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Roshan and Nisha’s wedding was no less than a fairytale affair. Being childhood sweethearts, they had planned it all out for their future. Or at least they thought they had. But one day, all of that seemed to change when Roshan got a call from Nisha saying that she had felt a lump in her right breast while showering that morning.
Nisha had a bad feeling that the lump was not a cyst (she had a couple of those earlier). The two of them fixed an appointment with their doctor, who then told them to visit a surgeon. The surgeon asked Nisha to do a mammogram and a sample of her breast tissue was taken for a biopsy. Their worst fears were true: the radiologist showed them the mammogram film which highlighted the tumor clearly. Their surgeon gave them the grim news: it was cancer, and it was of an aggressive kind, that was already grade three . Nisha would have to undergo an operation to remove both the tumor, and the lymph nodes under her right arm as a precaution.
The surgeon also did an additional test which indicated that Nisha was “HER2 positive” (what that means is that the cancer cells have a particular protein called “HER2”). Nisha was to have chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy in conjunction with hormone therapy, and finally a course of Herceptin. The Herceptin treatment was applicable to Nisha because her cancer cells had the HER2 protein.
Roshan’s feelings over the coming days ranged from anxiety to frustration and helplessness. Breast cancer doesn't just affect the woman diagnosed with breast cancer: it also affects her partner. But he quickly realised that there were lots of areas where he could help. Nisha wasn’t really able to take in what was being said by the medical team. Roshan would discuss at home with Nisha what was being offered regarding treatment and the consequences of the treatments. They were given a number of helpful leaflets, dealing with all aspects of living with breast cancer, from exercise and diet, to how to deal with the hair fall, to motivational tips to stay strong through the entire process. Roshan would also spend time surfing the internet to gain more insights into the disease and read about how other families had survived this type of cancer. He had found a role that he could take on — being her interpreter.
Roshan says, “No matter how awkward it feels at the moment, it’s important to accept help. You are in for a journey and you can't burn out it the 1st mile. Buffer your wife from take anything you can, take anything off of her plate that you can so that she can focus on healing and getting well.”
Roshan has a word of advice for other husbands and family members who have someone dear to them fighting cancer, “though she may be a fighter by nature, a woman with breast cancer is often in no physical shape to battle hospital formalities, doctors, nurses, or anyone else, especially you. It's your job to take her side and ask the hard questions. You can keep track of doctor's appointments, medications, prescriptions, hospital bills, test reports, and all the paperwork that typically makes up a patient’s journey.”
“Cancer doesn't mean the world has to grind to a halt. If you and your wife have normal routines and things you enjoy doing, try to keep them up to the extent possible. Spirituality should not be neglected in this fight. It can unite you with the source of your greatest strength,” he adds.
Today, most people would rather hear the honest truth about their medical condition than a sweetened-up lie. And when a family decides to face the same facts together, whatever they are, they are better able to handle it and stay together through the treatment, and beyond.
Nisha and Roshan’s relationship has matured by leaps and bounds, so has their sense of respect for each other. Roshan says, “We tend to take relationships for granted but it is during such trying times that we discover the value of people in our lives. As time goes by, the disease may fade from your mind. But you cannot rush the process. It’s only natural that the process is faster for the husband than for the wife. Your wife has more fatigue, and her body may continually remind her of breast cancer. So she still needs your patience and understanding. Be there for her always, a loving husband in sickness and in health.”
We hear you, Roshan. Hats off to both of you!
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