Stay Positive; Never say die!
Nitika is a poet by heart. She has been a teaching professional across various fashion institutes for more than 20 years. Her brush with cancer motivated her to take up her passion of writing into a full-time occupation. She is a blogger and her areas of interest vary from cancer, food, upcycling, traditional textiles, education, poetry to positive thinking, meditation, yoga and spirituality.
Diagnosis and treatments
Grade III invasive carcinoma of no special type
ER positive, PR positive
Stage III with bone metastasis in few vertebrae in spine and right hip bone joint
Right breast mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction
Chemotherapy :12 rounds of weekly Taxol
Hormone Therapy ongoing
“Why me? Will I be fine? When will I be? How long will the treatment last? Why my body is slower than my mind? How will I cope with the ‘New’ me?”
So many questions! And no definite answers.
Easier said it is, but actually not so difficult to try. Think about it – What are the options? Either you can play the victim or the fighter. Cancer is a difficult disease with a long treatment plan. How long are you going to cry and pity yourself?
My brush with cancer came out of nowhere and shattered world. It is a tough ride but a few things make it less painful: –
- Choose to smile: I decided to choose smiling over crying and fighting over giving up. I smiled even if I had to fake it at times and slowly smiling became a part of me.
Aptly quoted by Vivian Greene “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; its about learning to dance in the rain”.
Smiling helped; it made me stronger. It lit me up and those around me. Even after going through so many cuts and stitches, I love to flaunt my most beautiful curve-my smile. It makes me feel victorious over the intruder that has entered my body with no warning.
- “I am good”: Whenever asked how I was feeling by friends or by relatives in person or on phone, I always said” I am good”. And just by saying so, I did feel good.
It kept me away from negative thoughts; mine and others. I observed once you start talking about your pain, it worsens. It repeats in the mind and then the whole body relives it again and again.
- Share with care: I chose to share the news of my illness with a chosen few for two reasons- one; I did not wish the whole world to be worried for me, second; I had too much to cope with and didn’t want to add more to it.
Though I understood that people would like to pitch in and help, but I chose the genuine ones who were actually concerned, to be a part of my conversational cycle; who respected my privacy and understood when I needed solitude. I avoided those who had always judged me and even those who were overly concerned. Deep in my heart I knew I would be fine and sympathy was the last thing I needed.
This also helped me to protect my wounds from the dust of negativity. The surgery, the chemotherapy took a toll on my mind. I forgot easily and couldn’t process too much information, so I stayed away from gossip and negative people.
- Be grateful: Right from the doctors and the nurses to the family and care takers, each person is an angel in disguise and I chose to be grateful for whatever little or more they did for me. I stopped complaining and that made me much calmer.
Lying on my bed at night, I would count my blessings every day; small to the smallest; being able to watch a beautiful sunset to the little strength I would gain and be able to walk around the house or even be able to watch a nice television show with family some days.
- Life is best lived one day at a time: As nature gives us a new sunrise and a new sunset every day, I lived each day as a new day and still do, ever since. I stopped regretting the yesterdays and planning for tomorrows; that made me grounded and happier. I accepted the present as a gift. Meditation and pranayama helped me in this.
Lying down, with low energy, I would find some guided meditations on YouTube and meditate. Slowly, it became a ritual. It helped me immensely. I learnt to breathe out the pain, the sadness and relax myself. I also learnt to breathe in good health, joy and energy. I revived my lessons on meditation learnt sometime back but hardly practised. Meditation rejuvenated me. It helped me to live in the moment. I learnt to relax my mind and push away the negative thoughts of fear and worry.
Chanting also helped me to inhale in positivity and exhale out anxieties.
6. HE is walking beside me: Though I had my close family by my side, but there had been moments of solitude when I would remind myself that a higher being is taking care of me; of each one of us. It made my days secure and my life rooted. I stopped missing my parents, who I lost, when I was in my twenties. My expectations from people around lessened. I stopped questioning and accepted life as it came, for each incident is a part of HIS bigger plan, which I am unaware of.
7. Let go: From being a go- getter, I transcended to a “Let go” attitude. I kept my mind clean. I left decision making to my family and I focussed on resting my mind and body like I had never done before in my life. And I observed life happens whether I intervene or not. Nothing stops and I saved a lot of energy to be used for healing myself. I forgave everyone who had hurt me in the past for I discovered past is dead and its weight on my mind is too heavy; I am at peace now.
8. Mind your mind: I have always been a fast thinker and doer. There would be days when my mind would race and my body would drag behind. I chose to listen to my body and dictate my mind to slow down as well. If you think closely, it’s all in the mind. I practised and still do to stop my mind from creating doubts, fears and anxieties.
