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If you are a woman and grew up in India, chances ……..

If you are a woman and grew up in India, chances are you have a pretty complicated relationship with your breasts.Far from being a functional part of the human body, breasts are overly sexualised, to the point that we forget that breasts are susceptible to disease just like any other part of the body.

35 years, 8 months and 7 days – that’s exactly how old I was the day a doctor told me that I had breast cancer. Within a couple of days of being diagnosed, I walked into a 6 hour-long surgery. I faked my way through that day, masking my fear listening to the soundtrack of ‘Wonder Woman’

When I woke from surgery, I naively asked my surgeon if I was cancer free. No such luck!

Turns out surgery was just the first step, what I had to look forward to was far more daunting…chemo! I asked about the side effects of chemotherapy and he proceeded to draw a little stick figure (complete with smiley face) and rattled off a range of possible side effects: hair loss, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, constipation, fatigue, muscle pain, infertility, menopause, mood swings etc.

I’ve been through 8 cycles of chemo so far, with another 8 to go. If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that chemo is just as freaking awful as they say it is.

In addition to losing all my hair – a fact my 4-year-old finds very amusing – there have been days when I haven’t been able to eat, sleep or even get out of bed; days when the simplest tasks seemed impossible because of the pain and physical discomfort from constant nausea and fatigue, and then dark days when all I could do was curl up in a ball and cry.

But as with most things in life, you adapt and get used to it with the passage of time, as much as you can get used to being infused with drugs that are so toxic that they come with a statutory warning (no kidding!).

Some days I look in the mirror and can’t recognise the person looking back at me. On those days, I remind myself that this is temporary and soon my treatment will be over and I hope on that day, I will be cancer-free.

By- Naina Awasthi

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