“Courage is not the absence of fear.” For me, Vandana Kapoor is a person who lives this saying every single day!
Being a Punjabi, she is inherently super energetic and enthusiastic, not only fun loving and open-hearted, but also naturally gifted with the art of living life without holding many regrets. She has survived breast cancer thrice in her life and has gracefully embarked on another leg of the trip.
I think not talking about breast cancer is an acceptable option for patients but Mrs. Kapoor was kind and compassionate enough to share the experience with us.
Do you have any family history of breast cancer?
When I saw the lump in my breast for the first time, even in my wildest dreams I couldn't think that it could be a cancer as no one in my family had it.
What circumstances lead you to the diagnosis?
It was in June 2013 when for the first time I felt a lump in my right breast with an excruciating pain in underarm. The first surgeon we met with did not take my case seriously enough. Nothing was diagnosed but the pain was there. So we went for a second opinion.
The second surgeon told us to do biopsy immediately. They came to know that it's a second grade carcinoma.
What kind of a surgery did you go?
So, in July 2013 , it got confirmed that I had Carcinoma grade 2 and it was decided that I should have a mastectomy. I had a mastectomy to remove my right breast and 18 lymph nodes from right arm. One lymph node was found to have cancer. Surgery was followed by treatments of radiation therapies.
It was 11 days journey from detection to surgery and that 11 days was the worst of the kind as well as the epoch of belief, belief that I won't get it again!!! Life came back to normal. Struggle with the emotional trauma faded away see somehow!!!
About the relapse:
In June 2015, while doing an yearly checkup we came to know that it's a relapse!! Grade second carcinoma!! Doctors said, fortunately, this time hormones were raging in favour, so there wasn't a need of chemotherapy, but advised to take medicines for longer time. Everything was under control.
But at the start of 2017, it stroked again, 3rd time, though it was a small one, it was still there. Doctor assured that the medicine can be taken for 2 years. But after some follow ups doctor came to know that medicines had stopped working in 18 months time and the tumour has increased in size, so it was the time for chemotherapy !! But this time I was mentally prepared!! Meanwhile my sister-in-law was also detected with breast cancer!!
After one full routine of chemotherapy till the mid 2017, the current size of the tumour, thankfully is a small one and can be reduced by oral medicines alone.
Have you recovered completely now?
My hair and eyebrows are nearly as thick and strong as they used to be, and having chemo had put me on early menopause. I go for annual checkups, and I’m fine, at least for now. I still have a road ahead. My body had gone through an enormous assault and the recovery is huge.
Amongst the numerous tests, plenty of medicines, devastating emotions, traumatizing radiation treatments, a fear of losing family, Insecurities of not getting cured, how you kept yourself sane and refrained from falling into depression?
It was like a death sentence, had over a hundreds of things running through my head in a second: Will I be able to be in son's marriage? Will I live to see my grandchildren? Will I live to see beautiful wrinkles on my face? There were so many things that went through the mind and head. I was 46 when it happened for the first time. When I came to know about it, I could sense the impact these things were going to have on my life and my family. I realized that the life is not same now. I was terrified, shocked, was completely shattered.
I have been blessed and extremely grateful for my 3 children, 2 son's and a beautiful daughter- in-law. After what we’ve been through the last couple of years, we’ve all as a family, kicked our faith into high gear. We’ve leaned into the Lord and grabbed a hold of His Word more than ever before. I’ve prayed and cried and cried out to Him more times than I can count, yet even in my darkest hour He brings me back to His truth. Now I believe whatever he has decided for me.
Apart from that, regular exercise and a strictly well balanced healthy diet helped me recover more quickly, both from the chemo and the ongoing reconstruction.I have a wonderful daughter in law as my mentor. It’s important to have help and I appreciate the support I’ve had from her, my husband and family, but I never wanted them to cry for me or pity me. I’m very aware that there are many people who have been afflicted by far worse things.
I became friends with other patients. We shared our pain. We shared our stories. Stories of courage, stories of disappointment, stories of failure..... There are many. Everyone is battling their own struggles. I read books to kick my positivity. I learned to cope up with the stress of this physically demanding routines.
The way I see it, my breasts do not define me as a woman. I am a woman by heart. It has changed the lens through which I used to look my life and the surroundings. Holding on to this mentality I moved ahead.
Advise you want to give to the young generation?
Ignorance is not always a bliss. 70% cases of breast cancer doesn't have family history. It important to have yourself checked regularly.
If I had not gotten a second opinion, I would not be alive right now.
I think one of the most important thing I did was not to ignore my emotions. Sadness, depression, guilt, fear, and anxiety are all normal parts of grieving and learning to cope with major life changes. Trying to ignore these feelings or not talking with others about them can make the person with cancer feel lonely. It can also make the emotional pain worse. And some people feel guilty or blame themselves when they can’t “stay positive,” which only adds to their emotional burden.
Not just cancer, positivity helps you everywhere. But do not let it burden you. Let your emotions go and free yourself from any grievances.#cancersurvivor #mommystory