‘I Triumphed Over Cancer’

Words: Anamika KUMAR

For a happy-go-lucky girl, who was fond of being a ‘tomboy’ and prankster of the top draw, I was diagnosed with Stage-I, or early, cancer of the ovary at age 23. The disease, I was told, was fortuitously limited to a small area. But, the word, ‘cancer,’ came like a wicked shock. It had that sledgehammer effect not just on me, but also my family and friends.

The cancer was removed through conservative surgery. I felt relieved; also happy. But, this was short-lived. Two years later, there was a recurrence. This was again ‘localised.’ The doctors weighed the pros and cons. They removed the entire ovary.

I felt that this was all there’s was to it and I looked forward, again, to a good, happy life. This was not to be. My world turned upside down, when cancer was detected in the opposite, or the other, ovary. It was localised, yet again.

My case was referred to a top-notch gynaecologist. He thought of removing the tumour, while preserving the ovary and the tissue. But, regrettably, and because there was no real possibility of conservation, he had to remove the entire ovary.

I was now 27 with both my ovaries gone. I also went through what is called ‘surgical menopause.’ I felt miserable, also desolate. I felt that I had lost my womanhood, and that womanhood had lost me. However, as it happens often in life, there is always a glimmer of hope in the stranglehold of darkness. That I’d not undergone chemotherapy, or radiation therapy ‘turned the tables’ for me, whatever there was to it. My gynaecologist explained to me that I was an ‘ideal’ candidate for ovarian transplant. The technique is called orthotopic [organ replacement] ovarian transplant from a donor.

After systematic, meticulous investigations, a possible donor was identified, my own sister, who was happily married and had two children. A battery of tests also ensued [I can’t recall their complicated names], including blood group and sophisticated cross-matching. Once this was done, one had to approach government authorities to get permission, because of the Transplant Act.

Once we received the requisite permissions, my sister donated her whole ovary. This was transplanted through a sophisticated [vascular] technique, as my gynaecologist explained, at ‘normal position’ of the ovary. I was put on immunosuppressive medications to avoid rejection of the donated ovary. Fortunately, there were no complications. My recovery was also uneventful. My ovarian function began within a month’s time and I started producing eggs on ovulation. My gynaecologist and other doctors monitored my progress regularly to ensure that my ovary was functioning well and not rejected

I’m now 43 and I’m leading a normal, happy life — something which I had, at one point of time, thought was next to impossible [or, that my time to go would arrive anytime], especially because the word, ‘cancer,’ never failed to sound that chilling, imminent death knell, every time I’d think of ‘what next.’

My gynaecologist had once told me that ovarian cancer could present in one’s early twenties and/or [again] peak at age 60-70, and that it is treatable, when one is at the right place, and at the right time. He’s right. I’m proof enough of his positive affirmation and modern medical science’s remarkable expertise to healing people and transforming lives.

I am lucky too for having lived through turmoil and emerged from the shadows of death, thanks to professional and appropriate medical treatment. I’ve nothing, but a simple message to my fellow women. Keep a close watch on your body signals, never ever delay, or postpone anything, for whatever reason, from seeking prompt, professional medical attention, while reiterating your faith in god.

It can change your life and your loved ones’ life too from the brink of disaster to leading a happy, normal life.

ANAMIKA KUMAR [name changed on request] is a happy, also proud, ovarian cancer survivor. She lives in Mumbai.

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