The Chemo Queen ..

11th June 2014 .. the last day of my chemo cycle or could say it felt like the most awaited day of my life. I was on cloud nine .. cause it definitely was like a milestone to have crossed. I was so excited and so was my family .. and how could I miss not stating that the hospital stuff was equally excited. As usual, everyone around me was praying that the chemo cycle goes well and it did .. bingo !! .. its done .. its over .. no more .. by the grace of God and blessings of the loved ones .. my Doc visited me and said ‘Its a big day so wherez the party’ .. I kept wondering, its a special day and should definitely be special .. So here I was saying Good Bye to my hospital staff and thanking them for all the support ..

Wherez my Mom .. I wanted to run to her and hug her tight .. my mom .. my best friend .. my companion in this course of treatment .. I and my SIL rushed home with all excitement as if we had climbed Mount Everest .. My phone rang .. it was R congratulating me .. I wish he was in India .. I wanted to hug him too .. missed u R.. never mind .. R & I will soon have 100s of reasons to celebrate together ..

So I enter my house and I had my Mom at the door .. You know how Indian mom’s are or if you could picturize a scene from a Hindi Bollywood movie when a soldier is back home from a war.. it was exactly the same .. tears rolling down her face and eager waiting for me to come .. I hugged her tight and so did she and kissed my forehead ..

And what I see – my sisters had a little surprise ready for me .. bouquets of beautiful flowers with lotsa blessings and wishes .. I soon got a call from my in-laws congratulating me .. happy .. happy .. happy .. what a relief for all .. uhhhfff ..

As usual, had a wonderful meal at home and was about to rest but I had another surprise waiting for me. My Bro and his family arrived with a cake .. Oh wow .. it was a wonderful cake and had something special written – ‘To the Chemo Queen’ 🙂

Beep .. beep .. messages on my cell from my friends who were busy counting my chemo cycles and eager waiting for the course to get completed ..

I was busy enjoying the cake when my niece said something very unexpected .. ‘Aunty .. I admire you .. u have been exceptional .. hats off .. what’s the secret of your strength’ .. I smiled and pointed her to my parents .. ‘That’s my strength dear .. if I could b just half to what they are, I would conquer this world’ .. she smiled back and we hugged ..

Blessed .. blessed .. blessed .. thank you all for the love and support .. I like my new title .. ‘The Chemo Queen’ 😉

Those 11 days

‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ .. not sure if this saying can be applied in all difficult situation. Or atleast for those 11 days .. the most difficult time of my treatment. Not sure if you would enjoy reading this post. But tough times should never be forgotten.

9th May – our first wedding anniversary. The day was wonderful and filled with surprises. My treatment was going well and I had only 3 cycles of chemo left. But as I always say, happiness doesn’t last forever and so it is so valuable. I was feeling a little unwell so I took a medicine and tried to sleep. Early in the morning, when my mom woke up she realized I was not doing too well. I had high fever, so my mom gave me some antibiotics and asked me to rest. I was on pain killer and antibiotics for few days. During chemotherapy, the immunity system is on a total challenge. I was getting weak and my body was in pain. I couldn’t rest due to pain. 3rd day and no change in temperature. I still had 102-103 temperature. My parents were worried so they called up my Surgeon. He asked me to come over to the clinic for a checkup and for my blood test. Things looked fine with a minor infection. So I was prescribed some more antibiotics.

5th day and I still had fever 102-103. My pain was getting worst and my body was absolutely weak. I couldn’t step out of the bed and if I did, I would collapse. My mom had to help me move. I and mom did not sleep for last 5 nights. My parents got more worried. So my Doc was called again. He wasn’t expecting that the fever with antibiotics would last so long. So I was asked to be in the hospital for examination asap. On examination, my doc suggested I should be hospitalized and kept under observation for 72 hours. If the fever doesn’t subside in next 72 hours, then it would be a major concern.

