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Accepting The Diagnosis Was Most Challenging: Digital Creator Esha Dhingra On Her Breast Cancer Journey

Meet Esha Dhingra, a mother, IT professional, and an influencer, who is fearlessly battling breast cancer. Here’s a look at her journey

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: May 18, 2023 11:20 IST
Accepting The Diagnosis Was Most Challenging: Digital Creator Esha Dhingra On Her Breast Cancer Journey

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For 38-year-old IT professional and digital creator Esha Dhingra, life took a disquieting turn when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and her husband, currently residents of London, had come to India to visit her mother, who was battling metastatic breast cancer. Although Esha indulged in regular physical check-ups, the idea of getting a breast cancer screening had never occurred to her, until one day when her husband felt a lump in her breast. 

Speaking with Only My Health, Esha takes us through her journey, talking about how she fought the disease, highlighting the importance of regular breast self-examination and screenings, and emphasising the need to remain positive throughout. 

Also Read: On Breaking Stereotypes, Managing PCOS & Maintaining Fitness, Diksha Singhi Opens Up About Her Journey

The Diagnosis

Since Esha was under 40 years of age, her doctors had never recommended mammography, a test used to diagnose breast cancer in women. However, she conducted regular physical examinations, which revealed nothing. Luckily, an examination by her husband helped her detect a small lump in her breast. 

She said, “It was the first time in fifteen years that my husband offered to do a breast examination on me, and we found a lump in the right breast. Initially, I believed it was nothing but milk ducts and never thought that it could be a tumour or cancer.” However, after flying in from London to visit her mother, Esha underwent certain tests and ultrasounds, which revealed that she had early-stage breast cancer. 

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Besides A Breast Lump, What Other Signs Should You Watch Out For?

In conversation with Only My Health, Dr Tanay Shah, Consultant- Surgical Oncology (Breast Cancer Specialist), HCG Cancer Centre, Ahmedabad, said that breast cancer symptoms are not just limited to breast lumps. Common indicators include thickening in either of the breasts or the armpit, changes in breast size or shape, discharge or an inward inversion of the nipple. One may also experience changes in the skin, such as redness or dimpling, as well as persistent pain in the breast. However, in some cases, there may be no symptoms at all, the doctor noted. To detect the disease early on, he recommends conducting regular breast self-exams, undergoing mammograms, and receiving clinical breast exams. 

The Biggest Challenge

Looking back, Esha remembers the day she got her cancer diagnosis. “I was sitting in my car when I looked into my husband’s eyes and knew that it was cancer,” she said. According to her, it was the lowest point in her journey, and accepting the diagnosis was the most challenging.

“Nothing is as low as knowing your diagnosis, but once you accept it fully and learn to keep your emotions aside and approach it practically, then the journey will not be that difficult. Physically, if you’re young and have no comorbidities, you can handle it. Emotionally, it becomes very challenging,” she said. 

Also Read: Parita Dholakia’s Life Experience of Living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta aka Brittle Bone Disease

“I Can’t Emphasise Enough On Importance Of Early Cancer Screening”

The dread of the ‘C’ word is widespread; so much so that people avoid it in every possible way. Many overlook symptoms or choose not to recognise them, and others dodge tests and evade important screenings, but for what? 

Esha strongly believes that the more regular you are with your health screenings and the earlier you get them, the better your chances are of successful treatments and survival. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer that is detected early, and is in the localised stage, has a 5-year relative survival rate of 99%.

Given the progress of the disease, breast cancer treatments may vary from person to person. According to Dr Shah, it can depend upon several factors, including the tumour's stage, grade, and molecular characteristics. A combination of interventions is typically needed, including surgery (such as lumpectomy or mastectomy), radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. Each patient's treatment plan is personalised based on their specific circumstances.

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In Esha’s case, the doctors caught cancer at an early stage, which is why she did not have to undergo a mastectomy, a surgery to remove all breast tissue to treat or prevent breast cancer. For her, the doctors recommended Breast Conservation Surgery (BCS). 

Dr Shah defines BCS as a partial mastectomy, which involves the removal of the cancerous tumour along with a margin of healthy tissue while preserving the breast itself. Often, this procedure is followed by radiation therapy to ensure a thorough and effective treatment. 

However, in Esha’s case, doctors suggested chemotherapy. She said, “It was divided into two drugs. First drug is very difficult and was given in four cycles. The first cycle is give every two to three days. So, every 15 days, four cycles.” Currently, Esha is in the second phase of chemo and is done with 6 out of 12 weekly sessions, which she says is relatively easier, given that she is young and without any underlying health condition. 

“I would say that the doctors did a good job in making sure that no extra treatments were given to me. I believe I received optimum treatment,” she shared. 

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Parenting Through Chaos

Despite the challenges, Esha and her husband have been able to protect their son. They have managed to form a ‘barricade’ and have kept their child safe from any emotional harm. 

“We decided that we will not make it a gloomy time. We don’t want our son to come back to these memories and think ‘my mum was not well’. We are making sure that his memories are not sitting in the hospital. From a parenting perspective, we have maintained ourselves emotionally and have prioritised his growth,” she said.

However, she believes that it is all possible of the support she has received throughout, not just from her family and friends, but also from the medical faculty. 

Also Read: We Have To Be Kinder To Ourselves: On Mother’s Day, Single Mom Garima Bhandari Shares Her Parenting Journey

The Brain Has The Power To Heal The Body

Esha is an optimist and strongly believes that the brain has the power to heal the body and staying positive is what helps her take on the disease. 

Even while undergoing chemotherapy, and experiencing painful side effects thereafter, she focused on the positive things. She says, “There were people around me who loved me so much, who cared for me, who kept reminding me that this is temporary and that this is not my body, but the drug that is causing the pain. I knew I was supposed to feel this way because it indicated that the drug was attacking the cancer cells and that it was working. Most importantly, I knew that it was all going to end.”  

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A post shared by Esha Dhingra (@eshadhingra)

Besides having an optimistic mindset, Esha also focuses on having a positive surroundings. She does not allow negative energies to cloud her mind, nor does she dwell on the pity people show her. She believes tragedies strike everyone in different ways, but at the end of the day, it is the will to fight that count.