cancer. Tears? A lot of them. I have a baby girl... not even 2.

Confirmed second opinion... date of which I do not remember.

Feb 5 - Mom arrives ( no one else back in Delhi knows yet)

Feb 6 - Surgery... lumpectomy to remove breast cancer lumps found on pathology report along with the lumps found under the arms. All my lymph nodes are removed to prevent further spreading of any cancer cells, but putting me at risk for lymph edema...later in life.

Feb 18- Another surgery to remove margins that were still cancerous and insert a port-a-cath in my left side of the chest. This port a cath is inserted in your chest because you are someone who is going to be getting heavy chemotherapy. This port-a-cath was really painful, but now I miss it... It became a part of me since I had it in my body for two years. It was my buddy for the rest of the cancer treatment journey.

In between these dates whatever I went through, I could write a book on it. I'll do that later in life. Someday. But I did learn that mental hallucinations are not just a part of horror movies. They come with breast cancer too.

More to come.....

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28 Replies

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  • Hi Shika, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer stage III at the age of 28. It has been a journey of 17 years of survival for me now. I am staying in Bangalore now.. where are you from?

  • hello Farida

    i am 59, and went through two cancer surgeries within a gap of 13 months. The first one was endometrial cancer for which histerectomy was done and as it was stage one i was not given any chemo or radiation. but this year i had a return of cancer in my breast. Mastectomy was done. chemo and radiation will be done soon. In general i am positive, bold etc etc, but whenever the wave of depression engulfed me, i used to think 'what is the use of treatment, cancer would come back anyways and why should i go through the pain of treatment'. But now after reading your and Shika's story i think i would brave it all and live another 20 years at least.

  • Hi , your story is inspiring. I am 29 almost your age when you got diagnosed with it. How are you doing right now. Do you have children?

  • HI Farida

    i am also a BC patient under chemo now. I would like to contact u. I am in Bangalore as well .My real name is Manoramaselvaraj. I wouls get encouragement if i talk to u .My ph no is 9632539944. my mail id is manoramaselvaraj@gmail.com.kindly talk to me. I am 55 years old

  • Hey! I live in the U.S. Wow 17 years survivor!! I bow to you! I am a 5 year survivor and I am writing a paper for my Masters Health Communication class on "Promoting Mammography in South Asian women in America" alongside as I am responding to your comment :D

  • Hi shikha, this is Reet here, I live in Boston just diagnose with breast cancer want to talk to you to get some support

  • Hello Lioness Reet - you can talk to Shikha or Dr Sumeet - may be Shikha busy with some other assignments - you can ask any questions on this forum

  • Hey Shikha I am a novice survior of brest cancer compared to you 2. I completed my radiation 15 days back and really going through the pain of radiation aftermath ( did you have radiation too) but I am sure with so many of you writing on this blog I too will get over the pain.Need your advice for getting over the pain and the peeling of the skin . I am In Delhi and had my treatment at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute. Am 58 years only (-:)))) ) and have been put on HRT. Please let me know your experiences so far!

  • Its great to read all your posts! Its truly inspiring! Besides doing mammography, there is a lot more that you can do to prevent breast cancer or reduce the chances of metastasis. Shikha, which place in the US are you in? If i understand right, its the middle of the night there now! You can meet a specialist in Functional Medicine/ Regenerative Medicine who can tell you what else to add to your care, besides what your doctor has already recommended. Things like testing for estrogen metabolites in urine , your melatonin , salivary cortisol levels etc.

    www,worldhealth.net. i am Fellowship trained from American Academy of Antiaging Medicine.

    Ladies in India, i am trying to get these tests made available in India. The salivary tests can be done, but the samples have to be sent to the US.

  • Both my parents died because of cancer ... My father had cancer gall bladder and My mother had breast cancer triple negative... She lost her battle last year she had undergone chemo two times 12 each in seven years along with radiation and she was 42 years old when she was diagnosed .... I am 30 years now n presently expecting my first baby... Can u please tell when should I start going for memography n what r the precautions I should be takin.., since I have a family history of breast cancer....

  • Hi sdaskar.

    It is almost 5 am in the morning here and I burn the midnight oil because I am a Communications student (Student by night and Wife and Mommy by the morning) and I have a paper due this Saturday. I am not a med science student, but I really appreciate that you shared so many things that are being done in India to check for breast cancer.

    Shikha

  • I am sharing with you my blog I have written to spread awareness about some of the alternative cancer treatments available in India.

    Please do share in your circles it may help someone.

    kill.cancer.loves.to.advert...

  • hi shikha, i am also a breast cancer survivor,six years down the line,i also went through chemo(six)and 28 sittings of radiation.i am from Raipur(C.G).i am 54 now.can you tell me what precautions are to be taken?