When unwell, the patient is never given any chemo drug. So I had to skip the chemotherapy cycle for that week. Multiple blood samples were taken. Tests for typhoid, pneumonia, malaria etc were done. Since the body was so weak, all the test had some part of it as positive. Docs were getting confused and my state was getting worst. I was put of different antibiotics. The medicines were very strong and my body was getting weak day by day. I had no energy left and couldn’t eat. I could hardly talk – something I loved doing.My respiratory organs were not functioning well so I couldn’t breathe normal. I started getting asthmatic attacks. I was put on external supply of oxygen. My family started getting tensed day by day. I looked miserable with pain. 72 hours had passed but still no change in body temperature. Since none of the antibiotics were working, the Doc wanted to perform some more test. I went through sonography which looked fine. Then the next test was a CT scan. They did notice some congestion in the chest but that could not be a possible reason for the infection. My Doc had a doubt about my port as it was the only foreign organ in the body. Blood sample from my port were sent to a special lab for culture test.

In this course of time, I was already given different antibiotics for malaria, typhoid and pneumonia with no positive progress on my health. I was monitored more frequently and body temperatures were checked every 2 hrs. My Doc was waiting for the test results as he was worried that the port could be a cause of the infection in the body. My mom had hardly slept for last 7 nights. She was always alert day and night for me and also taking care of the house. At times, I got worried about her health. But hats off, she is power.

My dad would get tea in the morning and be around for a while. My bhabi would give me company during the day and let my mom go home and take care of the daily house work. She was closely monitoring my treatment. Mom would try finishing her work as soon as possible and would come to me with good food. My sis and bros would visit often. My sis from Dubai was in touch with my Doc on my progress. R was constantly in touch with me and family checking on my health. I am sure, he was worried cause I could hardly speak to him although I had lots to talk. My in-laws and friends were equally worried and praying. They would call often and check on my health. Everyone was praying day and night. I did not lose hope and knew Allah would help.

8th day with fever and zero energy left. Around 23 hours at night, I got a major asthmatic attack. I could hardly breathe and had blood running from my nose. I had my younger bro and mom along. My bro ran to call doctors for help. The night shift doctor gave me some injections and the attack was controlled. For the first time, I was losing hope. I couldn’t handle any more pain. I was tired of being in those 4 walls. I told my mom and my bro ‘I cant fight through this anymore. If Allah has decided and my life is meant to be short, then let it be. I cant put in more efforts nor see you all in so much pain’ and I was in tears. My mom hugged me tight and said ‘Allah is just trying patience and your strength but wont let you alone. You have fought through this, and would come out of it’. My mom was in tears too.

9th day with fever. My Doc had my test reports. The port did have some bacterial infection. He came to me, examined me and said ‘T, we have to remove your port. I know your concern. This is equally disheartening for me as a Doc to remove your port. I have planted more then 600+ ports, but never had to remove one during the course of treatment. You are the first patient going through it and I cant see you in more pain. We will have to remove the port. Nurse, get T ready for the surgery’. I didn’t know what was happening. My mom was at home and my dad, bro and bhabi were around. My Dad went to the Doc and my Doc had to take him out cause my Dad couldn’t control his tears. My Dad, the strongest man I have known was in tears. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of removing the port. It had become a part of my body and made my chemo cycles lot easier. And if the port is removed, then how do I take the remaining 3 chemo cycles – through hand ?. The thought made me more nervous. I had to speak to my mom and R. I called my mom, she was on her way to the hospital. She said, ‘Don’t worry all will be fine’. I had to speak to R before entering the operation theater. I tried calling him couple of times but it was too early in the morning and R probably had his phone kept silent. I couldn’t reach him. So I called my eldest SIL and told her, I have to undergo a small surgery and have the port removed. I could sense, she was tensed but still tried giving me support over the phone. I also called my BIL who is a doctor who knew my case extremely well and have been a great support.

So now I am in the operation theater to get my port removed. I had my bhabi along in the OT. I was given local anesthesia. I was totally active in the operation theater. I kept talking to my Doc while he was performing operation. When nervous, I talk a lot. It helps me relax. I could feel something moving and being pulled out from my body. I told my Doc, ‘Can I see the port after all, it made my life easy’. I saw the port and I looked cleaned. I told my Doc, ‘Doc, the port looks so clean and you say it is infected.’. My Doc laughed and said, ‘T, I won’t forget you as my patient entire life. How can a person talk so much in the operation theater. I wonder what R must be going through’ and we all laughed. I had couple of stitches during the surgery. My Doc assured there wont be any fever after 48 hours.

