Humans of Pink Innings - Soniyaa Jain
Meet Soniyaa Jain from Mumbai. With her undaunted spirit, Soniyaa has managed to beat breast cancer thrice like a true champion and today, she lives as an inspiration for all other cancer warriors. She has proved that cancer can be defeated and a fulfilling life follows thereafter.
My Early Life
I was born and brought up in the heart of the Indian capital, Delhi. I am a 55-year-old home-maker and am blessed with two children. I am a graduate from Lady Shree Ram College, Delhi.
Prior to my wedding, I was working with ‘The Spastic Society of Northern India’. And recently, I had an opportunity to teach at ‘The mother-toddler’ play-school. I currently live in Mumbai.
A Bolt From The Blue
It was 1996, and life was moving at its normal pace. I was 33 then, married for nine years and had two kids aged 7 and 5. One day while in the shower, I noticed a strange lump on my left breast. My instincts told me that something was not right, and I immediately got out of shower to disclose the matter to my husband, jokingly telling him that I had cancer. He had an extremely irritable reaction to this, which was probably his affection that forbade him from believe that I could be affected by cancer.
My aunt who was a doctor insisted that I get a thorough checkup done by an oncologist. I underwent a Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC) as per the oncologist’s suggestion. Post this, I went on a month-long holiday, and by the time I returned, I had completely forgotten about collecting the report. My aunt called one day inquiring about the report, and gave me an earful on hearing that I had forgotten to collect it. She suggested that I immediately see one of the best oncologists in the city, and she arranged an appointment for the next day. Suspecting malignancy, the oncologist decided to operate and remove the lump without any further delay, and chose to keep a pathologist as well in the operation theater.
A minor 45 surgical minute procedure stretched to almost 4.5 hours, as the pathologist found the lump was malignant. I had 40 stitches, with all lymph glands removed from below my arm to prevent spreading of the cancer. From the visit to the beginning of the surgery, everything happened really quickly and I had not gotten much time to think about what this could be. When I regained consciousness, I was extremely curious to know exactly what had happened to me. It was only the next morning that my husband disclosed to me that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, grade 2 carcinoma. One of my worst fears had come true. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long arduous battle in the forthcoming years.
The Prolonged Battle
After the initial bout of shock, and probably fear, I knew I had to gather myself. I realized very quickly that getting depressed and crying over being diagnosed with cancer was only going to do more harm, and so it was just not an option for me. Being the mother of two young kids who were petrified the first time they saw me in the hospital with so many tubes hanging out of my body, I knew I had to fight it. I had a moment where I said to myself, "I just happened to have cancer. And I’m going to deal with it."
The most critical part of any cancer journey is to at first accept that you have cancer. That’s the first big step towards recovery. It was difficult at first, but I trained my mind to accept it and gear up for a fierce battle. I was not ready to give up, I was not going down without swinging hard.
Once I accepted it, just like another problem or disease, I was able to move to the next phase of finding ways to fight it. I started focusing on how to tackle the cancer, rather than worry about how I got affected by it.
For about a fortnight after the surgery, I had to undergo the excruciatingly painful aspiration procedure every other day, to drain the excess accumulated lymph through needles inserted into the stitches. At the end of this fortnight was another surgery, post which the radiation sessions began.
The initial radiation days were the most difficult. The skin on my torso was almost burnt and began to peel off, and oozed bodily fluids. Wearing any kind of clothes was extremely uncomfortable. I simply wanted to avoid wearing anything. Those days, I survived on a thin Malmal cloth all over my body. My appetite had gone down drastically; I ate lesser than my kids. The treatment including the surgeries, the medicines, the radiation, all of it took a toll on me.
But as the treatment progressed, I kept getting stronger, to a point when I actually began to counsel and cheer up other patents at the radiation sessions. A couple of times some people mistook my husband to be the patient and me the caregiver! Cancer had changed my basic DNA. My recovery took a while, but the day came when I was back to a normal life. I was however advised periodic check-ups as part of the post recovery protocol.
Life moved on normally thereafter. During one of my regular check-ups in 2004, carcinoma in situ was detected. Carcinoma in situ is a cancer where a person has abnormal cells that have not spread beyond where they first formed. This was my second diagnosis. Unlike the earlier diagnosis, this time I was much more in control and dealt with the fact in a far stronger manner. I casually shared the news with my family and started my preparations to face the battle against cancer, once again.
As I was being taken into the operation theatre, I waved to my family from the stretcher with a booming smile and said that I’ll see them in a bit. Once into the OT, the doctor greeted me and asked me how I felt. I told him I felt great, and now his tension begins! There was pipe music playing in the OT which I really liked, so I requested the doctor to let it play on a bit longer before he knocked me down. This time, the hook wire technique was used to remove the carcinoma.
But the battle just did not seem to end for me. I was diagnosed with an aggressive Grade 3 carcinoma in 2016. It happened during one of the regular check-ups when I was asked to do a biopsy. I underwent a mastectomy during this surgery. With my doctor’s support I was prepared mentally to face the challenge. I did not think that I was losing a body part instead, it was getting 500gms lighter!This positive approach enabled my family to deal with this in a smooth manner.
My Pillar Of Support
My family was my biggest support system. I had to undergo multiple surgeries and they stood beside me like a rock. My husband supported me immensely. He stood by me reassuring that the best will happen for us. After my third surgery, I would often lose balance. My children would take turns to stay with me through the day, both of them supervising the other for any lapses. They would hold my hands and take me out for a walk. Sometimes guide me through the house to the washroom and constantly talking to me from outside, only to ensure that I was managing well and was comfortable. I was totally pampered like a child. Battling cancer without them being around is beyond my imagination.
I also did listen to a lot of music. Music is known to have therapeutic properties, and it enables me to slip into a state of trance. It has always been like meditation for me and helped me immensely during my recovery. I also began angelic meditation, EFT tapping, incantation and positive affirmation. All of these combined with the regular medical aid and procedures, healed me from within.
What Cancer Has Taught Me
I am filled with a lot of gratitude towards life. I have learnt to laugh a little louder each time and live a little better every day. I enjoy the smallest joys of life and have learnt to live in the moment. Every moment has become so precious to me now.
I strongly believe that any individual undergoing treatment should not be termed as a patient, but a ‘WARRIOR’. As they are definitely fighting an enormous, long and difficult battle. Also, every survivor should be called a ‘CONQUEROR’, as they have fought a fierce battle and vanquished a tough enemy to live.
Whenever I get an opportunity to work for cancer awareness, I do it. I counsel people and help them get through the difficult times. I strongly believe that cancer is curable.
My Advice To Cancer Warriors
I would like to tell every cancer warrior that they must at first drop the fear of death. Cancer is not the end of life. By worrying about death don’t we kill ourselves each day despite being alive? Therefore, cancer is like any other disease that can be cured with the right treatment at the right time. Never lose hope! Only when death brushes by we realize that life has much more to offer. Ceasing to fight is not a choice at all.
You are more alive than the cancer within you. Fight back with just one vision in mind – to win, no matter what, and be a living example to others. One must realize that losing a body part does not make oneself less beautiful. It is your inner self that determines who you truly are.
Being able to tell you all my story today gives me so much happiness. People, face things head on, give your best shot and everything will be great again. Never give up.