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My Confidence Made Me a Survivor
Lalitha - 48 year old Breast Cancer Survivor, Post Graduate,Working woman

"My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 48. Unfortunately she was diagnosed when the cancer had entered the third stage. This tragedy made me very conscious of my risk of developing breast cancer.

After few years, I attended a workshop on breast self-examination and started examining my breasts regularly. I located a lump in my breast and contacted my gynaecologist. After the check-up I was prescribed a drug, which I was to take for 3 months. During this phase, I developed a pain in my armpit during menstruation. I contacted my gynaecologist again. He asked me to have a mammography and sonography done. After the procedure he told me that the cyst in the breast needed to be removed. I went to a general surgeon who asked me to take the same drug prescribed by my gynaecologist for another month and told me not to worry.

There was no change in the lump of my breast. After a month the surgeon told me to undergo surgery. Although I had set a date I was still hesitant and reluctant to have the operation. So I decided to get a second opinion from a cancer specialist. He asked me to get a biopsy done. It was diagnosed breast cancer. So I underwent surgery and chemotherapy. I am healthy now.

Many times I think that although I was careful about my health, I still lost 4 precious months waiting for the breast cancer to be diagnosed. However, this incident has not left me depressed but with a new zest for life. Life has become precious to me and I feel positive. The constant support of my husband and son makes me feel strong and loved. Unfortunately, my brother too has been diagnosed with cancer. I would like to give him the same love and support that I have received so that he has the strength to fight this terrible disease. I have also told my younger sister to perform breast self-examination regularly".

Can This Agony be Avoided?
Jamana - 45 year old, Daughter-in-law of Woman with breast cancer, Professional

"In 1991, I was studying for my Master's degree in the Netherlands. From India I received a call from my husband. He informed me that his mother had developed a lump in her breast and the doctor was concerned that it could be cancer. However, a biopsy was suggested to confirm the diagnosis.

I decided to return to India to help and support my husband and mother-in-law. The biopsy report confirmed breast cancer in the third stage. The thought that came to my mind was whether this could have been avoided if she had visited a doctor earlier? My mother-in-law reiterated that although she discovered the lump early, she ignored it as it was painless. As it grew bigger she told her son-in-law who is a homeopath, but was embarrassed therefore did not allow him to examine her. One day she had a blackout and could not perform her routine household work. She asked my husband to take her to doctor. During routine clinical examination of her chest the doctor felt the lump in her breast and advised her to contact a cancer specialist.

My mother-in-law underwent surgery. After the operation, radiotherapy was done to prevent the cancer from spreading any further. Medicines and regular check-ups were carried out. After two years, my father-in-law died and my mother-in-law was devastated. Hence she refused to take her medicines or go to the doctor. After a year the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver.

Imported medicines that were very expensive were prescribed. This put a lot of financial pressure on our family. Later, the cancer spread to my mother-in-law's backbone. She underwent radiation and was later admitted to the hospital due to the unbearable pain which prevented her from walking. My husband and I decided to stay with her. Our family life came to a halt. Fortunately, relatives looked after our children and maontained our home in our absence. After my mother-in-law returned home, our lives slowly limped back to normal. I returned to work though my husband refused to do so. He wanted to dedicate his time to his mother. He was shocked and angry when I refused to give up my work.

Ultimately, my mother-in-law died in May 1998 after being bed ridden for a year. For seven years our family went through physical and emotional distress and pain. We were set back economically too as medicines and radiotherapy are very expensive. Our children were ignored as both my husband and I could not give them quality time. For us it was seven years of suffering".

Hope After Breast Cancer
Rukmini - 50 years old Breast Cancer Survivor, Graduation in a specialized subject, Professional, self employed, confident woman with one daughter

"At the age of 31 my husband left me for another woman. I was left with two children, the eldest 5 years of age and the youngest just 6 months old (who passed away at the age of 6 in an accident). I was away with my children on a vacation when I received a letter from my husband asking for a divorce! I was shocked, and in reaction, my left hand went to my right breast and I instantly noticed a lump.

When I returned home from my vacation I ignored the lump as I was too involved in my personal crisis. Finally, after a couple of months I went for a check up and discovered that the tumor was malignant. I then went to Mumbai, to one of the best hospitals and was admitted for surgery. Since I was not mentally prepared I ran away. When the doctor came for his evening rounds he realized that I was missing. I did however return to the hospital for my scheduled surgery the next morning. The doctor padlocked my door to ensure that I did not escape again. Looking back however, the incident makes me laugh.

After the surgery I was upset when I realized that they had removed my breast. Though the doctor had informed me that if they found 'the cancer had spread they would have to do a radical mastectomy, it took me a long time to come to terms with it. For years I was conscious of the deformation and if I felt, someone's eye on my bosom, I thought that they had noticed that I had only one breast. My dress code changed. I could not wear low necks or sleeveless tops. I found myself wearing loose long skirts and baggy T-shirts.

After my surgery I did not have any relationships with a man, because I was constantly aware of my disfigurement, In fact I used to have recurring dreams about how when I did get involved with a man he would run away? My friends assured me that if there was true love it would not matter. Fortunately, I did find true love with one man and my fears are gone forever.

In my opinion breast cancer and emotional trauma go hand in hand. I know several women who have breast cancer and like me they had been diagnosed with breast cancer during an emotional and traumatic phase of life.

My husband was nowhere to be seen after my surgery, in fact he claimed that I was just looking for pity. For a woman going through breast surgery, it is very important to get the utmost support from their husband; nothing heals better or faster.

Today I am confident and feel whole again, thanks to the support of my family, friends and this one man. I would like to end this testimony by sharing with you a funny question my daughter of 4 asked me. She said Mummy, when I grow up will I also have one breast?"


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