It was a usual day. The sun had risen as bright as ever. I had woken up lazily to the sounds of my cuckoo bird alarm on my usual time. The birds were chirping merrily on colourful Gulmohar trees. I was busy doing my household chores humming to the music on FM.
And then…Under the shower, I felt something firm under my palm in my left breast. My mind was gripped with some unknown fear and I could not concentrate on anything after that. I became unusually quiet since then. I did not tell anyone about it for a few months, hoping against hopes that it would disappear on its own by some magic. But alas it was not to be and it went on increasing in size. After suffering in silent agony for 4 months, I finally decided to visit a doctor. And I was hinted of a disease which I was dreading about and was not ready to hear.
And then, a battery of tests followed in the form of FNAC, Biopsy, Mammogram, PET scan to name a few, and I was finally diagnosed to have locally advanced breast cancer. And then followed a few rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the size of the tumor to make me suitable for surgery. After months of blood tests, countless needle pricks, lots of hair loss, occasional bouts of vomiting, and unlimited and unending visits to the hospital, the time for my surgery came. I was made to sit outside the doctor’s cabin and some serious discussion in hushed tones was going on between my doctor and my family. I was not a part of decision making. And I was posted for surgery the next day. When I woke up the next day after anesthesia, one of my breasts had been chopped off, yes u heard it right, it was completely chopped off my body and I was left without my dignity, any self-respect for the rest of my life. I accepted it as I had no other choice other than this. And then my radiation therapy started.
One day my friendly Radiation Oncologist casually asked me why I had not chosen to preserve my breast. It came like a lightning bolt to me and I asked back – was that an option in my case? She told me that complete removal with or without the addition of radiation or partial removal with radiation had equal results for me. She also told me options of breast reconstruction and prosthesis which I was unaware till then.
And then I wept as I had never wept in years, not even at the time of my diagnosis. I asked my family – Why the option of breast conservation was not discussed with me? They told me that as they were afraid of the disease recurrence in a conserved breast and they wanted my safety first, they had decided for mastectomy. A very convincing answer for them but at the cost of my mental peace. I know they love me immensely but only if they had asked me what I wanted. But I had lost that chance to preserve my breast already.
I have a question to ask. Did anyone ever think what I wanted? Did anyone ever think that a chopped off breast was a daily reminder for me of cancer? Did anyone ever give a thought of how it had affected my body image, my self-confidence, my self-esteem? Did anyone notice why I had stopped stepping out of my home much even though I so much wanted to? Did anyone think that the disease was only in a part of my body, and my mind was still fully intact and functional to make rational decisions? If a male had to undergo testicular removal, would the decision have rested on the patient or the family?
How long will a female be punished for hiding her lump because of her ignorance or fear? If only women paid more attention to their breasts then men did, a lot of cancers would be detected early. A gentle request to all – big or small, save all the breasts if possible. The truth is we realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.
Please remember: Women are the best things that happened to our civilization across all decades, era or periods, whether it was Laxmi Bai, Sita, Draupadi, or Mother Teresa. So, let’s all listen and collaborate with women in our lives and trust their decisions. Let her take a claim not just on her outer shell but her divine spirit as well. Let them be the captain of their own ships. Let them be the architects of their own happiness. Let them be a little more them and a little less than everyone else. Let her take responsibility for her health. Let cancer know it messed with the wrong girl. Let them unleash their inner awesomeness.
So, many feelings go unsaid but please …
Her breast: Her decision !!