A breast cancer survivor shares her story

At 63, former anchor and freelance columnist Jyothi Pathare Joshi, a freelance columnist, is fighting breast cancer with courage. She is determined to spread awareness regarding it via blogging and become a role model for those women who are battling this notorious cancer.

Her tryst with breast cancer has been life-changing. But being a braveheart, she strives every day to send across the message that cancer patients should not be looked down upon with sympathy. Jyothi gives an insight into her journey with breast cancer.

Days before cancer, but with other ailments

Jyothi calls herself a free-spirited woman with a positive approach.

“Life was smooth during the early years when I was an anchor with Doordarshan and a freelance columnist too. In 1985, I got diabetes, and I am on insulin for 37 years. Other problems like cholesterol, hypothyroidism and those rods in the spine managed to bother me but for a shorter period of time, as I lead a
healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Around 2 years ago, she also underwent gall bladder surgery. But nothing stopped her from following her passion for writing.

“I am a great cook and an avid blogger. During the lockdown, I would upload recipes on my blog ‘Aaicha Hathcha Jevan’. I believe one has to have his/her own identity and should strive to work towards it,” she said.

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October was observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Life during lockdown

Like any doting mother would, Jyothi took care of her daughter’s family when they contracted Covid-19. “After they recovered, I resumed blogging and continued with my normal routine. Since I love cooking, I tried new recipes and kept myself occupied with other household work like cleaning, and dusting.”

One fine day, her life changed.

The big word cancer

It was mid-June 2021 when Jyothi spotted a lump in her left breast. There were no other symptoms, she shares. While she found it alarming, Jyothi felt it was best to discuss it with her daughter Amrutha, and they immediately headed to the hospital. She underwent a sono-mammogram and a biopsy, and then came the big reveal: She had Stage 2 breast cancer.

“I didn’t know how to react. My family members were shocked. I didn’t expect it as everything happened all of a sudden. But, I was determined to fight it out. I didn’t cry or lock myself up in the room. Neither did I feel like ‘Why me?’ There was no
self-pity or thought ‘Do I deserve this?’ I was not in a denial mode as I believe in the power of acceptance,” said Jyothi.

This approach helped her to not get bogged down, and she just wanted to get rid of cancer.

“I have so many health issues, but I kept calm and fought them. Now, cancer was one of them, and I was ready to defy it.”

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Make that mammogram an annual affair. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
The cancer treatment

After the (PET) scan to detect cancer at the end of June, she met Dr Tanveer Abdul Majeed, a surgical oncologist, Zen Multispeciality Hospital, Chembur, Mumbai, who advised her to get admitted without any delay. Soon after, she underwent radical mastectomy, a surgical procedure involving the removal
of the left breast.

“There were small lumps in my right breast which could have given me a tough time in the future, and that was removed too via lumpectomy,” recounts Jyothi, who was advised four cycles of chemotherapy.

On losing a body part after breast cancer

“Breast is often associated with feminism. It is traumatic for women to lose a body part. They can become anxious, stressed, feel unwanted, and frustrated. But, in my case, I was confused about whether to be sad about losing a body part or to be happy about getting rid of the cancerous cells,” she said.

But yet again, she reminded herself that “acceptance matters”.

“I accepted it and moved on. Cancer will be scary only when you get scared. So, don’t get tense at all,” is Jyothi’s message to every breast cancer fighter.

Coping with chemotherapy during cancer journey

She has so far completed one cycle out of 4 under Dr. Nilesh Lokeshwar. She faced chemotherapy side effects like constipation, hair loss, and even jaw pain. But she said, “This is the time you have to help yourself. I never just sat and
cried in pain. Instead, I came out with solutions to manage the pain.”

How did she tackle jaw pain?

“I would just keep 2 small pieces of cucumber in the mouth, and that would allow me to open up my jaw,” she shared.

Slowly and steadily after resting a few days after chemotherapy, she started cleaning, dusting, and even cooking at home. “I would also inject myself on my own. Of course, I have asked the doctor before resuming my daily routine and I don’t exert or lift any heavy objects. I do everything slowly at my pace, and eat a well-balanced diet,” Jyothi added.

Also Read: Life after breast cancer: An expert talks about what to expect and how to manage

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Cancer patients need a strong emotional support system. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Life after cancer

Jyothi says her journey with cancer was a surprisingly painless one. “I didn’t concentrate on pain much. My focus was on battling cancer. I believe I have a good pain tolerance threshold,” she said.

Her advice to all cancer fighters:
  • Do not have a negative approach when you suffer from cancer
  • Take one day at a time and live from moment to moment
  • Instead of being a victim of cancer, I choose to be a fighter
    I am filled with faith and hope and have the support of everyone
  • I plea everyone to not neglect any changes occurring in the body
  • Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It affects anyone of any age, ethnicity, and economic status
  • Be proactive about your health. Take charge of your health and give away all the vices
  • Exercise, eat a well-balanced diet, maintain an optimum weight, go for regular screening like mammograms
  • Listen to the cues given by your body, educate yourself about cancer
  • Do not dwell on cancer or you’ll make yourself crazy. Keep yourself occupied and avoid believing everything you read on the internet
The last words

Jyothi is determined to keep spreading awareness about cancer.

“Cancer has given me enormous strength to face challenges again that may arise in the near future. Moreover, it has also given me a new hairstyle, said the fighter who credits her family members for being her “pillars of strength”.

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