Dedicated to a fighter who chose hope over everything.
Cancer cannot cripple love, cannot shatter hope, cannot conquer the spirit!
I firmly believe human spirit is stronger than anything.
Today I feel privileged to pen down the story of a young girl who braved the storm to face the sunshine. She knew that Cancer had started the fight but she was determined to finish it with victory.
Circa January 2017- Priyanka Taware had everything in life taking a fluent course. A loving family, a satisfying job after completion of MBA- there was nothing more she could ask for. In fact, she had grabbed a job through campus placement even before completion of her MBA. With a spring in her step and a zesty beat in her heart, she welcomed each day with the exuberance of a teenager.
And then the unthinkable happened. After a short bout of illness that seemed perpetually innocuous, she was diagnosed to be suffering from Pericardial Effusion. In common parlance, it meant that there was water accumulation near her heart. Not normal water but infected water! It was the 14th day of February 2017, Valentine Day for most young couples. No doubt, Priyanka was having a love affair too, only the expression was different. Today her loving heart was overpowered by an aching one. She longed desperately to embrace no one but life.
The coming days were a medley of haze with doctors trying to figure out the reason for infection. A 2D Echo revealed that her heart was almost floating in water. This was a shock for someone with such excellent immunity that she never suffered even a bout of fever in her childhood.
Priyanka had to be transferred to an operation theatre to extract infected water out of her system. As she tried to come to terms with the situation, a 5mm pipe of 6 to 7 metre length was inserted into her body to drain out infected water. She was baffled when doctors removed 1.5 litres water. It was the test of her patience as she was not administered any anaesthesia and the whole procedure was carried out right in front of her eyes. Yes, she witnessed everything on the screen!
More so, the pipe was still left inside her body for 4 more days to see if there was still any water drainage. At the end of this ordeal, 2 cans of infected water were almost full. It was heart rendering for her parents to see their child undergoing such trauma.
The infected water was sent for examination. A battery of tests were conducted for cancer, T.B. etc. but the results came out to be negative. After spending 10 days in the ICU, Priyanka was discharged with the conclusion that some sort of viral infection had caused the condition. Doctors were baffled with her condition, they even concluded that pollution may have caused this infection.
It took her 3 months to catapult back to normal routine which juggled between going to work and heading back home. As life finally seemed to be settling, she was struck with a stubborn cough which got worse with time. The cough persisted for more than 3 weeks with symptoms like breathlessness, dizziness, blackouts and poor appetite popping up. Priyanka was not left with any choice but to visit the hospital once again. A 2D Echo was done and this time the result shook her insides. She was diagnosed with a tumor near her heart. She had to hospitalized without any delay. The nature of her disease was such that the doctors were puzzled if she really had tumor, or it was simple fat deposition near her heart. Focusing on latter, the doctors administered blood-thinning injections to her for 10 days in hope of diluting the blood clots (fat). The excruciatingly painful injections were given in her stomach. Dismally, this did not bear any positive results, and the doctors were left with no choice but to go ahead with biopsy. The doctors advised biopsy but decided against performing the procedure because of the strategic location of her tumor which lay between her lungs and heart. It required the dexterity of an expert to perform the procedure as any wrong prick could damage her heart.
Even more agonizing than her affliction was to watch her parents run helter-skelter in search of a good hospital which would accept her intricate case. After much persuasion, MPCT Cancer Speciality Hospital at Sanpada became her saviour as they agreed to perform biopsy. Priyanka was shifted overnight to this hospital in a confused and nearly unconscious state.
Under normal circumstances, biopsies are carried out in Operation Theatres (OT), but owing to the complexity of Priyanka’s case, it was decided to conduct her procedure in the CT scan bed. The CT scan machine allowed the team of doctors to locate the precise site of her tumor. The whole exercise took 30 minutes, and they could finally mark the exact location using a scale and pen. The procedure entailed inserting a injection-pump (with a nozzle) into her upper body, through which 3 samples were extracted for biopsy.
All this while, Priyanka was fully conscious and in deep pain. As before, she was not administered any anaesthesia this time too. It was indeed a very tormenting experience as Priyanka’s hands, feet and neck were tied during the entire procedure. She watched the needle prick her insides, felt the pump siphon out the sample but she refrained from exhibiting any emotions. She tried to regain her composure by inhaling deeply and exhaling calmly, constantly reminding herself- Breathe darling, this is just a chapter, not your whole life!
