June 25, 2021

Namita Das talks on her journey of finding the CAN in Cancer

It’s a proud moment each and every time when we get to feature an inspiring story. This one is a story of a mum who is a Cancer Survivor…we would rather say Cancer Fighter.

A story that is as strong as the streak of sunlight to a person living in a dark tunnel- Namita Das shares her journey of overcoming not just one challenge of Cancer, but depression, turning to a single parent , overcoming the negative feelings and more.

Namita Das now based in Mumbai, shares with Mums and Stories, “ On 2nd June 2015, on the verge of giving birth to a baby, my life should have been a mix of happiness and nervousness. Though I was mentally prepared to be a mom, I wasn’t prepared for many other things that followed in life.

A 30-year-old chartered professional working overseas in a MNC, married for 5 years, I should have been the happiest person in this world but alas in spite of being blessed with the most beautiful angel in this world, my life began to fall apart.

On one side I was coping with the pressure of being a new mother and on the other side my mom had been diagnosed with cancer, metastatic breast cancer or Stage IV breast cancer. It was a time when I needed the most support I could get from my partner, someone I had dreamt a lifetime with, but it was in such an adversity, I realized our marriage was over.

We had gone through so much in our lives to be together, even lost a child together and despite this at the threshold of becoming parents, we drifted apart.

It was at that time my mom had finished her cancer treatment and come to stay with me.

She told me, ‘Dear, you must be strong for your little one’. My mom was the heart and soul of our family, our strength and solace but God decided to take her away from us on Jan 27, 2016, within 9 months after her diagnosis. After that our life didn’t seem normal. The only person who kept us alive was my little angel. She came at a point of time in my life when I had lost my marriage and now my mother. But she made life worth living for.

After two  years of separation and one  year of court case, it was a sunny afternoon on April 12, 2017 when our lives were permanently altered, the divorce petition had been filed mutually. For good or bad, I didn’t stop to think. All I had in front of my eyes was that I must live on for my little girl, she wasn’t a mistake in my life.  I have heard some people say bad things happen in three’s.

Yet after losing a parent and going through a divorce, I never imagined that something more could be lurking at my door. But there I was standing under the shower, on the same evening of April 12th, shattered within from a 7-year-old marriage that had come to an end, underweight and basically just tired of life, when I felt a lump on my right hand side near my armpit. Hmm…no, it can’t be, I am just 31 years old, I thought to myself.

A casual ultrasound revealed something wrong. “Are you sure that you have never felt it grow as its pretty huge?” the radiologist asked.

What followed was a roller-coaster ride of consultations, scans, tests, etc., and finally, the results were out. Like every student who fears whether they have passed or failed, I knew I had failed from the look on the faces of the doctors and nurses.

“We will need to go for a mastectomy, 4 AC, 12 Taxol, 25 radiation sessions and a 10-year hormone therapy”. I didn’t understand a word the doctor said to me, but I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. That’s when the doctor realized that she wasn’t talking to a bystander but the patient herself. So she started over, ‘You are in Stage 3 advanced breast cancer as your lump has grown in size but not spread anywhere.

It’s not genetic but we don’t know why or how you got it. We just know now that we need to act fast before it spreads. Do you have any concerns?’ I answered, ‘I have a 2-year-old girl and I am a single parent. Will I be able to live and bring her up on my own? I am all she has’. The doctor looked at me and she said, ‘Of course you will and you will fight this battle for her.’ Then started the process of preparing myself for the hard treatment.

My dad, brother and my sister- in- law seemed more broken than me but I decided to stay strong for them. My relatives and friends stood like a rock, they cried behind me, prayed for me, and laughed with me. Their love kept me going. Then came the tough part, how do I get it across my office.

No, I can’t face the stares, the sympathy or empathy. I broke the dreaded news finally to my boss, my HR manager and my closest friends in office, their eyes filled up with grief, but they assured me whether you tell the team or not, we are mentally fighting this battle with you throughout! Don’t worry about anything else in life, just go ahead and get better. I should have considered myself lucky. So, what if my life has been so bad, I had people who loved me and were willing to be there for me and my child but honestly, I felt alone and scared. How will I do this by myself?

What I had noticed from my mom’s cancer days was that the mental preparation was much more needed than building the physical stamina. You may not break if one day you feel tired after the chemo but you will break when suddenly you realise you don’t have your hair, eyelashes and eyebrows!

I started with chopping off my foot-long hair and ordered a wig online, Brazilian blowout, I would lie if someone asks about the straight hair texture of my wig. Having no clue about what a Brazilian blowout means, I thought I was ready for the no breast and no hair days ahead. The surgery was not that bad except to look at my naked self in the mirror.

So, what! I thought to myself, I may look distorted but if my 2 year old can hug me and say I love you, am I not still the most beautiful girl in this world! Next was the most dreaded part, the CHEMO. After the first session, all the usual symptoms came at once; the metallic taste, the nausea, the inability to sleep, drink, eat, the frustration of telling your loved ones to back off, and many other unexplainable feelings.

