My name is Ragini Kumar and I am a cancer survivor. Before I tell you about my ordeal, the diagnosis must be spoken about. Let me tell you my story of understanding, battling and eventually winning over cancer.
In 2013, every other day I was experiencing fever and would end up popping a combiflam tablet. This was also accompanied by a lot of fatigue and restlessness and for a 20-year-old; it didn’t seem like a normal thing to happen.
It all started with swollen nodes
After taking multiple opinions from doctors, I was asked by one, whether I could feel any nodes in my body, to which I realised that I had some in my neck. To be thoroughly sure, I took my reports to a radiologist and there it was—the worst revelation about my life, the identified nodes were actually a form of malignant cancer.
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma—a blood cancer that starts in your lymphatic system that helps your immune system get rid of waste and fight infections. Even though I was taken aback, I didn’t let it get to my head since I remembered reading somewhere that it was curable. However, destiny had something else in store.
And my destiny took a turn
A few days later, my parents came to me and revealed that I will have to go for chemotherapy, which seemed like the end of the world to me. What I had thought would take a few days of treatment, turned out to be a long process.
I sat down and took 15 minutes to sink in this new reality that was going to either break me or make a new me. With a great amount of courage and thinking, I told my parents that I was up for it and that I would take whatever it can to make this work.
It wasn’t an easy road I had chosen. Going for chemotherapy meant I would have to let go off my pride, my luscious hair and I was also told that after this, I might not be fertile enough to conceive. It shook me from within and came as a huge blow, as I had always dreamt of being a mother.
Then came another blow
So, in order to be able to have kids in the future, I decided to go through surgery, known as egg freezing, before going in for chemotherapy so that my eggs can be protected and stored in advance. While I was going through the ultrasound as a preliminary procedure before the surgery, it turned out that I had cancer in my uterus too.
What was supposed to be a brief visit to the hospital after which I had made plans to go to the mall and make my parents splurge on me, turned out to be an admission to the hospital. In this way, my relationship with the hospital began. I was also injected with a pipe that went through my veins so that the chemotherapy could reach my heart faster. Through all of this, I was very fortunate that all my family and friends poured out their support to me.
Accepting the reality was a tough task
While I was getting so much love from those around me, I still had to fight the tumult going on inside. There was even a time when I covered all the mirrors of my house with newspapers because I didn’t feel like looking at my uglier self and didn’t want my family members too to admire themselves in the mirrors.
However, after a while, I realised that whatever is happening to me is my individual journey; my loved ones need not suffer for it. So, I removed the newspapers and started accepting this new reality I was now living with.
As it happens with most cancer patients, during the sixth cycle of my treatment, my blood had stopped replenishing itself and my hemoglobin fell to 5.5. This led to me having a tunnel vision; which meant that most things were blanking out and I could only see one object at a time or nothing at all.
With this, I had no energy to even lift my arm and have a glass of water and I could feel my heart throbbing in my brain. It was then when I was rushed to the emergency room for blood transfusion and had to go through it once more in the coming days.
I tried the best to motivate myself
For motivation, I gave myself a deadline to fully recover—the release of the movie Ram-Leela because I was dying to see Ranveer and Deepika on-screen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet this deadline but my friends made sure that I watch the movie through pirated DVDs.
The next deadline I gave myself was my grandfather’s 90th birthday, which also went in vain. However, the most cherished thing about my whole treatment was this 89-year old man calling me every day and telling me inspiring stories just to make sure that I don’t give up. And to top it all, he decided to live till I recover and come out as a winner.
He passed away when I actually recovered.
During this life-changing journey, I learnt that no matter how things are, no matter in which direction who are headed to, all it takes to make it work is you. And ‘you’ should be your first priority.
It has been six years since I have recovered but the memories and the experiences of almost touching death, stays. I hope that with my learning, I am able to give hope to all those who are going through something similar and tell them that it is not the end of the world—it is just the beginning.
(As told to Prachi Kothari)