She cried softly into her pillow, careful enough to not let her parents notice her agony. She did not want to disturb her parents who were already going through such harrowing times. Ironically, her parents themselves took her samples to TATA Memorial Center for examination. This is because her procedure ended at 4 pm and TATA Memorial Center closes at 5 pm. For them it was a race against time. They did not want a delay of even a few hours.
Despite frantic efforts by Priyanka’s parents, her report was delayed by almost a month.
Those were the days of deep anguish; Priyanka was caught up between the pain of her disease and the apprehension of the pending report. Finally, after 25 days, it was diagnosed that her illness was a rare form of cancer, called Angiosarcoma Cancer. It was the cancer of the soft tissue. Ironically, Priyanka was the second person in the whole country to be afflicted with this rare disease.
Now that the calamity had struck with a thunderous bolt, it was time for swift action. There was a long road ahead but Priyanka had a determination to come out victorious. The days that followed were caught in chemotherapy sessions. In routine cancer cases, doctors suggest surgery followed by chemotherapy, and finally radiation to kill the remaining diseased cells. However, Priyanka’s sensitive case refrained doctors from performing any surgical procedure. The oncologist suggested 12 sessions of chemotherapy to begin immediately.
Knowing the reputation of TATA Memorial Center in handling rare cancer cases, Priyanka’s parents tried getting her case referred there but in vain. The 3-month wait period was too much as sarcoma is a fast spreading cancer which requires immediate treatment. Her treatment began at the private hospital, her sessions spread over 12 weeks (one chemotherapy session/week).
The procedure required Priyanka to get admitted to the hospital every Tuesday and undergo a battery of blood tests to ascertain if her body could sustain the strenuous chemotherapy sessions the following day. Each cycle took almost 8 hours in which a combination of powerful drugs was infused into her body. In the first session, the intravenous infusion was given through Priyanka’s hand. The first cycle left her extremely disoriented and fatigued, her body heavy under the weight of potent drugs. Her digestive system was severely affected, she felt nauseated to even think about food. The doctors prescribed a protein-rich diet to boost her system.
Her next chemo session was given through leg as multiple tests and procedures had left the veins of her hands damaged. The doctors decided to insert a Chemo-port into the upper part of her body to save her from the gruelling pain. Mercifully, this time this procedure was carried under anesthesia which saved her already weak body from any further agony.
Soon after the third cycle of chemotherapy, Priyanka had to cope with the worst nightmare of her life. What she feared most came true, her beautiful mane which she so preciously admired had become the target of her ailment. Her hair had started falling as a result of the harsh medication. This was the ultimate test of her patience. She had to take a stand. She confronted the situation like a warrior and headed straight to the salon to shave off her beautiful hair. A bold decision taken! Only that she was not in this ordeal alone, her brother also shaved off his head to show his support and solidarity. This was the least he could do to endure what his adorable sister was going through! This loving gesture left the salon-staff deeply touched by his sentiments.
Lesson learnt-Giving up is simply not an option when you have a loving family who supports!
Sadly, this was not to be the end of her ordeal. After 6th session of Chemotherapy, her eyebrows and eyelashes also started giving away. She was clearly dissuaded. She stopped looking into the mirror lest her spirit may hit rock bottom. The times were indeed challenging but Priyanka left no stone unturned to perk herself out of the situation. She covered her shaved head in colorful scarves, donned bright make-up and wore beautiful dresses to uplift her mood. So much that the nurses at the hospital were pleasantly surprised to know that Priyanka was a patient. Her zest and kick-ass attitude was nowhere close to a cancer-patient’s broken spirit.
Her take was- Always keep your head towards the sunshine, the shadows will fall behind you!
Priyanka read motivational blogs, spiritual books and played with kids to pull herself out of these depressing spells. Between all this, she consciously refrained herself from exploring the internet about her disease. Her doctor had forewarned her about not getting overwhelmed by any information on the internet. Half-baked knowledge is the most dangerous thing in world- she promised herself to not get swayed by the temptation of googling her case online.
Not only this, she pulled herself away from people with condescending attitude, the ones who tried too hard to sympathize with her. She consciously surrounded herself with positive, nourishing and uplifting people- the ones who believed in her and her dream to emerge victorious. Rhonda Byrn’s inspiring book “Secrets” was her soulmate during these testing times-The Great secret of life is the Law of Attraction or The Law of Creation. In simple words, Life is not happening to you, you are creating it! There in so such thing as hopeless situation. Every single circumstance in your life can change!
