I survived cervical cancer: How a gynae coped with a life-changing diagnosis
Hi, I am Dr Ashe Sahai and I am a 62-year-old gynaecologist based in Delhi. Even though I am in the medical profession, I have experienced and survived cervical cancer – about which I would like to share my story.
In 2009, the hospital I work for had set-up various health-related screening camps for women. I was asking every patient who I saw to get checked. In between, a few colleagues of mine decided to get themselves checked as well and I followed suit. Little did I know that being a doctor myself, my test results would end up declaring that I have cervical cancer.
Thankfully, I was diagnosed at a very early stage and I knew that I could be cured. Without wasting much time, I consulted the oncologist of our hospital about the possible treatment and he recommended going for surgery to remove the possible lymph nodes as early as possible. Surgery meant that I could avoid radiotherapy & chemotherapy for the future and the risks would cut down to few.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix is a hollow cylinder that connects the lower part of a woman’s uterus to her vagina. Most cervical cancers begin in cells on the surface of the cervix.
Many women with cervical cancer don’t realize they have the disease early on, because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms until the late stages. When symptoms do appear, they’re easily mistaken for common conditions like menstrual periods and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Typical cervical cancer symptoms include unusual vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge that looks or smells different than usual, pain in the pelvis, urinating more often, and pain during urination.
Being a patient in the operation theatre was a new experience
As a doctor, we often fail to anticipate that we can have such a disease too. After getting the reports and the consultation done, I informed my family about the diagnosis. They were naturally shaken but they had full faith in me and my instincts.
It was relatively easier for me to accept the situation and be mentally calm about what had happened because I had witnessed such cases. My husband is also a doctor and both of us didn’t waste a lot of time contemplating our fate; instead. we got into action. We made important visits to the doctors regularly and within some days, I was prepared to go for the surgery.
On the day of the surgery, the staff got very surprised seeing me as a patient. It was very hard for them to adjust to the fact that I was their patient. The five-hour surgery went successful and it was followed by admission to the hospital for a week.
I took proper care of everything post-surgery
I experienced severe body pain for a few days post the surgery. It was so intense that even the painkillers would fail me. However, day after day, I gained the courage to move around and do basic things. With this, I returned home after a week and indulged myself in normal chores. Getting back to the regular lifestyle took time, but I managed.
My husband and I made sure that I got a proper diet, i.e. a diet rich in proteins, dairy, carbs, and every essential nutrient. I consulted with my doctor after two weeks and was declared fit to get back to work. I needed this to avoid the pity and sympathy showered by people while I was at home. Moreover, I believed it would be better to help others in need rather than getting stuck with negative feelings. And so, life went back on track.
Prioritizing health above everything else
It has been 11 years since the treatment and I haven’t lived a more fulfilling and happier life. I feel that in order to heal faster, it is important to have a positive outlook towards life. I still go for regular check-ups and tests, eat healthily with a nutrient-rich diet, maintain a work-life balance and await new experiences every day.
I will recommend every woman to get regular tests done and get treated if necessary. An early diagnosis helps cure most diseases and can save a lot of lives. In fact, getting vaccines on time and having PAP tests done on a frequent basis is highly recommended. I understand that ‘cancer’ as a word can trigger fears inside all of us, but taking proper care of your health and getting frequently checked is the best favour you can do to yourself.
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