I was bought back to my room after the surgery. I felt weak so slept for a while. R called, he was dead scared as he had couple of miss calls from my end and from his sis’s phone. He spoke to my family and was told that I was doing better.

My body temperature started dropping and I felt better. The hospital staff was extremely happy to see me recover. Some of the staff was wonderful and took good care. I would always remember them. I was asked to rest for a day so my chemo could be planned.

11th day – after resting for a day in the hospital, my chemo was planned. This time it had to be through hand. Although nervous and scared but I kept praying. My chemo cycle went fine, with some pain in my hand. It did turn blue but not as bad as I thought. And my bro rushed to the hospital with a wonderful news, he was blessed with a baby boy. I was soo happy and so wanted to hold him. Truth, the new bundle of joy was a blessing and my lucky charm. After my chemo, I was allowed to go home.

I was terribly missing home and never felt so go to be back home. I had good food and good sleep. Finally my mom could sleep peacefully after 11 nights. I had read this somewhere “God cannot go everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”. So true !

My secret mantra ..

My chemotherapy was planned. I had 3 planned cycles of FEC – once in 3 weeks and 12 paclitaxel – once every week followed by 6 weeks of radiotherapy. The duration of treatment was longer then I expected. But this had to be done, no escape. My first cycle was scheduled in the 2nd week of Jan. R was around but my sis had left back for Dubai. I knew R would have to travel soon to UK and would be around only for initial chemo cycles. So things had to be managed without R and my sis. My sis made sure that my mom was totally aware of what needs to be taken care of during my chemotherapy. I had to prepare myself for a long treatment which would definitely have some challenges. My Bhabi (sis-in-law) assured that she would be around for most of my chemo cycles while R was away.

So the post surgical treatment started. I hated it for few initial cycles although I was wrong – chemos are a blessing. But it made me look like an alien – swollen, red at times or little blue or pale. Visiting hospital so often was boring. I kept wondering what could keep me motivated. Is there something that could distract me and keep me excited about my chemo cycles. After all chemo is not a usual treatment it is surely harsh on the body. So I thought I must celebrate each chemo cycle and each chemo cycle should be a rewarded. I didn’t want to make it extraordinary as I had my own limitations during this course of time. So lets just keep it simple and something I like. And my taste buds got extremely excited. Yes, I know what it needs to be .. ‘Treat myself’.

It might sound crazy but you have be crazy to keep yourself going. And me being an absolute foody, decided to treat myself after every chemo cycle. I shared this thought with my mom and Bhabi. They were definitely hesitant as I had to follow a proper diet and hygiene conditions during my treatment. But I guess I am good at convincing and they knew where I was coming from. So we 3 teamed up. After every chemo cycle, we would visit different food joints and explore different food. This was fun ! I was very particular about my food habits for the entire week but was excused on my chemo day. My chemo day was our feast day. I had molded my taste buds in such a way that they would get active only during my chemo cycle. It is a weird thought but trust me you could do that. While taking chemo drugs, my job was to think of what would be the special food item for the evening. As soon as I was done with it, I with my team headed to a restaurant and celebrated completion of one more chemo cycle.

I shared this with my Doctor and he found it funny but liked the enthusiasm we had and was equally excited to know which place it would be next 🙂 R and family found it funny, but never stopped supporting my weirdest of ideas and cravings. Infact, I would get calls with suggestions and places to visit for my treat :).

People as I always say – chemo isn’t too bad. It has its own advantages, you just have to put in a little effort and get little crazy. Thats my Secret Mantra 😉

I had to see them go ..

With God’s grace and blessings from our loved ones, my surgery was successful. My Surgeon is a wonderful doctor and definitely got some magic in his hands. So we all were happy but also wanted to know what would be the next plan of action. The tumor was sent for further tests. As per the report we got, I was suppose to undergo Chemotherapy as well as Radiotherapy. I was definitely not prepared for a chemotherapy as I knew it had some major side effects. It took me a while to get myself prepared for Chemotherapy and definitely a lot of courage I got from R, family & my faith in God. So yet another challenge coming our way.

