When cancer struck a smooth sailing life, it required Anamika Chakravarty to take a closer look at it.
Here’s her story and what she learned from it.
I can’t complain about my childhood. It was very happy. We were well off. My father was an engineer with a stable job while my mother was a homemaker. As a child I was never deprived of opportunities to realize my potential even as I went from school to college. After post-graduation I did an MBA from one of the premier institutes in India. I got a job in a prestigious organisation and went on to work for two of the Big 4 consulting firms. A very caring husband entered my life. We travelled the world and had a lot of fun. We were blessed with a cherubic daughter who has grown up to be a remarkable young woman.
THE SUDDEN SHOCK
Suddenly, around two years ago, I began losing weight. I ignored it but then came the fever that would not go. The blood test showed an ESR of 96 - my body was battling something very big.
I had actually got a full medical checkup just two months back and it had shown everything was well!!
Now, the sonography showed an enlarged spleen. My GP dispatched me to the hematologist who did a battery of tests. Finally, the PET scan detected cells with ‘abnormal’ activity. These were sent for biopsy.
On 1st Jan 2016, I walked into the hematologist’s room and he said, “You have lymphoma - cancer of the lymphatic system. It is curable. Dr. X is the best for the treatment. I will call the hospital and let them know you are coming.”
I had no energy to ask any questions. My husband, who was trying to understand what was happening, had no questions. My dad asked, in a small voice, “Why? What did she do?”
“Nothing,” was the reply. “We don’t really know what causes cancer!”
I was so weak and so much in pain (the enlarged spleen had squeezed the stomach) that I could not think of anything. I was sure of one thing, though – I did not want to meet anybody!! Not yet.
I have always been in control of my life. And now things were totally beyond my comprehension.
A CRUEL CURE
I had to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy. The challenge with cancer is its treatment, which kills the good cells along with the cancerous ones. This means, the first week of chemo is always difficult – lethargy, excruciating body pain, food tasting like cardboard, totally debilitating.
The first cycle was really tough. I did not have the energy to do anything. My daily routine was to consume 4 lt. of liquids daily to flush out all the toxins. I used to sit on my designated sofa and either read or listen to music. The first week after chemo is difficult and immunity is low. But during the second and third week my friends used to come to meet me. Those conversations helped to boost my immunity!
After the first cycle, I started to regain my strength. I had to find answers. I spoke to the assistant doctor and the chemo nurse to know more about the whims and vagaries of the illness. I sought out friends who had had a similar journey. I was determined to fight.
THE FAMILY RALLIES AROUND
My husband said later that he did not know what to feel. Everything was happening so fast! But the way he selflessly served me is something I will always be grateful for.
We get so anxious when our children have just cough and cold and here my parents were going through so much emotional turmoil to see their firstborn battling cancer.
In the first month I used to unabashedly ask my father to hold my hands or request my mom to press my hands and feet. A friend remarked later that my Dad had become quieter, but he never expressed his anxieties or his fears.
My Mom was a pillar of strength who prepared regular meals for the family and a separate one for me – high calorie and high protein.
One of the greatest investments my husband made was in a medical insurance policy of high value which helped us tremendously.
THE ADMIRABLE RESILIENCE OF THE YOUNG
I have a 13-year-old who was 11 then. At first I just told her I was very sick. But she heard the word chemo and knew it was the treatment for cancer – she is a voracious reader! So I sat her down and explained that it was indeed cancer but it was 100% curable and the medicines available were excellent. She was apprehensive at first but then accepted the situation.
She is a resilient girl and has tremendous inner strength. How my illness affected her I will only know later in life. But I hope the one thing she learnt from this experience is to fight back adversity with a positive attitude.
FACING THE SITUATION WITH EQUANIMITY AND SPIRITUALITY
The medical fraternity has no answers for what causes cancer. So it was up to me to make sense of the madness I found myself in. I read books like Heal your Life by Louise Hay, The Journey by Brandon Bays, and The Power of your Subconscious mind by Joseph Murray. The realization that our thoughts and emotions have an effect on our health and body was revealing.
The spleen signifies the need to control. Before retiring for the day I indulged in serious introspection to determine why I thought it important to control every aspect of my life. I examined each aspect and attempted to systematically remove the root causes. I am nowhere near done, but I am on the path. And I am sure I will achieve what I have sought to achieve.
Another conscious effort I made was to maintain a positive attitude always. If I have a negative thought I immediately bring 5-6 positive thoughts and the negative thought is gone. I indulge in colour therapy. I chant. I see happy movies. I read happy books.
I used to chant mantras or listen to their recordings when I felt weak. As much as was possible, I used to do some basic pranayams every morning.
I am blessed to have gone through the experience without too much unpleasantness. I am a cancer thriver having turned my challenging cancer experiences into a springboard for personal growth. I am now a Cancer Coach and Wellness Counselor and use the science of Psycho-Neuro-Immunology (effect of how we think and feel on our health) to fortify the inner self. I conduct workshops on mindfulness, emotional fitness, meditation and spiritual practice.
I also moderate a page on FB called JoyHamesha where we explore impediments to being joyful 24x7.
A MANTRA FOR THE MIND AND BODY
The body is our most important instrument. Nourish it. Nurture it. Treat it like a temple.
We cannot predict or control what will happen to us but how we respond is totally in our hands. We can choose whether we want to go through life complaining or with strength and determination.