Breast cancer treatment taught me to prioritize myself, says 52-year-old survivor
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Breast cancer is a global concern, claiming the lives of millions every year. In 2020 alone, the World Health Organization reported 2.26 million cases related to breast cancer. On National Cancer Awareness Day 2022, it is imperative to emphasize the significance of awareness in disease prevention. Rupali Verma, a 52-year-old breast cancer survivor, attributes her successful battle against the disease to self-awareness and prioritizing her well-being.
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As an EducationUSA adviser for the United States India Education Foundation in New Delhi, Verma believes in the power of sharing personal experiences to inspire others. She found solace in the stories of other survivors during her own breast cancer journey.
“Don’t be afraid of the word ‘C’. Discussing your situation with others and learning from their success stories can greatly aid your treatment,” Verma advises.
The Importance of Cancer Awareness and Diagnosis
Understanding how to conduct a self-breast examination serves as the first step towards detecting and diagnosing breast cancer. Verma recounts her own encounter with the disease, which started during a routine body massage in the shower.
“Suddenly, I felt a lump in my left breast. At first, I dismissed it as a benign blood clot, but deep down, a sense of dread began to creep in. I sought advice from my family members, a medical doctor, and a principal scientist, wasting no time in visiting a diagnostic center the following morning,” Verma reveals.
After undergoing a 3D mammogram and Ultrasound, Verma anxiously awaited the opinion of the radiologist. The next day, she underwent a needle test, and the radiologist’s expression confirmed her worst fears.
“As I stepped out of the room, breast cancer posters seemed to surround me, all in pink. That night was filled with restless thoughts about the potential consequences of falling ill,” Verma shares, recounting the agony of waiting for the report, which coincided with Diwali, the festival of lights.
The report revealed terms like calcification, lesion size, and metastasis. Verma then underwent a PET scan, which confirmed Stage 2 breast cancer. Her biopsy results indicated HER2-positive breast cancer. Her oncologist even drew diagrams to help her understand the locations of the cancer cells, including the lymph nodes. Verma was informed that the cancer cells were aggressive, necessitating immediate treatment.
The Life-Changing Journey with Cancer
From that moment onward, Rupali Verma’s life was forever transformed. The experience had its negative aspects, but it also brought about positive changes.
“Undergoing cancer treatment is a life-altering experience. Your world shatters into pieces. However, I took it one step at a time. It taught me the importance of self-prioritization, listening to my intuition, cultivating patience, gaining perspective, and exploring spirituality. This past year has filled me with appreciation and gratitude,” Verma expresses.
Verma also emphasizes how the diagnosis helped her gain a better perspective on life.
“I have managed to maintain a healthy mental state. My breast cancer diagnosis served as a defining moment, making me realize that what I once thought impossible is actually attainable.”
Coping with Physical Changes
When faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, the question “Why me?” often arises. Verma endured side effects such as nausea, acidity, mouth ulcers, constant fatigue, and complete hair loss, including the loss of eyelashes. However, apart from a few weeks after chemotherapy, she approached each day with a positive and courageous outlook on life beyond cancer.
“I shed tears upon receiving my breast cancer diagnosis, but a few days later, I found solace in the fact that it was only breast cancer,” Verma shares.
Although she embraced the physical changes, including her bald appearance, Verma acknowledges that the real challenge was controlling her mind.
“The battle was never with my body; it was always within my mind.”
In overcoming this challenge, the love and support of her loved ones played a critical role.
The Importance of Family Support
“I am deeply grateful to my family and co-workers for their unwavering support, warmth, courage, and unconditional love during the challenging moments. Having kind, caring, and understanding individuals by my side has been a true blessing. My husband and son have provided me with immense personal, psychological, and emotional support,” Verma expresses.
She particularly highlights her husband’s unwavering support, having witnessed her vulnerability throughout the journey. Verma also appreciates the positivity instilled by her oncologist, who encouraged her to focus on the bright side of life.
Ultimately, Verma triumphed over breast cancer, as proven by her biopsy report.
“With perseverance and patience, I have crossed the last milestone and escaped the clutches of aggressive cancer cells,” she proudly declares.
After undergoing treatment, Verma assures others that medical advancements in breast cancer treatment alleviate concerns if the disease is diagnosed early. Her advice to others is straightforward:
“Instead of listening to others or searching for symptoms online, muster the courage to consult your gynecologist, who will guide you through the necessary diagnostic tests.”
Breast cancer can be a daunting battle, but Rupali Verma’s story serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us all of the importance of self-prioritization, awareness, and the power of support. Let us learn from her journey and strive to create a world free of breast cancer.