‘Life After Cancer’

Words: S C SHARADA

2013 was a landmark year in my life. The ‘Big C’ struck me. I battled breast cancer in due course and emerged triumphant, all right, but my life has never been the same… like before.

Ah, well, don’t you expect to read a sob story about how tough life for me is, perhaps, now. Well, it has never been better. While the treatment was tough, arduous and demanding, the other challenges were manifold. However, the spin-off of it all was palpable. I became more positive in my mindful reality than ever before and just as determined and cheerful to facing things as it were. I had several unfinished things in life, yes, a common platitude, but there was no way I would throw in the towel, or succumb to it. Now, here I am, in a manner ‘reborn,’ writing — not about breast cancer, but life after it.

Dr Ramesh Kumar, my long-time Ayurvedic physician, not only prepared, or ‘primed’ me and my body for the chemo, but he also helped me confront the side-effects lingering long after — with fortitude and calm resolve.

Plant-Based Diet Plan

I started my plant-based diet plan with Dr Gauri Rokkam, in 2019. I knew, for a long time, I had to lose weight. I was reading about it, listening to talks and seeing others doing it. What was tangibly missing was real, focused action from my side. What was also lacking was credible, sustainable, professional guidance that would provide and equip me with a customised, ‘bespoke’ diet plan. Dr Rokkam fixed all my trepidations and put me on a plan that worked — and, there’s just no looking back.

Dr Rokkam is, in my personal view, the most knowledgeable, professional and assertive nutritionist I’ve ever met — one who’s willing to go the extra mile, or get into the trenches with you, if required. She explained everything logically, methodically and convincingly — always with a smile and a natural warmth that is uniquely personified in her.

The best part was she put me on a personalised diet ‘weaning’ programme — this was designed to ‘wean’ me away from dairy products, processed food, coffee, tea, milk, sugar, fried, ‘junk’ stuff, to a healthy plant-based diet of vegetable juice, mono fruit, tender coconut water, unpolished rice, whole wheat, millets, greens, lot of veggies, sprouts, soups, coconut milk and salads.

She would carefully monitor and provide me with her matter-of-fact feedback on a daily basis. The transition was gradual and measured, but as providence would have it, the whole process wasn’t formidable, or difficult. Call it the holistic, also time-honoured, ahara, vihara, vichara, vyayama and nidra credo, or what you may — they all had a bearing on the outcome that was earmarked for me to turning things around.

The plan included walking, exercise, yoga, pranayama and a good night’s sleep — every day. I was also introduced to intermittent fasting — tender coconut water on Day One, followed by water on Day Two. I did, at the outset, think this was just too much of an ‘ask,’ a tall, difficult task. I was afraid, or rather ‘prepared’ with a certain measure of anticipatory anxiety too, that I would get headaches and feel weak. Surprisingly, this did not happen, because the fasting element was introduced a few months after I had gotten used to the fruit diet in the morning. This kept my body alkaline.

Perish the thought of it — there was just no headache, nausea, or fatigue. The two mantras seemed to work: “Push only for as long as you can;” or “Listen to your body.” Or, “It is all up there, in the head;” and “If we are determined, we can do it.” 

Tangible Outcomes

I lost about 13kg in six months. I found a bagful of welcome, positive ‘side-effects’ of the natural diet plan —

  • I was feeling, also looking, younger
  • There was a conspicuous glow on the skin [compliments received]
  • Skin inflammation and itching gone [this was a major issue every year during certain months]
  • Acidity disappeared completely
  • No bloated feeling
  • Smooth bowel movement
  • No more hot flushes
  • Undisturbed sleep [thanks to the simple technique of using wet towel on the eyes at night]
  • Palpitation gone [most doctors I consulted had attributed this to thyroid problems, anxiety, sleeplessness, menopause, excess weight and whatever else they could]
  • Bye-bye to breathlessness [I would find climbing stairs difficult earlier]
  • Body more flexible
  • Water retention [in the body] was now a thing of the past
  • Better energy levels
  • Mind in harmonious synchrony; also calm and composed.

I have been able to stick to my plant-based diet despite my hectic work schedule and other social service activities. For years, Amrutanjan and Saridon would be my two compulsory travel-companions, because migraine, the unruly ‘despot’ that ruled my head rather than my mind, would ‘attack’ anytime. Well, each time we planned a vacation, my children would tease me that a day ought to be kept aside for “your headache.” Thanks to the plant-based diet, I reckon, I have bid good-bye to headaches. What’s more, I am able to stay on an empty stomach for a longer time. The best part also is: I am more conscious of what I eat and how it is cooked. I am always looking through my ‘mindful compass’ for healthier options — even during travel. No ridicule this, but whenever I see an obese, or sick, person, I feel like reaching out to them with the mantra that transformed me and my health index, or quotient, from the inside out, “Hey, why are you struggling with medicines and workouts? Why don’t you contact Dr Rokkam?”

I’d, in the fitness of things, love to take the opportunity to express my heartfelt, profound thanks to Dr Rokkam who has inculcated in me the right roadmap and discipline about food — when to eat, how to eat [Well, the unpleasant truth is: most of us don’t seem to know the basics of ‘how to’ eat], why to eat, what to eat, the ‘quantity’ to eat, how quickly, or slowly, why do fasts and, more importantly, how to balance food, along with the right mix of exercise, sunshine and adequate sleep. She has taught me, no less, to “Make food your medicine, not medicine your food.” It exemplifies the good-old adage too, “You are what you eat.”

S C SHARADA, a company secretary and lawyer for over 30 years, is the founder of S C Sharada & Associates, Company Secretaries, Bengaluru. An executive alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and an active Toastmaster and Certified Distinguished Toastmaster, Sharada is also the founder member of two prestigious Toastmaster Clubs. She is an active member of the Pink Hope Support Group, sharing her thoughts, as a cancer survivor-speaker at various forums, and also the Regional Mentor of Sanjeevani — Life Beyond Cancer, an award-winning cancer NGO operating across the country. Her messages of hope and positivity published regularly through her official newsletter, Samhita, is yet another activity that she’s passionately into.

 

7 thoughts on “‘Life After Cancer’

  1. Asha Rajesh says:

    Wow. This is great, S C Sharada. I just read now and came to know all your battles and became a ??. Very happy and impressed with your achievements.

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