No matter what life throws at me, no matter how unfair it may seem, I refuse to play the victim. I refuse to be ruled by fear, pessimism and negativity. I refuse to quit. With courage and love I will push forward.
On a morning 4 months ago, I felt a lump in my breast and the trauma of my mother, whom I lost to cancer came out gushing. Within a few hours, I rushed to a Mammography Centre for my very first mammogram. I was immediately asked to meet a Surgical Oncologist to discuss the type of biopsy that needed to be carried out. My fears were confirmed. I was diagnosed with a Grade III Invasive Carcinoma (breast cancer), and the hype ensued; pangs of trauma from my mother’s battle with cancer drove me into a volley of waking nightmares. We all have such grand plans for our lives; as for mine, no number of adjustments seemed enough to accommodate the malady that became a proverbial tumour of my precious time.
With thorough consultations from a surgical oncologist, PET scans and a plethora of other tests, I learnt that I would need to undergo a lumpectomy, 16 cycles of chemotherapy and radiation. I felt a sense of déjà vu, reminiscing about my mother’s cancer battle that ended with her demise after she gave it a valiant fight. I was also asked to undergo a genetic test called BRCA as there was a chance that my cancer was hereditary. I tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation and my battle morphed into a full blown war. I was told that there was a 70% chance of me redeveloping another breast cancer and a 45% chance of developing ovarian cancer throughout my life. I realised my fight didn’t end with lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. I would have to go through multiple prophylactic surgeries over the course of the next three years. Eliminating all risks is impossible and the threat of cancer will loom on for as long as I live.
At the moment, I have already undergone nine cycles of chemo, and I have seven more to go. As I see myself change physically and mentally, I try to instill in me a sense of acceptance. My demeanour is a true reflection of how I have taken this battle head on uptil now and I will just not let it get the better of me. That mindset is true strength and the starting point in this long journey ahead. Decoding that mindset, I realised I have inherited my mother’s incorrigible optimism during her own fight with the same cancer, someone I lost at the early age of 40. She taught me that some of the biggest adversities are often to be mounted as some of the strongest opportunities for a larger cause. From that perspective this journey has been bestowed upon me as an added responsibility, a newly added purpose to my life. As for the craft of acting , which will always be my first love, I shall come back stronger and better. This is my promise.
I also want to inspire a more meaningful environment for people to detect, understand and tackle this menace in a cohesive manner. Long enough the menace has toggled our lives upside down, it’s important that I enable an environment wherein such journeys could be cushioned with the right information for anything and everything which is necessary in overcoming the fear. Especially for women who either are not aware or don’t have access to crucial medical amenities. I realised I’m going through something that many women have gone through before me. It hit me how important it is for women-at-risk to know of ‘ it ‘ and to know their options. Ladies, please value your health above anything. Test yourself regularly, avoid brushing pain under the carpet (it doesn’t help) and talk about health concerns with experts.
For the countless you, who are like my extended family, your love and the love of 72mm screen where I have always showcased my best craft to my audience, unadulterated, undiluted, full of life always – which then over the years have transpired into millions of smiles, hugs and blessings has been my true fuel, my power to take this head on. That relentless love is pure strength and has been the single most powerful driving force. This coupled with selfless dedication with which my loved ones, my family and friends have been rallying around me for the last four months, I reckon any expression or the nature of gratitude will not suffice. That’s truly selfless love in every way!
To those who have inundated me with DMs probing my whereabouts, I thank each one of you. I, especially would like to appreciate the support and empathy that has been extended from my film fraternity. Your love has been truly empowering and a breath of renewed strength as always! I would like to assure you that I am being looked after really well by a team of some very exceptional doctors. The road to recovery will take some time, however a spirited me is armoured with positivity and hope.