Women Fighters. Breast cancer: Stories of Victory!
Several decades have past since breast cancer has been considered a fatal disease. Chaikhana seeks to challenge this false impression and to give voice to the women who have defeated cancer, reminding others about the importance of regular mammograms - a diagnosis which has the potential to save the thousands of lives if detected in an early stage.
Breast cancer: Stories of Victory!
I descended the stairs of the 5-story building, exiting the diagnostic center located on the last floor. I remember, each step with tears in my eyes, but the tears were like hail, falling down the marble stairs into emptiness. I couldn’t even conceptualize what was inside my breasts, I just felt as if I carried the burden of the whole earth upon my shoulders. I heard the sound of the falling tears, like stones hitting the marble and echoing. Maybe, it was the most difficult part; reflecting how the tears hit upon the stone floor. I could not even ponder that I could have such a disease. When I was diagnosed, I thought it is not me. I thought it is not me sitting there, I thought I was standing and looking at myself from the side and listening, but another Uma was sitting and watching. I was watching from afar that another Uma was sitting and doctors were telling her these terrible words. But I, I was standing behind her and watching.
In 1997, I was diagnosed with cancer. But everything started earlier, in 1990, the first tumors appeared. I link this disease with the political stress of that decade, I was nervous about current happenings, the army in the city, shootings, tanks… when the first tumors appeared, the doctor gave me treatment, and every half a year thereafter, I was treated.
At that moment, cancer was already well known, but it was not so radicalised as today. In 1993, I had the first reddish tumors, and I was told, at that time, that there were already 12-13 tumors, which should be removed. The breast was saved, but then after the ultrasound, they had to eradicate the whole of my female organs, as they found fibroids and cysts.
In 1997, in the next appointments, the doctor made me urgently show myself to a mammalogist. Why was it so urgent, I thought? At that moment, everyone already knew about cancer, and I thought that if I have it and it is malignant, I was unequivocally condemned to death, and I will not be able to survive.
At that time, I had the 3rd form of cancer, and had to urgently be operated, and then I proceed with chimioterapia. I was advised to be shown to another doctor in the oncologist center, where the diagnosis was confirmed. There was a consilium, where I went with all my “heavy artillery of relatives” (laughing) there. Firstly, I was not allowed to enter, they discussed something without me, but in half an hour they called me and told that, as a modern and intelligent person, I should know that I am seriously ill, and I will have a serious treatment. The surgery, chemioterapia, irradiation, and the medicine that help in 70 out of 100 cases. And then they added that I have to help myself, for if doctors help just with 50%, another 50% is the person's duty help to himself, and I should banish the dark thoughts, believe in recovery, and trust doctors.
The most difficult part in my life was the period of recovery. After surgery, the sindroms remained. The arm, where the limphies removed, stopped working, it seems they touched a nerve. Slowly, I began to be recovered. I was feeling better. While waiting for the doctor, I had already started to calm down the other women, I told them, that in several months you will be recovered and you will feel better. To tell the truth, I did not believe at once, that I will live. I only understood it two years onwards.
As known, during chemotherapy, your hair falls off, and a women becomes bald, but not totally. The doctor told me, that if a person has any intelligence then all the hair falls off, however, some women become only partially bald. When I was bald, my brother told me, Thank God, now we know that my sister has intelligence.
During the chemotherapy I cannot even describe what is happening with one’s body.
After 3 years since undergoing chemotherapy, one of my livers was refused, moreover I had problems with my ears, and memory, and suffered from migraines.
My adventures with it did not finish. After the surgery and removing my breast, I had another tumor that had to be taken too. I took my sister in law, hiding from everyone, and went to the doctor to make the surgery. I had so many surgeries, I had 6 and did not want to tell anyone. For the person who passed through fire and water – this small operation seemed harmless.
I don’t think that the doctors should directly tell about a diagnose. It was hard to hear it, I think it would be easier if I would not know it. Perhaps, I am such a modern person. I know, that they don’t tell it to everybody. For instance, the wife of my nephew passed away without knowing her disease.
After the illness I started to socialize more. I wrote about it a lot, met with ill people and talked to them since I had a talk with the one woman. I called to calm down her but she asked several offensive questions. Where is the guarantee that if you recover, I will recover too, she asked me. It was hard to hear it. The response I heard was, “not everyone like you recover.” She blamed me that I survived. People are different.
Survivors after these illnesses change positively. I started to kiss flowers. Now I cannot even imagine it. How a person can sit and kiss flowers in the park. I did it, I loved all people, the whole planet, and everything that surrounded me, I saw the beauty all around, but now I cannot tell it about myself.
I really wanted to live. I was 43, and I had a dream to celebrate my 50th birthday. I even asked my brother to celebrate it in advance. Then, my brother said, if Reagan won the battle with cancer, and you think you won’t? Take into consideration, that they did not have such brothers and sisters like you! Truly, a family's support is a very important factor. Maybe God helped me, I don’t know, but something really helped, something all together.
Sure, the support of the family is a really big thing, but you also should trust your doctors too. Before chemotherapy, it was difficult for my brother to see me without hair and somebody told him not to torture me, and there was a professor who treated me with alternative medicine, and he asked me to go to him. I refused. I said, I believe the medicine, and doctors, let them do what they consider right to do. I just believed!
