One month before my 26th birthday I felt a lump in my breast while showering. I didn’t think much of it right away, but by the end of the day I started feeling concerned. I went to our family doctor for a physical examination. She said it was probably just a period-related fibroid that would soon go away. I was on my way out when she called me back and said: ‘megha, let’s do a sonography to be safe.’
That moment is the reason I tag myself as a cancer survivor and work to spread awareness. If my doctor had stuck with her initial view and let me walk out that door, my story would’ve been very different. Initially, even my parents thought I was crazy for getting all the tests done.
I had a sonography, then a mammogram, then a biopsy. It confirmed that I had cancer. They told me they’ll do a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue. To be honest, it wasn’t that bad for me at the time. I thought: I have a lump in my body. They’ll remove it. I’ll be done with this cancer-business soon. You know, a 1–2 week break from work at the max.
But further tests showed that the cancer was very aggressive — 9/9 on the grading system. Only then I realised how serious everything was. I had to get 6 months of chemo, 1 month of radiation, and 5 years of hormonal treatment. I’m almost 30 now and have 2 more years of hormonal treatment to go.
The treatment was tough. The first five days after every chemo session were horrible. I was not in control of myself and would barely communicate with those around me. Some days I would just cry it out. But there were also clear milestones at that stage of the journey, and that helped me. I knew I was getting 20 rounds of chemo and that I was going to celebrate once it’s done. I did that. Same with the radiation. My approach was: tick, tick, chapter done, close that book.
The more difficult part came when all of that was over and I had to pick up my life again. It’s a new normal I had to accept and adjust to. It wasn’t easy, and the process continues. You know, getting back to exercising (I used to run half-marathons!), picking up my social life — things like that. When I went back to work, I felt I had to prove that I could still work hard. I did that. Two years after my cancer diagnosis I was due for a promotion. I got it.
Connecting with a community of survivors online really helped me throughout my journey. I needed someone who understood what it was like to have cancer in your mid twenties. That’s why I try to support others now.
I call it a mentor for your cancer journey — someone that guides you through how you feel. I know how much it means to feel heard and understood during this time. First you need to accept what’s happened to you and that it sucks. Then you have to find ways to deal with it. If that means crying until you feel better, then cry. There’s so much pressure to be positive and to take it in your stride. But at that moment, pressure to be positive doesn’t help.
I don’t want young women to hear my story and live in fear, but I do want to create awareness so that people will be vigilant about their bodies and be their own advocates when required.