‘Sarah Harding’s death brought back my cancer memories – boobs aren’t talked about in my community’09/08/2021
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Accountant Kreena, 41, lives in West Sussex with husband Satty, 43, an analyst, their daughter Amaala, three, and one year old triplets Aanav, Arvaarn and Anaayan. In her own words she describes her harrowing experience of breast cancer.
‘Hearing the news of Sarah Harding's passing is incredibly sad. I wish I could say it's unheard of, but unfortunately it isn't. Too many young women are dying at the hands of this killer disease. I could have been one of them.
Breast Cancer is no longer a disease of the older woman. And once you've received a breast cancer diagnosis, regardless of its staging, the disease becomes a part of your life forever.
The Girls Aloud singer tragically died at the age of 39 on Sunday and of course it brought back some difficult memories, but for myself – and for so many cancer thrivers like me – it acts as a reminder that we must continue to share our stories. We must make this disease relatable, we must remind our peers of just how close to home it can hit and how important Breast Awareness really is.
Growing up in the south Asian community, boobs just weren't discussed. So even though my grandmother had suffered breast cancer twice, I was never encouraged to check myself.
Then, in August 2013, I started getting pain in my left breast and my nipple became inverted. As a healthy fit 33-year-old, at first I blamed pulling a muscle at the gym, but then I Googled the symptoms and started to feel anxious. My husband of three years, Satty, encouraged me to get it checked out.
The GP was dismissive, saying I was too young to have cancer and that it was probably a blocked milk duct. Thank God I didn't listen. I pushed her and eventually was diagnosed with a stage 3 aggressive cancer. If I had left her room without a referral as she suggested I am almost certain that I would have later presented as stage 4, incurable. And I urge other younger women who are worried to get another opinion.
Sure enough, a specialist confirmed it was cancer, and I prayed I would just need a lumpectomy. But tests showed I needed the whole breast removed. And, as the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I would also require chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy .
At that point I properly sobbed. I wanted to keep my illness private, but with chemotherapy it would be obvious to everyone. Advised by doctors, before the chemo – which can cause infertility – we had some of my eggs harvested, which resulted in 12 embryos.
In our community we like to celebrate our successes – our grades, our marriages, our wealth. But we hate showing our vulnerabilities. Satty washed my hair for me and tried to hide all the clumps coming out so I wouldn't get upset. Ultimately, I lost both my breasts, my hair and my fertility. Everything that made me a woman.
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In early 2015, we were relieved to be told I was in remission. To celebrate, we took a trip to Canada. But while there I became very sick – my chest was tight and I couldn't breathe. I was diagnosed with acute heart failure as a result of the chemotherapy drugs causing damage to my heart muscle. Satty prepared his goodbyes as I lay in intensive care.
Miraculously, I pulled through. We wanted to start a family but we knew with all my health issues it was too risky for me to get pregnant. So our eldest was born in April 2018 via surrogacy using one of the embryos, and the triplets in August 2020, also via surrogacy using donor eggs.
Life with four kids under three is tiring, but I know how lucky I am. With cancer, you always know there's a chance it will return. But you can't live in fear. Every single day I wake up feeling grateful I am still here.
So often I’m asked if I’m 'Cancer Clear?' Each time, my response is the same. I may be in remission, but this place is far from Cancer clear. In an instant a piece of news can rock my entire world, I can feel like I'm right back where this all began, consumed with fear, heartbroken for the tragedy this disease can cause and frustrated and angry that young women don't always get treated as quickly as they should.
Over 50% of women don't self check, that stat is even higher in young women. I was once one of those women, I never thought this disease would land at my door. But my story and the story of every young woman out there diagnosed with Breast cancer is evidence enough that Breast Cancer can affect anyone, 1 in 7 women will receive a Breast Cancer diagnosis. We can't change that stat but we can ensure that the disease is caught early resulting in better prognosis' and more lives saved.’
FOLLOW KREENA'S STORY ON Instagram @KREENADHIMAN
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