My surgeon & BIL – who is a doctor, suggested that I should get a chemo port planted. Having a port would lessen the side effects. But that required another minor surgery. The day was decided and I was suppose to get the chemo port implant done followed by my first chemo cycle. This time I had my SIL along in the operation theater. Having doctors in the family is such a blessing.

Too many things and happening too fast. I was worried about the side effects of chemo but my doctor assured me that there wont be drastic ones. But it all depends on how my body reacts to the drugs.

So now I have a port implanted which means I have a foreign organ in my body. None of our families ever had a person undergoing cancer treatment so everyday for us was filled with new challenges. The next morning, I had my first chemo cycle. My chemo cycles were schedule ones every 3 weeks. Chemo is definitely a very harsh treatment on the body. It had turned me into a red and swollen person.

I still had my hair intact and I was very happy about it. But happiness doesn’t last forever. On the 10th day of my chemo, I woke up to see my bed especially my pillow all covered with my hair. OMG ! It was definitely unusual. I woke up R and showed him. I am sure, he was equally scared but he did not react. I rushed to my mom and let her know, she did the same – did not react much although she felt miserable. All she said was “its nothing – thank god for the rest” . My hair fall was drastic, the more I brushed my hair – the more it would come off. I do remember, that was the time when I cried. People – there is nothing to be ashamed off. If you are sad and you want to cry – please do so. But make sure it doesn’t last long. My MIL called and said the same “losing hair is nothing – thank god for the rest”. All moms are the same, they know how to boost their kids. I guess everyone except me was prepared for this situation.

I avoided brushing my hair only to retain the few left overs. But in a day or two, my hair became ruff and had lost all their life. It started irritating me. I told my mom & R, I couldn’t tolerate them. Finally, we decided to cut them very short. I was reluctant to visit a parlor in that state so I asked my mom to cut them short for me. Mom agreed. With lots of difficulties, she managed to cut them short. I did have some bald patches but had to ignore them. I & R captured some cute pictures and sent them to our families. Honestly and touch-wood, I & R have the sweetest families. They all appreciated it which made me feel happy. But as I said earlier, happiness doesn’t last forever. Those very little hair I had, couldn’t hold longer. So finally, I had to take a call and convince myself “be prepared to see them go .. “. I told R can you shave off my hair. R knew what I was going through and he said yes. R bought a new shaver and with all his PJs tried hard to make me comfortable. I did not look at the mirror until the job was done. Then R in his funny way said “it suits you .. you look like a rock star”. I some how managed to look in the mirror and said “I look like a new born baby with no hair” 🙂

Chemo – makes me look younger ?

My encounter with different patients and doctors in hospital have been quite interesting .. I appreciate the courage displayed by patients undergoing surgery or chemotherapy with a smile on their face. And patients who don’t, I guess they need some mental support from family and if they happen to speak to someone facing similar situation – they feel they have a team .. I felt the same, when I met 2 ladies in the hospital during my chemotherapy who had managed to survive and fight cancer.

I remember a funny incident. Few months back, I was hospitalized for my chemotherapy. I was alone in the room for a while as my SIL had to handle some admin issues and Mom was yet to come. A lady patient in the room was getting ready for her surgery. She must be in her late 50s. She had her son, daughter and mom along. Her family seemed tensed. I could see tear in their eyes. The daughter approached me and was curious to know more about surgery. I spoke to them for a while, and shared my experience and asked them not to cry in front of the mom as she might go weak. We all had a brief conversation. Then the lady spoke “Beta .. u look very young to be a cancer patient .. how old are you ? ” .. OMG .. a lady asking another lady her age .. LOL. I tried to divert the topic but she asked again. I did the same – tried to divert the topic but she won’t give up. I was asked my age again for the third time. So I played little smart here and asked her to guess my age. She said “Beta, you must be 24-25”. Reallly !!!! Ma’am you made my day ;). I tried to be generous and told her “no aunty, I am 26”. 😛

LADIES .. Chemo isn’t that bad if it could make you look few years younger 🙂

Ghar aa ja pardesi

Lot of research was going on in India by both our families to find the best place and best doctor for the treatment. I & R were continuously on the phone speaking to our siblings as we all had the same intention – how best can we face and handle the situation.

