Dolly Koghar gives her generation’s take on how they dealt with this devastating disease, and its effect on their family members.
Trigger warning: mentions of suicidal ideation, and negative effects on mental health of cancer treatments.
Since 1985, October has been designated the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, designed to raise global awareness of the disease, and to educate the public on preventative lifestyles habits. The movement provided much-needed support for those with breast cancer and their families, and it also promoted annual screening and mammograms for high-risk, middle-aged women – a diagnosis which has proven to be somewhat of a fallacy. Now, girls in their late teens are being diagnosed with it as are men, who were thought to be exempt, increasing the chances of their lumps being overlooked and without women’s thicker breast mass, giving the malignancy easier access to their ribs. Consequently, as in any illness, early detection expedites the needed treatments. The most effective prelude to stave off a suspicious lump from developing into advanced stages of breast-cancer is regular self-examination, regardless of age and gender.
Testimonies of our Gutsy Survivors:
Lump found through:
- Senior survivor: through a random checkup in Mumbai
- Middle-aged man: a routine chest x-ray
- Senior gentleman: while soaping in the shower
- Senior survivor: on a whim, did an overdue mammogram
- Senior survivor: although “numb with fear,” she collected her wits and came back to Bangkok
- Middle-aged man: vehement denial
- Senior gentleman: sceptical
- Senior survivor: shock, disbelief, and “hoped it was benign.”
- Senior survivor: “I had no choice. I did what I had to do.”
- Middle-aged man: had a very hard time comprehending it
- Senior gentleman: quiet acceptance
- Senior survivor: her world was falling apart all around her with serious issues, but she decided to “implicitly trust the doctor and place her life into God’s hand, which in essence, it already is.”
Reactions to Chemotherapy or Radiation Treatment:
- Senior survivor: “I had no time to be sick, as I had to take care of myself and [a very infirm family member].”
- Middle aged man: struggled.
- Senior gentleman: took it well in spirit.
- Senior survivor: “bloody painful; I wanted to end my life after the first round.” Saved her hair with the ‘scalp cooling’ method during the sessions.
- Senior survivor: “frequent bouts of UTI; burning and tingling pain at sutures; aching bones after five years of Femora.”
- Senior survivor: “circulation is poor, and immunity is very compromised; swollen and painful joints and body aches.”
Fears of Recurrence:
- Senior survivor: “Afraid but hoping for the best.”
- Middle-aged man: shit scared
- Senior gentleman: daily prayer
- Senior survivor: “Sure, it can come back. But I have faith in God and the doctor who walked me through so far. I love to believe that this too shall pass.”
Altered Views of life:
- Senior survivor: “Those were not happy years, and despite lingering side effects, I am happy to be alive, just living life.”
- Middle-aged man: feeling bitter
- Senior gentleman: grateful
- Senior survivor: “I became calmer and learnt how to deal with oncoming problems in a more positive way.”
Daughter Who Lost Her Mom to the Scourge:
“The news of her illness found me torn between two profound roles: I was on the cusp of becoming a mother, nurturing a life that would soon enter the world; on the other, I was grappling with the impending loss of the woman who had nurtured and shaped me. The emotions were magnified by the ocean that lay between us, symbolising the emotional chasm I was trying to navigate. As my child’s first steps coincided with her last breaths, I was reminded that life and death coexist in a delicate dance. My heart ached as I held my child close, longing for the wisdom and support she would have undoubtedly offered. I yearned to be by my grieving father’s side, while balancing the growing needs of my baby; my emotional capacity was stretched to its limits. As the years accumulate, I reflect upon my mother’s life, her battle with cancer, and I find solace in the love that endures. Two generations later, her legacy lives on – in the love I share with my children, in the choices I make, and in the way I hold her memory close.”