This story is sponsored by HCG.
Anni Rajani Sharma recalls that 2013 started on perfectly happy note. The 30-year-old business executive had moved to Chandigarh in February, after marrying man she calls the “love of my life”, following a seven-year long distance relationship. “My husband Kunal and I were busy planning our future together when the unexpected happened,” she says. In August 2013, Anni was diagnosed with Stage-2 breast cancer.
She says that her first reaction was one of denial and disbelief. “My first reaction was ‘Why me?’ I wallowed in that feeling of misery for the first month. I was constantly asking myself what I had done to deserve this.’
She says her husband was shattered when he heard the news. “Neither of us was prepared for it. We had been in a long-distance relationship for so long, and were finally moving on with our life together. The news hit us hard. But, as that first month came to an end, we had come to terms with my diagnosis. We also told ourselves that with the right treatment, cancer was curable.”
Her treatment began in September 2013 and went on till April 2014. Anni says that this eight-month period was not without its challenges. “Treating cancer takes time. It’s not a one-day surgery or a 10-day course of treatment. It’s a long drawn out period of treatment and recovery, and the side effects can go on for years. I would be lying if I said that it was an easy phase and that I could go through it again.”
After the surgery to remove the lump in her breast, Anni was prescribed six cycles of chemotherapy every 21 days, following which she had to undergo 36 sessions of radiation. “I still have to go for frequent follow-up tests. Cancer can recur in the first two years after recovery, and there is a continued risk for up to five years. Going for these tests is like an exam, and I still cry on occasion during my PET scans. It is difficult, but each time I am given a clean chit, I feel good, “she says.
Anni says that she finds that there are a lot of stories and myths around chemotherapy. “People are afraid of chemotherapy and the stories one hears just make things worse. My doctor told me that it was not such a big deal. He told me to just face it, and things would be better.” She says that in her case, the first two cycles were the worst as her body took time to adjust to the heavy medication.
“I had multiple side effects including diarrhoea, water retention, and lack of taste in the mouth. My face was completely swollen. I changed a lot physically during those six months. But medicine today is so advanced that they can control the side effects.”
Anni once again stresses the importance of following the right diet. “If you watch your diet and stay active, this will be a phase that you can get through. And, don’t listen to the people who will scare you. Just listen to the few people who give you strength and encouragement. And always listen to your doctor.”
Anni says that one of the biggest factors in her recovery has been the support of family. “My whole family rallied around me…my husband, my mother, my sister, my in-laws, they all supported me through my journey. I had friends who went all the way to Ajmer Sharif Dargah to pray for me.”
She says her mother decided to come and live with her for six months during the treatment. “She took care of all my dietary requirements and put up with all my tantrums.” Anni once again stresses the importance of following a proper diet and exercise regimen while going through chemotherapy. She says that her sister, who was working at the time, also came down to Chandigarh and spent three months with her. “She’s very cheerful and positive and was always laughing. My oncologist said I should keep her here to maintain the positive atmosphere,” she laughs.
She says her in-laws were also very supportive and gave her the space she needed with her mother, sister, and husband to make a full recovery.
But Anni gives the most credit to her husband. “He has been my biggest support, and the main reason I felt I should fight this. He was with me during my surgery, through my chemotherapy, through everything. When I lost my hair, he treated me like a child and would kiss my bald head.”
She recalls a particularly meaningful incident. “That year, karva chaut fell on October 22, exactly one day before my cancer treatment began. Although, it’s a day when married women fast for their husband’s good health, that year he fasted for me. I know I would never have been able to do this without him. He is my biggest support.”
Anni says overcoming cancer has taught her a lot. “I used to be a very pessimistic person. If anything bad happens to you, it can do three things to you. It can define you, destroy you, or strengthen you. I chose strength and I have become a stronger person,” she says.
She says that she now has a much more positive and optimistic approach to life.” My perspective towards things has changed. I value my life and am more grateful for the things in it. In the past, I was chasing a future that I did not know existed and was part of the rat race. Now I am content.”
She quotes former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who once said ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’.
“Cancer is curable. So just keep going…it’s a phase and once you get through the other side, everything becomes okay.”
If you have overcome cancer, or know someone who has, and can be an inspiration to others, log on to www.selfv.in to find out how to participate.