So ultimately the decision has been made – I & R have to fly to India. With lot of complications around visa and travel dates, we managed to be in India in next 2 weeks of diagnosis. My darling sister, who is a doctor flew from another country. We 3 met at the airport and headed to our home sweet home. I knew my family was strong enough to handle this situation especially my parents to help me & R cross through this hurdle. But I was surprised to see the positivity showcased by my in-laws and how supportive they were in our decisions on my treatment. That makes me feel – I am blessed.

We met my surgeon the next day of landing. A very pleasant person and I felt I was in safe hands. So now what .. time for some celebration. A family get together at a restaurant with unbearable laughter, crazy chat, gossip .. blah blah blah .. and it made me forget I was getting operated the next day. I guess, that is the fun part of being with family – I feel strong already.

Next morning, I am all prepared to be in the operation theater. I was dead nervous and scared. But I knew there are many praying for me and nothing could go wrong. As a practicing doctor, my sister was allowed to be in operation theater – what more could I have asked for. Such a relief. I could see R nervous and equally scared. My siblings giving him mental support and his over the phone while I was assisted by 2 nurses to the OT.

So now I am in the operation theater. Ouccccch ! It hurts .. a vein flow on the hand and and and I don’t know what happened .. I was unconscious.

Although unconscious, I could feel the pain. Trust me – post operative is not a good feeling .. it hurts .. it really does. I realized I had something attached to my body on the left side. Pipes – what are these .. drain flow. Then I heard my sister’s voice, R’s voice .. ok .. now I feel better .. but it still hurts 😦 and I am unconscious again.

The lump in my left breast was removed along with my lymph nodes.

When I woke up to my senses, I saw my parents. I am sure its not easy for parents to see their daughter in this state but hats of to them – would I ever be this strong ?

Our First Anniversary ..

9th May 2014 .. our first anniversary .. I am in India undergoing my treatment and R is in UK .. but never felt that we were away from each other .. I guess with the way a couple deals with the difficult situations in life, the bond between the two is very different .. distance .. time difference .. are very minor things .. yes, but that doesn’t mean the presence of the your partner doesn’t matter .. it definitely matters every single minute ..

So its our first anniversary .. I am always excited about small things in life and wanted our anniversary to still be special .. And then R took the initiative this time 😛 .. R bought a new Samsung Smart TV in our UK house for me as our anniversary gift .. I loved it, just that I wont get to see it for next 2-3 months 😦 .. but never mind .. not too far .. another surprise from R was a bunch of flowers, teddy and chocolates which were delivered a day before our anniversary .. loved it 🙂 .. to all those reading this post, sharing a personal experience please do not ship or courier chocolates to India during summers, you get to taste the syrup and not the chocolate 🙂 .. I had to keep my teddy in the fridge to remove the melted chocolate .. LOL

I had planned few surprises for R but R had warned me I would not do anything to embarrass him which I am good at. So I thought I would keep it simple this time .. All I did was order a bunch of flowers, card and a balloon as a surprise for my hubby and had them delivered to a friends place who could pass it on to R. But as usual, things are never straight forward for me .. I wanted the gifts to be delivered a day before so it reaches R on time .. but courtesy the pathetic service provided by the courier and flower delivery people, the delivery failed and it never reached R .. So I had to keep chasing the customer care from India over emails and posts only with the hope that it gets delivered atleast on our anniversary day .. our friend was sweet enough to keep tracking the parcel but no luck .. after few hours, I got a response from the customer service, that they would re-attempt the delivery .. I had lost all the hopes as it was already end of our anniversary day .. and the worst part that I had to let R know that the delivery failed and what more R needs to have a major laugh 😦 .. what a waste of planning .. and then almost close to midnight in India and 7:00 pm in UK, I received an email that the parcel had been delivered .. OMG what a relief .. atleast the gifts reached R on our anniversary day .. Thank God !

The day went well with calls, wishes and blessing from all the loved ones, families & friends. I know they all love me & R a lot and always have us in their prayers .. and a year of successful married life couldn’t have been so wonderful without their blessings and support .. love you all 🙂 .. we had a small celebration at my bro’s places with yummy food and lots of cakes .. I had a wonderful and blessed day and I hope R had a great time too ..

Thank you Allah !