We are honoured to have Ms. Geeta Malik here on our website, sharing with our readers her experience of battling breast cancer. She was kind enough to share her thoughts and experiences on this subject.
Onlymyhealth Team: Ms. Malik, when were you first diagnosed with breast cancer, and what were your initial thoughts?
Ms. Malik: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. It was a shocking revelation for me and my family. I could not believe it had happened to me. This was some thing which happens to others not me. I was in a state of denial. How could it happen to me? I have done nothing wrong, never harmed anyone. The news of breast cancer was quite devastating. My first thought was my children specially my daughter, who was younger of the two. I was quite worried about my old parents? Who was going to look after them. My first thought was that I may not live long because I kept associating breast cancer to death.
Onlymyhealth Team: Could you talk about your pre-breast cancer days; your life with your family and friends?
Ms. Malik: Life before breast cancer was very smooth. My husband was doing very well professionally. Children were doing fine, we were a big happy family, our family plus my in-laws. Life was fun and we travelled a lot.
Onlymyhealth Team: How did it change post diagnosis? How was it like coming to terms with it? How did it affect your lifestyle?
Ms. Malik: By the grace of God I was able to come to terms with my cancer very fast. I knew I had to look very strong and act normal in front of my family and specially my aged parents. I was their only child and their whole world revolved around me. So all along I acted normally as if nothing had happened. My acceptance of the disease, my faith in God and my mental strength helped me deal with the situation.There was not much change in my lifestyle except during tests, hospitalisation and surgery. Once I regained strength after surgery and started moving around things started coming back to normal.
Onlymyhealth Team: What treatment did you undergo and were there any side-effects?
Ms. Malik: I underwent mastectomy. My breast was completely removed. It was a tough decision, but necessary at the same time. Since mine was a border-line case I did not have to go in for chemotherapy, or other drugs, just radiation. It did not have many side-effects. Just that my skin was a bit burnt, which was not much of a problem. It healed soon. Few weeks later I started using external prosthesis. Their use made me feel normal and confident and i got back to my routine life.
Onlymyhealth Team: Surviving breast cancer, what does it take to be so unbreakable?
Ms. Malik: From being diagnosed with breast cancer in the year 1996 and mastectomy in 1997 life has come a long way. In the beginning it was agony, apprehension, stress, strain and distress, but as I walked along the path of wellness, my perceptions changed. Positive approach, faith in Almighty, faith in my doctor, and most importantly the support i got from my family changed my perception of breast cancer. I no longer associate it with death, but now I look at it as any other disease. It came and it went like any other illness. Our approach has a lot to do with this. It’s how we look at things. Glass is half-full or the glass is half-empty. Be brave and fight the disease head-on.
[Read: How to Survive Breast Cancer]
Onlymyhealth Team: You are working towards breast cancer awareness, what are your goals and how do you go about it?
Ms. Malik: After my treatment I wanted to join an organisation, which worked for cancer patients. My doctor encouraged me because my approach was positive. I could encourage them with my life experience. I joined hospital support group. Later I joined Cancer Sahyog a unit of Indian Cancer Society .The members of this unit are either survivors or care givers. Here we go to various hospitals in NCR ( AIIMS, IRCH, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, Batra Hospital, B.L. Kapoor Hospital, R&R Hospital, Medanta and Artemis in Gurgaon and Fortis Noida) and work with the patients. Our main aim is to give emotional support to the patients and their families. For our patients we are beacons of hope and symbol of strength and courage .We can understand what they are feeling as we have gone through similar experience. They too can share their hopes and apprehensions with us .We are there with them and their families in there hour of need. We assist them in their fight against cancer with weapons of courage and hope. I thoroughly enjoy this work, because it is very satisfying. Besides emotional support we give free medical aid to the patients who come from economically weaker section of the society. We also provide free prosthesis and bras to the mastectomy patients
Onlymyhealth Team: Life after breast cancer; is it bitter-sweet?
Ms. Malik: Life after breast cancer is as good as it used to be, as enjoyable as ever. The only time I feel a bit apprehensive is when I go for my yearly medical tests. I do not feel I am a survivor, instead I feel I am as normal as any other person. I still go out, still travel in India and abroad, enjoy parties, enjoy meeting friends and above all I enjoy going to hospitals and meeting patients there.
Geeta Malik is a 62 year old breast cancer survivor, working with the Indian Cancer Society, Delhi Chapter.
Read more articles on Understand Breast Cancer