Usually, the all bad things are left behind, during this period, I met many interesting people. If earlier I was more introverted, as a survivor, I started to communicate with everybody, and understood that all people are equal. My values changed, my posture toward everything changed, as with my perception of the world also changed.
In 1997, there was no internet, but I find it very interesting and curious what they injected to me. I asked my nurse the name of the medicine, entered the pharmacy and asked the components of the medicines. Thus I knew that they injected snake's toxic in pure form.
Starting from 2009, I became internet addicted, spending all my days in chats and forums, writing and discussing the issues. There, I met so many interesting young people, all together, we went to shelters and orphanages. They still come to visit me.
I wrote a lot about this topic, I had a book about young people who met each other in an Oncologist Center. The guy was already bald, but he was very funny, despite his illness he had a wonderful sense of humor. I described everything from first face, how I lost him (she), and the description of these emotions.
Once, after the operation, I went out from the bathroom, and my nephew asked me “aunt, where are your boobs?” I pointed out on the hanger, and told him, you see, they are hanging on the hanger. At that time, there was a problem with prosthesis, so we improvised with whatever we could, doing something from cotton. I often looked at myself in the mirror and cried, it seemed to me that I just saw ugliness. But once he told me (he was 13), “Aunt, don’t cry, on the other hand, you will not have to ask people to turn, while you are changing the cloth.”
Nowadays, there is everything, but it is expensive. My first prosthesis, I wanted to give to someone, but nobody wanted them. I wrote under a penname in the internet, and one of my breasts was taken. This is a problem too, you cannot tell about it loudly, you cannot give adverts in the newspapers. I think, if it is in normal condition, you should donate it to someone.
Before the illness, I thought, there were so many bad and less fortunate people, after the illness I thought it is vice versa. I think, whatever happened in my life, and linked with the illness, - the acquaintances, people – it is good. Bad or good – it is my life.
Seven years have passed since I won the battle with cancer. At that time, I found a tumor in my breast myself, it appeared to be a mastopathy, but the tumor was in another side. I was 43, when the doctor told me to make a surgery and to remove the breast and all other female organs. I decided to remove them to live, why to die with a breast.
Nothing changed in my life. I don’t wear the prosthesis. I got used to living without them.
I have accepted 6 courses of chemotherapy, of course after operations, I did not feel anything, but the process of chemotherapy itself it was not just hard or difficult, it was hard to describe; except it was unbearable, it was terrible. I thought I had passed through all the circles of hell. I will not even wish it to my enemy. The bruises still did not exist, but I am alive, and this is the most important.
Nowadays, the doctors don’t call it cancer, but they tell it pretty openly, whether it is a malignant or benign tumor.
Of course, I was in shock. I cried for almost one whole day, but on the next day, I put on black glasses and went to get money from the bank. I am thankful to people for their help.
My classmates gathered money and payed almost the whole amount, the other part I took a loan in bank, then my friend wrote a letter to one of the biggest companies in Azerbaijan and one of the employees paid for all my chemotherapy sessions and gave me money for rehabilitation after it. When I called him to say thank you, he interrupted me, saying ‘thank you for giving me this opportunity to help you.’ At that moment, I understood that there are more good people rather than bad, everyone supported me.
Now It is hurtful for me to see or to know that someone died from it. I think, my strong personality helped me, I was sure, that everything will be good. I was sure in myself, and in my doctor. I did not go to another doctor. She said, I will get rid of it, and everything will be ok.
Today, It is difficult to gather the willpower to go to check myself in again. I cannot go to the oncologist center anymore. I feel conflicted when I see the queue of people. I was coming at 4 in the morning to take my line, and then was sitting in the cold hall to wait for my doctor.
It is hard for a woman to make this surgery, the climacteric, I gained extra kilos, had hormonal disruptions, the hand began to become paralyzed, but all these are worth it to live, to see my children, my grandchildren, my mother. I was bald, wearing headscarves, but never a wig. On my daughter's wedding I had very short hair, and everybody thought that her mother is an extremist. Despite this situation, my lack of conscious, black circles under the eyes, the yellow color of my face, it seemed to me that I felt and looked good enough.
My attitude towards many things has changed. I always had a lot of plants in my old apartment, but when we moved here all of them died. After it, I have started to plant flowers. I had a dog that died from the same illness that I suffered from.
This dog lived with us 14 years, and we adored it. It died and on the next day I went to get the analysis, and it turned out that I was fully recovered. I was very stressed when my dog passed away, because it took my illness. After several months, I bought another dog.
Now my attitude towards many things has changed, I became more tolerant, toward people too. Now, I live with the principle “I communicate with those, whom I really want to.”
When the person is ill, he clings to anything. I went to church very often, and I thought the holy “Matrona” helped me. The main thing is to believe, though, and not always seek importance in what that belief pertains to; whither in God, in the doctor, just to believe in it.
I have a friend, who hardly bears my disease, and after the surgery I had a gray lock, and it turned out that she had the same but in the reflection of mirror. Because of my strong personality, it turned out that I inspired my friends, assuring them that everything will be ok.
