I will take this opportunity to share with you, my journey through breast cancer, recovery, and feelings about the disease.
In 1987, after the medical examination for my first job, I was told that I had a nodular breast and required a mammography. Through radiography, a surgeon was quick to offer his services for surgery; another believed that as those were not cancerous; surgery was not required, and he prescribed me hormonal therapy. The nodules reduced, and surgery was avoided, but the nodules came back after a few years of having my last child. Since then, I am having mammography and breast ultrasound on a regular basis. FNA on the nodules were also done, results showed that the situation was normal. In 2006, the surgeon suggested an annual mammography, but I overlooked his recommendation and went for the mammography in 2008.
In that regular checkup, a malignant tumor was detected. Doubtless of my understating of having a nodular breast and its possibility of becoming the breast cancer made me not to falter on the regular checkup. I had to be wary of cancer because my older sister and parents have had cancer, though none of them had the breast cancer. All of them are well and have survived the disease, thanks to God, early detection and follow up. On receiving the results of the biopsy, I decided that I would not escape farther surgery and the chemotherapy. The moment you receive the positive biopsy, the whole world turns around, and one is very scared of the time ahead.
All the treatments were done according to International Standards and Protocol, with the best drugs and at the best cancer hospital in Islamabad/Rawalpindi. Throughout the treatment, I remained active and engaged. I was able to hand over part of my work. I wore a hijab or a scarf to hide my bald head. During the days, I was at home recuperating from the Chemotherapy; I took up embroidery as it was a way of keeping my mind on something else. I regularly exercised my affected arm. It was very encouraging to find a lingerie shop that provided relief to the mastectomy patients. With the continuous support of my family, my religious faith, the prayers, the holy water from Mecca were important in keeping my spirit strong.
“Another important factor that influenced my recovery was the emphasis I placed on a diet. I followed all that fellow patients, doctors, and common sense recommended me. I ate according to which date of the treatment I was going through.”
People are getting cancer more often and earlier than before. This is an alarming general trend that our oncologist and public health doctors should be investigating.
As for the breast cancer I had, it was responsive to estrogens and progesterone. I blame my diet and exposure to these substances for its early onset. I took for three years a natural supplement called Famicol. It worked well for the alleviation of symptoms of menopause, but perhaps its composition of phytoestrogens accelerated the appearance of cancer. Estrogens are given by the poultry farmers to the chicken and the livestock farmers to their animals. The milk may be tainted with estrogens. We use plastic and melamine dishes to warm up food in microwaves, dioxins and other carcinogens are transferred to the food and liquid.
Much more research work needs to be done to understand the link between the pesticide residues and hormones in Pakistani food and breast cancer. Awareness of the women, family doctors and regular Breast Ultrasound and Mammography is required for the early detection of breast cancer and its successful treatment.