Having seen my mom in that stage was no less easy but facing it on my own was another painful experience. After the second one, I felt detached from family and work, I didn’t feel like living. There were times I would sit like dead at office and home.

I was depressed but didn’t want to give up. Like a zombie, I was just going from work to home to hospital. I hit rock bottom after the third one. I told the doctor, “Let me die please. I don’t want to live. I have gone through so much bad, please just let me die”.

The doctor asked me,” how old is your daughter?”

 I was like she’s 2.4 months old. “So dear are you telling me you want to leave her alone in this world and go, is that what you want?”

I stood up and decided I will fight. I used to drive myself to work to hospital to home, met all my work deadlines and did everything I still had the energy to do at home, even managed to take my daughter for a stroll. I never gave an element of doubt to my colleagues, kept replying to emails even from the chemo bed! It was tough, but I knew if I fall now, I can never make a world for my love.

Unfortunately, my doctor decided to start my hormone therapy at that dreaded point of time. So the hormone tablets and unforeseen circumstances of my life made me livid with rage. My anger was at its peak and I didn’t know how to cope with my pain. People started noticing that there was something wrong in my body language, but I didn’t know what to do. My radiation sessions were going on and every day I would cry myself to sleep. I did talk about it to his friends and mine, but I didn’t feel I could get over the shock of what had happened. I don’t know why it hurt so much but it did.

The change in my attitude began to affect my relationships at work and my boss called me to his room one day to discuss this. ‘What’s wrong? You are not the same as before. I wept. I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted to quit.

So, he looked at me and asked, “Is there something wrong at work?” By the time I was done taking him through the saga of my divorce, my hormone therapy, my boss seemed to be in a bad state! “Please take a break”, he said. This was something I always heard from my doctor as well, but now my boss was ordering me to. “I don’t want to see you at work tomorrow. Go wherever you want but come back to work after a month and tell me what you want.”

I was lost. I didn’t know where to go or what to do to get better.

I was totally clueless, but I knew I needed a break. I wanted to feel sorted in life, more than for me for the little one who called me mom. There was a huge responsibility thrust upon me each time she called me MOM and hugged me.

So, I set out on a journey to rediscover myself. After one month, not only had I discovered what I wanted, I also felt I could breathe freely again. I HAD BATTLED CANCER, NOW I CAN’T GIVE UP ON MY LIFE. I WANT TO LIVE AGAIN. I knew I was ready to break free from where I was, I am not scared anymore, I can take that risk of starting my life all over again. For a start, I wanted to face the world without a wig!

The hardest part was that I needed to let go of the past.  I need to smile for the people who stood by me, who cared for me rather than the people who I thought cared about me. If someone would ask me now which was the hardest, losing a child, losing a parent, divorce, or cancer, I would say cancer is the easiest as that is a pain that can be cured if you are mentally and physically strong but the pain of losing someone you love, that’s not curable. Only time can heal that scar. I told my doctor, its time I stop seeing these four walls of the hospital. I want to live beyond cancer and break free from this routine. I was lucky my company helped me start my new life anew in a busy city in India by transferring me to their branch there. It wasn’t easy shifting my life from the place I have spent most of my cherished days to an unknown place.

My loved ones didn’t want me to go but I knew if I stayed back, I would revisit the same memories again. No one can prevent bad things from happening. I knew I had to stay strong for my sunshine and give her a life she deserves. These last 3 years were the worst in my life but the lessons I learnt from them will be with me for a lifetime. It has been a tough ride for me, but I have now found the will to live on for my little one. I think each of us has a purpose in life. It’s just that we need to find that purpose and keep going when the going gets tough. It is easy to give up and difficult to fight. But once you have fought your worst fears, you can face any hardship in life.

If I didn’t have the courage to say I have been through a divorce and cancer, my little one wouldn’t have the same. I want to protect her from the negativity, but I don’t want to keep her away from reality. The rebounding of life after the treatment has been extra special. I realised how immaterial it was to worry about the shape of your eyebrow when I didn’t have one, to paint your nails when they were falling off, to have some block of hair, white or black as against no hair!

My outlook on what makes a person beautiful has changed. I think that has added more beauty to my life. The colour on my cheeks is back, my nails look normal, my eyelashes and eyebrows have grown, and my bald head is covered with thick greyish black hair. To conclude, I never thought I would have the courage to share my story one year ago, but I realised all of us battle different hardships every day. If my battle can help you look at life differently and bring a ray of hope in your life, then I know for sure I have won my battle and so have my loved ones. Never give up on this journey of life.

The human spirit is much stronger than anything that can happen to it. I choose to keep hope, so can you.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the ONLY option you have.”

We at Mums and Stories wish Namita the very best in life and of course this story can be such a huge inspiration for all those going through rough patches in life. It is incredible to see the journey of a soul who has battered many bruises and still chose to remain strong.

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