  • I am sharing with you my blog I have written to spread awareness about some of the alternative cancer treatments available in India.

    Please do share in your circles it may help someone.

    kill.cancer.helps.to.increa...

  • Hello friends,

    My experiences are based on my personal case. Every case is different and every one experiences different side effects/ or maybe none at all (some fortunate people they must be). But for your medical concerns, I think Dr. Sumeet will be able to give you good advice. My advice to you (mintzz) would be to stay MINTY:) - stay positive, exercise, intake of Vit D and eat healthy (Pizza is healthy every other weekend- LOL)

    Shikha

  • Shikha, you are an amazing lady, I have lots of inspiration from you, for your courage and determination.

    Also, it's nice to see others sharing their stories as well. All this is great and inspiring. This is exactly what this forum is for.

    We all need to work together towards this cause.

    I work with breast cancer day in and day out; I cannot over emphasize how much important awareness is, and how important are such forums. There is lots of be done.

    RGCI, you radiation related problems will definitely settle down. The treatment of such problems is 'time'. These problems do hamper the quality of life, but they all go away in a few months. My colleague radiation oncologist will be joining soon, and we will have better clarification from him, rather than me commenting.

    I will get back to you, rgci.

  • You are truly an inspiration Shikha! :) And what I loved is the family support you received from your mom and husband.. and I am sure now your daughter... :)

  • Hi Dear, I am 29 and just got diagnosed with breast cancer on 11 th April. It was devastating for all in my family. We don't have any family history of kind of cancer in my family. I live in Boston and going to Dana farber which is luckily so close to my house. I met with my docs and felt comfortable . Still waiting for my MRI results. Docs will come out with plan in another two weeks. I am getting ready for the hard time. Mom and mom in law and hubby is here for support. I have three years old daughter.

  • It must be a very tough time, I can understand, placing myself in your shoes. There are wonderful treatments available now for breast cancer, so you don't worry. You have a top notch center near your house and within no time, your treatment will all be done and you will feel fine. And feel free to share your feelings and experiences here. You will get a lot of support from the members here, all breast cancer survivors.

  • Thanks Sir, your words are very inspiring. I was pursuing my studies but had to stop it for a while. I will keep on telling you more as things proceed. Right now waiting for MRI results and brca tests results

  • Hello LionessReet,

    My prayers and good wishes for your family. It is always sad to hear about another diagnosis, but at the same time, it is such a relief to know that a top notch health facility is just around the corner from you. Your doctors and caregivers make a really big difference in the treatment. I wish you and your family will come out of this sooner than you think, and stronger than ever before. Please keep us posted.

    Love and healing warm hugs,

    Shikha

  • Thanks Shikha. I will keep updating you with time. Really scared and hard to believe but this is what it is.

  • Hi LionessReet

    Really disturbed to hear that you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Though time is tough - the treatement is difficult to bear but you will definitely come out of this. Stay positive and keep sharing

  • LionessReet, hang in there. My wife was also diagnosed on January 6th 2014 and she is currently undergoing treatment. I lived in Boston myself for close to 7 years and Dana Farber is an excellent medical institution and you are in good hands. We wish you luck with your MRI Scans and your BRCA test results. Am sure that based on the results, your doctors will draw up a plan of action that will be in good order. Wishing you well. Hang in there. The first couple of weeks are very difficult and i surely can relate with how your caretakers and your family may be feeling at the moment. Soon you'll have a plan of action. Best Wishes.

  • Thanks for your reply. It is really unfortunate that I am going through this. I used to consider myself as a very healthy women but I never thought I could be ever diagnose with anything like this with no prior family history of anykind. I hope your wife is doing good. Are you guys in Boston or other state. I wish your wife a healthy recovery

  • LionessReet, its really tough time but nothing will remain same...good time will come again, my wife diagnosed in sep 2013...now all the treatment is finished in april first week....now her hair is also growing back...so slowy slowly life will retrun to normal routine with positive attitude. ..bcu if we can beat this situation. ..we can beat any situation...keep energy high..god bless you.

  • You are absolutely right if I can beat this I can beat anything! Since my diAgnoses I am finding inner strength in myself day by day. I am becoming more strong, spiritual and having more patience in me then before. Good luck for wife . Happy days will be their again very soon

  • LionessReet, hang in there. Hope you have a good family support system over there. At the moment, as you wait for results of Scans and the a plan for treatment can provoke a lot of anxiety. I felt very anxious at the time, but once a plan is in place, you will do better. It's great that you have the inner strength. Take it day to day. Easier said than done, but you will be fine. Stay well and God bless you.

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