When I interacted with Mrs. Lakshmi Pramod, a 53 year old lady from Bangalore, to understand her experiences of recovering from breast cancer, and to know about her breast cancer survivor story of stage 2. I was pleasantly surprised by the cheerful tone in her voice. Her voice reflected genuine positivity and joyfulness of her being free from stage 2 cancer.
She was detected with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2010. She had noticed a lump in her breast and immediately consulted Dr. Jairam at St. Philomena’s Hospital. A needle biopsy confirmed her breast cancer. The good part was that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes. She immediately went in for surgery and had the lump removed.
Experience at the Hospital
Post the surgery, she was recommended Chemotherapy @ HCG hospital Bangalore. Lakshmi said that her experience with the medical oncologist at HCG was disappointing. Doctor hardly spent 5 minutes with her and also was impatient in listening to her, she said, that’s why she was very disappointed. She was recommended 6 cycles of chemotherapy. Lakshmi had decided that she wasn’t going to continue her treatment at HCG.
Support from loved ones
In the meantime, her family recommended her to consult Dr. V P Gangadharan, who reside in Kochi, Kerala. Dr. Gangadharan happens to be a well known oncologist in Kerala and is also fondly referred as a “Saint with a stethoscope”. Lakshmi’s family encouraged her to be in Kerala with her siblings and extended family and go for treatment with Dr. Gangadharan. At that point of time, her son was in Class X and her daughter in college. Her husband and kids could not accompany her to Kerala but their love, care and support were always with her. She completed her chemotherapy between Feb and May 2010.
Side effects of chemotherapy
She recollects that for her, side-effects of chemotherapy were quite less; restricted to hair loss and a couple of days weakness post the chemo. She did not encounter any nausea. Although she developed some strong likes and dislike for food. She just couldn’t have rice.
Post the Chemotherapy
Post the chemo, Lakshmi returned to Bangalore. She underwent radiation therapy at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore during July – August 2010. Although she knew about the side effects of radiation but she realised it was much more harder to bear than she thought. Post radiation, the skin under her armpit area would peel off and would cause considerable pain. It was very difficult to even keep the hands down. The wound would heal itself in a few days.
Taking care of yourself is important
Lakshmi says that during this entire period and even now, she and her family ensured that she had a nutrient rich diet. She specifically says that she had lots of pomegranates and dates. She says that she took the treatment in a matter-of-fact positive way. Not really thinking about hypothetical life-or-death scenarios. She adopted a very practical approach. Her family and she took special care of hygiene at home. She did not travel or expose herself too much to outside elements. All this to ensure that she does not pick up a secondary infection when her immunity is low.
Finally free from Cancer
As of now, Lakshmi is free of cancer. She makes a quarterly visit to Kochi for a checkup and follow up. Doctor recommended a yearly mammogram and an ultrasound.
Takeaways from healing process
When I asked her about her takeaways from her healing process. Lakshmi pointed out an incident where her reports had mentioned “Mastectomy”. But only a “Lumpectomy” was done. If the doctor had not examined her this error would not have come to the fore. She says it is useful to be vigilant and understand the treatment process and be aware of all the records and reports. It is useful to spend some extra time to check your reports. She has not adopted any specific diet or other health practices. Lakshmi continues to lead a normal, healthy and happy life.
Key Takeaways from the treatment process
a. If you get cancer, accept the fact and face it. No point fretting.
b. The treatment is tough and painful. You need strong will power to overcome it.
c. Early detection is best: If you feel a lump / symptom / anything that’s not normal or not healing, immediately talk to a doctor. Get multiple opinions.
d. Be aware of the disease. Read and understand your reports. Verify that they correct. Manage the report documentation properly. Seek help to to translate medical jargon to layman’s language.
e. Take precaution about hygiene and exposure to outside elements. Particularly during undergoing treatment.
f. Eat healthy food.
Stat: 1 in 22 women in India is affected by breast cancer.
Explore breast cancer incidence in India with this interactive tool