God always helps those who help themselves. Priyanka was a living example of this. Priyanka’s optimism bore fruit, her tumor shrunk to 50% its original size in just 6 sessions of chemotherapy. Whoa! God’s Grace, Miracle, Faith; it was happening, yes! her disease was going away. After next 6 sessions, her tumor reduced to 70% of its original size with a substantial decrease in cancer cell activity. Her quick recovery even had the doctors pleasantly surprised.
Priyanka was the result of her thoughts; her feelings were her greatest tools that had helped her sail through this crisis- every word from the book “Secrets” was coming true!
She felt ecstatic, more encouraged to move forward- she religiously immersed herself with nourishing
thoughts and healthy diet. The last phase of her treatment entailed Radiation Therapy at TATA Memorial Hospital. Under the able hands of Dr. Siddhartha Laskar, an expert of radiation therapy of bone and soft tissues, Priyanka
underwent 28 cycles of radiation therapy.
Visiting TATA memorial Center was an absolute life-changing experience for Priyanka. She felt traumatized to watch people with castrated limbs, disfigured mouth, deformed eyes, all lost to cancer. It was an awakening; her suffering was trivial. Her misery was nowhere near the trauma that newly-born babies afflicted with the deadly disease faced. Her soul cried to see infants with IV drips, writhing in pain.
These people had no roof over their head, no money to bear expenses of treatment at a private hospital- they were at the mercy of their fate. At this moment, she thanked God for letting her live a healthy life for at least 25 years. She thanked Almighty that her blessings were bigger than many of the problems others were facing.
Soon after her radiation therapy, all cancer cells in her body were dead. She was declared cancer-free. Priyanka was ecstatic, her days of pain were over at last. She was rejoicing the new phase of her life when the doctors broke a heart-shattering news once again. Even though she was free from the deadly disease, her tumor had not disappeared completely. Priyanka had to undergo a heart transplant. The news came as a shock and the family decided to seek a second opinion. As luck would have it, they met Dr. Anvay Mule from Mulund Fortis Hospital who decided against performing a heart transplant. He suggested that her case demanded a routine cardiac surgery.
As a protocol before any surgical procedure, one has to undergo a pre-anaesthetic checkup (PAC). It is a go-ahead for the surgery. As a part of PAC, a 2D Echo was done for Priyanka, just a couple of days before the surgery. To her elation, her 2D Echo showed that her tumor had shrunk considerably and she was fit as a fiddle. The doctors gave her a fitness certificate, she was all set to start life afresh. Doctors advised that she would only require a follow-up with MRI screening and 2-D Echo every year to rule out any relapse of the disease.
It was unreal, she could not believe her luck. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer. God had been kind. After 2 years of struggle and pain, she had come out of her battle triumphantly. It was just not her triumph but a battle won for her family and friends too. This chapter in her life taught her that a little support can go a very long way in someone’s life!
Her parents and brother were her strength throughout who stood by her side like a pillar of strength. Priyanka’s mother bore the wrath of her constantly changing mood swings; she bore patiently as she took care by providing her with healthy food with little spices, fresh fruits, and enough water to keep her hydrated.
After her radiation therapy, Priyanka’s parents took her to their village to keep her away from the polluted city air. They wanted her weak system to recover well in the pure environs and fed her with tulsi concoction and Ayurvedic medicines to rebuild her immunity.
Not to forget, her initial days after cancer detection were grief-struck; she questioned God- Why me? She had her full life ahead of her, her dreams lay unfulfilled; she tried to fathom why God was being so unkind and unfair? Her mind was in constant battle with her, so much that she was petrified of going to sleep. She was scared that she might not see the light of next day- that she would not wake up alive if she ever slept.
It tore her loved ones to watch her go through this trauma. At this moment, her cousin took it upon him to pull her out of this mental torture. He introduced her to the power of healing through meditation. She took motivation sessions with her that focused on eradicating the disease by virtue of one’s positive mindset and willpower.
In Priyanka’s own words-It is a blessing to have such people in your life. I thank them for being there. Also, you are your first motivator. If you have the will, all powers of universe will support you, no matter what.
Today, Priyanka is living a healthy and happy life, without worrying too much about future. She rightly says- This moment needs your attention, for this is where your life exists! Enjoy, have fun, be silly, seek pleasures in small things because life is too precious to be wasted on woes!
Priyanka Taware’s story is what dreams are made of. It is a celebration of her victory and of her loved
ones. As an inspiration, Priyanka Taware’s case was sent to America by the doctors at Fortis. Her file has also
been kept for case-study at TATA Memorial Center, Mumbai.
Hail Priyanka! We at Storyforyou.in pray for your healthy life ahead!
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