This month it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, we often see people wear pink clothes ora pink ribbon in support or donate to help fund research to improve the care of breast cancer patients. I’d like to take this opportunity in order to share my story and experience in dealing with it, with the hope that God forbid anyone else should have to experience this, that they can feel comforted and know that they are not alone.
It was just a regular night for me when I had decided to go get myself checked, I had found an irregular lump on my breast. The very next day I was in the OPD getting myself checked the doctors there directed me towards an ultrasound, where they discovered there was indeed a foreign lump inside my body. From there I was advised to undergo a biopsy to determine whether or not the lump was benign or malignant. Once I had found out it was malignant, diagnosed as late stage three, early stage four breast cancer, I was pointed towards a very compassionate and understanding oncology surgeon who recommended that I undergo surgery immediately to remove it. Initially, hearing that it was cancer, definitely frightened me and left me feeling a lot of uncertainty towards the surgery, but thanks to the reassurance of the surgeon I was able to ease my mind and stress about it and go ahead with the surgery.
As soon as I knew that it was cancer and had to be treated immediately, I informed my family and closest friends immediately. The people around me were very supportive of me, encouraging me to get the surgery and assuring me that I would have their support, this kind of strong emotional and physical support from my friends and family helped me maintain a positive mindset throughout the surgery and my treatment afterwards. A positive mindset like that was imperative during this time, especially after the surgery, just knowing that someone would be there, who could hold your hand through the challenges to come was an immense comfort.
I had the surgery within two days of receiving my diagnosis, and even though I had my family and closest friends by my side, I can’t lie I was still nervous and afraid, since I had never had a surgery before. I had anxious thoughts ringing in my head about what the surgeons might find and what the aftermath of the surgery might be. My blood pressure rising with the anxiety of the surgery kept the surgeons from performing the operation right away, looking back on it I wish I had been calmer and more collected in that moment so that it would be over with sooner. The doctors gave me some medication to lower my blood pressure and steel my nerves, and I was soon carted off into the operating room for surgery. Even in the operating theatre I was still nervous, and my blood pressure was still high, but thanks to very kind and comforting nursing staff, letting me know that it was fine and that I would be okay, my blood pressure soon dropped, and the surgery was performed. When I woke up in the operating theatre, the first thing I felt was cold, the staff waited until my body temperature returned to normal and I was taken back to my hospital room where I was greeted by family. I was able to speak to my husband and kids and let them know that I was okay and strong as ever, despite the fact that not fifteen minutes earlier I was shivering like I’d just plunged myself into an ice bath. I was discharged quickly the next day, but not without a thorough explanation from the surgeon about how I should take care of myself and how my family could support me as for the next three weeks I would have a pipe and container which I was to lug around like a pet dog as it drained lymphatic fluid from the operating site. For those three weeks, I had to drain that container every single day, while battling constant pain and wooziness. Once, the surgery was over the lump that was removed was tested, in order to diagnose whether I was to undergo chemotherapy.
Once the results of the test had comeback, it had been obvious that I had to go through chemotherapy. So I decided that while I would be undergoing chemo, I would also be pursuing alternative methods of treatment, as I had grown up using alternative and natural medicines and had even seen real, tangible results come out of it watching my father go through these natural treatments. I had found a consultant for integrative medicine, which meant that he practiced nutritive medicine and drugless healing, Dr Tyrol Ferdinands, who came highly recommended from a close friend. After consulting him, I decided to simultaneously undergo chemotherapy and alternative treatments. From there on out, every three weeks I had a chemotherapy session, alongside that I was being treated by Dr Tyrol with juices and homeopathic treatments to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy. I did lose my hair, I did lose my sense of taste and I was sick for around fifteen days after each session. The other days where I was functional and feeling stronger, I had been treating my mental health, with visits form my friends and my kids’ friends, having calls with family helping me keep my positive attitude throughout it. It was a lot small things that helped me stay positive, my husband would always bring me food I really enjoyed after each treatment, the silly jokes that the staff at the chemotherapy center would make to raise my mood and even the jokes which my kids would make, like my daughter who recommended I don’t grow my hair back after the chemotherapy, saying that I would look very cool and fierce with ‘flamboyant earrings and a skull cap’.
For me, it was the combination of my support system, and incredibly compassionate staff, with a kind and understanding surgeon and oncologist which eased my fears and anxieties about this so-called ‘dreaded’ cancer, keeping my positive mindset strong throughout it. Even though I have finished chemo and decided to avoid radiation, I have decided to continue with the natural treatments which I feel have helped me in my overall health and beating cancer. There is no comparison to how one person feels to another during these treatments, everyone’s body is different and may react differently to these treatments, as such it is incredibly important, that at the end of the day you make the final decisions regarding your treatment as you know your body best. I understand that when it comes to cancer, it might feel like you have no control over the situation or anything around you. It’s okay to accept help, it’s okay not to be brave all the time, it is okay to be ‘selfish’ and to take care of yourself first during this time, you are allowed to feel bad and afraid, but it is key to stay positive throughout, confident that things will work out in your favor. It’s been a year now since the surgery, and I won’t lie it has been difficult to return to normal, but you must adjust to the new normal. As such, having told you my story, I implore you readers to get yourself checked regularly, as breast cancer can appear as a result of a number of factors whether that be lactation, stress, or hormone imbalances, please get checked and stay positive.