Real life hero: Suvidha Gupta's weapon against breast cancer is her optimism

"If staying positive actually helps to treat cancer then I am the living example,” says breast cancer survivor Suvidha Gupta.

Suvidha did not let breast cancer control her life. It is her positive approach that helped her sail through the condition.

In November 2017, I noticed a lump in my left breast. Without giving it a second thought, I consulted my doctor who asked me to wait for the next six months to reach a conclusion. After six months, in May 2018, I was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer, says 44-year-old Suvidha Gupta from Delhi. In those 6 months, her lump kept growing, but fortunately, it was not a painful or complicated experience for Suvidha. A chartered accountant by profession, she has always been a very pragmatic person. So this whole episode of breast cancer was more of a practical lesson for Suvidha rather than an emotional journey. While her treatment is on, Suvidha hasn't allowed her disease to control the reins of her life. Alongside her therapies, this strong-willed woman carries on with her passions (yoga classes and music lessons) and makes sure her normal routine is unhindered.

Suvidha's treatment regimen:

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Suvidha's cancer cells were localised to a portion of her left breast. So she had the option of removing only the cancerous part with the help of a procedure called Neo Breast Formation through Breast Preservation/Conservation Surgery (breast formation after removal of cancer). The affected part of Suvidha s breast was removed with adequate margins making sure that no gross, as well as a microscopic disease, is left behind. The rest of her breast was then subjected to radiation therapy. Tissue from her remaining breast was realigned to make the new breast. Following her surgery, Suvidha went on to traditional chemotherapy. On the basis of her lump s biopsy, Suvidha's cancer profile required some medicines which are inserted thrice every three weeks along with hormonal tablets. She will have to take the hormonal tablets for the coming 10 years. "Suvidha has to undergo a few more chemotherapy sessions and her radiotherapy for is about to start. It will continue for one and a half months," says her physician Dr. Mandeep Singh, HOD, Head, Neck & Breast Oncoplasty, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.

Optimism is the key

Suvidha took everything practically. If the breast conservation surgery has to happen, it has to happen. There is no two way to it. Moreover, I have always been supported by my family in this journey," says Suvidha. Her husband was the first one to know about her cancer followed by her kids. My positive approach is what is getting me through it all. Earlier she practised yoga for good physique but now she does it for inner strength. Suvidha took everything in her own stride and fought her condition with a lot of strength. "I always want to paint an optimistic image for my children so that they carry forward the same strength and positive attitude in life," she says. Suvidha doesn't take her life for granted anymore and lives like there is no tomorrow. "Earlier I would save things up for the future. For example, earlier, if I bought a new bed sheet, I would save it for the day my guests would come. But after cancer, I have stopped waiting. Now I use it for myself," reflects Suvidha.

Her mantra for others:

Suvidha strongly vouches for a pro-active approach. Do not delay visiting your doctor. If you observe a lump anywhere on your body do not underestimate it. If you seek medical help at the right time, your cancer can be treated," says this champion of optimism. If staying positive actually helps to treat cancer then I am the living example, she says. Eat healthily, keep a healthy lifestyle and never take your life for guaranteed. "Live your life at the fullest today and do not wait for a better tomorrow to realise your dreams. Your time is now. Do not compare your condition with others as it does no good to you and only adds stress," observes Suvidha.

Doctor's Corner:

Suvidha's physician Dr. Mandeep Singh, HOD, Head, Neck & Breast Oncoplasty, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj is of the opinion that 80 per cent of the times breast cancer is benign and curable if you are aware and take timely actions. "The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reports that breast cancer in Indian women is a decade younger in comparison to their western counterparts. If cancer is diagnosed in the 1st or 2nd stage, it can help save women in 90 per cent cases. Therefore, it is imperative that women, especially in India, talk openly about it before the situation goes beyond repair as Suvidha did," says Dr. Singh. Here, he sheds light on Suvidha's journey and fights against breast cancer.

Q. What were the complications in Suvidha's case?

A. Suvidha has an active lifestyle. She noticed a lump in her left breast which initially was surgically operated as a general breast abscess by her family doctor. Post this, when she came to us, it was found out that she is suffering from first stage breast cancer on further investigation.

Q.What was the procedure of breast conservation surgery?

A. The affected part of Suvidha s breast was removed with adequate margins making sure no gross, as well as microscopic disease, was left behind. The rest of the breast was subjected to radiation therapy. Tissue from her residual breast was realigned to make the new breast. Her surgery was followed by 3-4 weeks of recovery after which she was suggested chemotherapy. Now she s is due for radiation therapy.

Q. Were there any challenges that you faced while performing Suvidha's breast reconstruction surgery?

A. We had to preserve the nipple also. The margins are taken just at the nipple and we try to preserve it if there is no cancer in the nipple. But her previous surgery posed an issue for us and we were not sure if we can preserve her nipple or not. Fortunately, we did. The volume was also slightly more so we had to reshape the breasts. Her reshaped breasts lost more than 20 per cent of the previous volume.

Q. Apart from medications what lifestyle changes have you suggested her post surgery?

A. She needs an active lifestyle. I suggested physiotherapy post breast surgery to prevent swelling in her arms. After Suvidha s chemotherapy, we will suggest her certain exercises and a healthy diet which contains antioxidants like turmeric, green vegetables like carrot, fruits, which prevents cancer from coming back.

Q. In any type of treatment, especially in a disease like cancer, patient cooperation is a must for success. The doctor and the patient fight the disease together. So, how has your experience been with Suvidha in this regard?

A. Yes, she was very positive and accepting of anything and everything that was required to treat her cancer.

Q.What will be your tips be to keep cancer at bay?

A. Stay positive, eat healthily, get your cancer screening done as early as possible. Every month women should diligently examine their breasts by performing self-examination along with an annual mammography screening. Basically, comparing mammograph reports of two consecutive years helps to diagnose cancer and hence, following it annually is very important to identify the condition in its earliest stage. Women between the age of 45 and 55 should get their mammography done every year and those above 55 should get the screening done every two years.

Pregnancy also helps to keep cancer at bay as it provides women with nine months of continuous exposure to progesterone which reduces the risk of developing cancer. There exists an interplay of oestrogen and progesterone hormones in women. Oestrogen is the building block hormone and progesterone is the stabilizer hormone. During the menstrual cycle, the first 14 days are oestrogen and the next 14 days are of progesterone. If women are exposed to higher levels of oestrogen for long, it will result in excessive cell division and mutation. Thus, less oestrogen exposure reduces the incidence of cancer and pregnancy ensures just that.

Keep stress and obesity at bay and as both increase your oestrogen levels. Smoking also increases the incidence of cancer as carbon binds to the oestrogen receptor in the women s body and basically adds an extra unit of risk.

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