Africa: surviving and thriving after breast cancer
My world, a vertiginous roller-coaster of motherhood, family responsibilities and profession, came to an abrupt halt on December 15, 2004 at 3:30 PM. “I am sorry but you have cancer” was the doctor’s comment over the phone. Could she really understand what I felt? Through the torrent of tears flowing as never before I saw glimpses of my two small children, my anguished husband and my elderly mother. Were they also crying?
The future became an uncertain question mark. A terrifying, immobilizing fear overpowered my senses. It all had to be a nightmare. I would wake up and everything would be fine….Then, immediately a group of women doctors gently guided my initial baby-steps in the Cancer realm.
Within a month, and despite a pervasive sense of other-worldliness and of shock, I had overcome major surgery, several complications and setbacks and had started chemotherapy.
At every milestone, countless other women I had never met, sisters in this club or reluctant members, appeared to offer hope, encouragement or simply a hug, a shoulder to cry on, and understanding that few can have.
Yes, I lost my hair, my appetite, my body as I had known it but through it all, I never lost my will to live, to see my children grow and thrive, to savor every minute of my life, every beautiful aspect of nature, the calming power of music.
Chemotherapy was indeed a physical challenge but I also lived it as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. I actually looked forward to each session and enjoyed those hours of silence, meditation and peace. Friends of various religious beliefs sent me their own prayers which I applied in my meditations. I had Hindu prayers, Buddhist prayers, Muslim prayers, Christian and Jewish prayers. It was truly a healing experience which I have continued to practice since.
I do not know if I am a better person but I do know that I am a changed one, and the change is for the better. Everyone around me has noticed this and benefited from this. Cancer may have been the catalyst of a major shift in my life. I still have the same intensity and zest for my family and my profession, but, somehow, the focus is on enjoyment, fulfillment and never a moment is lost in the petty trivialities that would have occupied my mind before. I can definitely and clearly see and pursue the unlimited possibilities of TODAY. And every today is a promise of life.