9.Life is good: I would cherish the days I felt better. I would sing lying down and imagine myself dancing. I would stare at the sunsets and I would write poems at the middle of night whenever I was sleepless due to medication. I also watched a number of movies. I insisted that the show must go on for who knows how long or short it is!
10. Don’t dwell on negative emotions: Though its ok to be emotional at times but I chose not to dwell on negative emotions like worry, doubt, depression and anger. I chose to be brave. And being brave meant crying aloud at times, venting out and smiling at other times. I didn’t bottle up my emotions on the pretext of being brave or to smile, but I chose my audience for venting, who would understand me and lift me up.
There would be days when I would feel sad largely due to medication side effects and this awareness helped me to let it be for few days. I would go into my recluse and emerge brighter when I was ready.
11. Getting inspiration: I read a lot of survivor stories online and reminded myself that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. I also read discussions on community boards and got some useful tips. I also connected with someone who has been through this before me. She remained my anchor throughout and I learnt so many home remedies from her to combat the side effects of various treatments I went through.
12. I am a conqueror: The word ‘survivor’ appeared too weak to me and I chose to call myself a ‘cancer conqueror’. There were and still are days when I feel just alive and not able to do much, but then I remind myself that I am fighting a battle and its ok to not be able to do other things, while my body is healing. My body is my vehicle to go through this journey of life and I have to take good care of it.
13. Writing in my journal helped: I had restricted activities. I couldn’t cook or watch much TV. Even reading hurt my eyes sometimes. I have always been better in expressing myself through writing. So, I started writing my journal of cancer journey daily or weekly as my energy levels permitted. I would write whatever I went through and it helped me to vent out in a subtle way. I started recording my poems on phone and uploaded them on a YouTube channel. I gave myself purpose and I felt happy contributing whatever little to the world.
14. Eating right: I followed all instructions regarding diet during treatment. Chemotherapy played with my appetite, my taste buds and my digestion. I ate only freshly cooked food and am continuing the same ever since. Foods with preservatives like jams, ketchup are a big NO for me. No refined flour and no sugar. And no eggs and meat. I gulped three litres of water everyday during my chemo. I have switched from packaged juices to fresh coconut juice and water flavoured with fresh basil or lemon or lemongrass. More fruits and vegetables now but no raw vegetables during the chemo.
Mind affects body and body affects mind, so nourishing the body in a healthy way is equally important. Today, I treat my body with respect and think twice before putting anything in it.
15. Adjust the sails: Life becomes so unpredictable when you have cancer. If we can’t direct the wind, we can adjust our sails for sure. Being open, being acceptable to changes makes life smoother. I have restricted use of my right hand due to mastectomy. There have been hard days when I could not embroider when I wanted to. I couldn’t cook as my hands pained or the heat troubled. Sunlight increased my migraines. Hormone therapy has given me hot flushes and acidity prematurely. Injections bring depression with them. I had sleepless nights during chemo. Each cycle of chemo brought different side effects every week; sever constipation, losing my long hair, my eyelashes & eyebrows, bone pain, altered taste buds and neuropathy being few of them. But reading helps me. Knowing, this may happen to me, kind of prepares me for it. So, I plan my days accordingly and my priority is listening to my body. I sleep whenever my body demands and change my commitments if my body feels pain. When days get tough, I remind myself that “This too shall pass”.
16. Surrender your worries: There are days when I do worry, when I feel anxious and doubt if the treatment I am taking is the best for me. And those times as I stop my mind from overthinking about things beyond my control and surrender. I give my worries to HIM for I have faith HE who has given us the problem is also giving us the strength to cope with them too.
I believe every event in life happens to teach us something and I have learnt so many lessons in this journey and am still learning. Sometimes we choose our battles in life and sometimes the battles chooses us. So whatever lessons I am learning, they are going to stay with me.
Remember, you are beyond the body and the mind. You can practise to tame your mind and listen to your body. Once you learn and accept that life is a journey and you are not alone; you enjoy the ups and downs with grace.
When feeling low, ask yourself “Why give up the battle before fighting it out? ”
Keep faith and believe some Higher power is taking care of you always. That faith gives strength; that faith teaches us to live life one day at a time and be grateful for it. “Let your faith be bigger than your fear!”
The bumps on this road might continue for a long time but that doesn’t stop me from doing what I wish, rather it makes my determination stronger to enjoy till there is life!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed belong solely to the author.
You can follow her blog at https://thepinkribbon2017.wordpress.com