The destined who are to be burned, will not be drowned. Maybe I did everything on time, I did not have time to think.
It is said that a woman's cancer is an offense, a reaction to a woman's offense. With this disease all my offenses disappeared. I am not offended by someone anymore. In all situations it is important to look for the positive. My positive outlook was that this happened to me in the age of 43, and not to my children. You should find the positive, I have started to be smarter, kinder, I have more friends now, I started to love life more. You should not ask why, you should ask for what.
When I was ill, I told that I don't want anything anymore, just to be recovered. Yet as soon as it passes, you again want everything.
I think I was punished for something, I don’t even know what for. But during our younger years, we all make mistakes, though during that time we think that we do the right thing. There are acts and behaviours that you are ashamed of, and today you will never do that. But it is said that wisdom comes with age, maybe I would change something, but it is said that history has no subjective mood.
I persuaded myself that I was never ill when I went to an oncologist; I did not sympathize with the faces I saw there. These faces of suffering, you look at them and you don’t want to live anymore. I understand, it is hard, it is hurtful, but please don’t behave so that everyone will take pity on you. I did not know it myself; I was crying only the first week of my disease, then I gathered myself together. Unfortunately, our peers think that if you have a cancer, you will die. That's why, when, after the chemotherapy, you do something like go to zumba, and everybody thinks that you are insane.
In the summer of 2014, I found the tumor myself. The doctor told that it is mastopathy, I was not afraid, and did not start to have a treatment. The diagnosis was wrong. I went to Iran, and there I was told that everything is ok, they give vitamins, and it turned out later that it made the disease progress. It is absolutely should not have had. Consequently, in oncology they told that I have the 3rd type with metastasis. We went to Turkey, and the doctor said that I might have cancer, and on the third day he did a surgery.
After the operation, when I got up and saw my husband in tears, I started to calm him down, assuring him that it is not the end of the world. Instead of supporting me, I asked, why have you already buried me.
I understood that it is not the end of the world. My mission did not finish, I was not broken.
I don’t know, but I became more powerful, and I started to love the life. All my life I was not satisfied with my life, always complaining, saying that I was fed up with everything, everything was wrong.
When God sent this disease to me, I accepted it as a respectable and dignified lesson, I was sure that if he gave it to me he gave it for something. Apparently, everything was not so bad as I imagined, and I had to face it to understand that.
When you sit and complain that you don’t have a second pair of shoes, or another coat, the last phone, and then when you pay every 21st day 2,000 manat for medicine, you understand, that it is not the most important thing. Everyone who has passed through such kind of ‘fatal’ diseases has changed something in their life. I began to love myself, to look after and take care of myself, that I never did before.
I was thinking about my children, what will they do without me. But most of all the turkish doctors supported me. For example, when I came here, and visited the doctor in Azerbaijan, he asked whether I take the antidepressants or not, I answered no. He was surprised that I don’t like an ill person. I remember I saw a girl in the hospital in a very bad condition, she looked at me and asked how I can be like this. How can I sit and laugh, how can I have red lipstick. She was surprised that I had cancer.
In Turkey their attitude towards cancer is different. I met many women, and everybody accepts it as an exam.
I think, all women are strong, everything comes from the head, we attract everything. For example, it can be because of stress. I cannot call myself a winner, I am continuing my treatment and it will last for 5 years.
I was 31, when the disease was found. I had difficult relations with my husband, he is a very impulsive person, and all these nerves, emotional days, so I think this is the reason. Despite that I had the first level of the cancer, but it was a very aggressive form. I found it myself, and I would never think that at the age of 30 I could have a such disease. The doctor was 90% sure that it is benign, but it turned out that it was malignant. It grew very fast, that's why during a week I had an operation. That was 3 years ago. Nowadays, cancer became a very young desease, and it is became more aggressive.
The doctor asked me to sit, and the only thing he said, was that I would have a long process of treatment. He said that my tumor is malignant, but gave guarantees that I would survive and be well recovered. Of course, I had shock, it was like I was smiling, but felt how the tears rolled down. Sure, it was offensive to hear.
I wanted to ''kill'' my friends, who felt sorry for me. I saw the fear, pityness, tears in their eyes. My husband tried to persuade me that I was deceived, and these results of the analysis are not mine. They had to calm me down, but it was vice versa.
The most difficult in this was the chemotherapy. After it, I was bald for a whole year. The immunity was down till 0, I started to drink carrot juice.
Then I had an idea to go and to get a driving license. My husband promised to buy a car for me, and I started to distract my attention.
I understood that I should not die, I have a husband, children, parents, and I felt this responsibility on me.
In 2010 I was in a screening center and they told me that I have a cancer. I had a partial removal and 8 chemotherapies.
I thought, there are worst situations, when there are no choices. In such moments, the most important part is psychological durability. The person has a need not only for their health, but psychological durability too.Before the operation, I did makeup, hair, although they removed my make-up, but after the operation I immediately did it again.
After chemotherapy, I did not stay in bed, I got up and went to work. I went to ‘Gamarjoba’ club, a club for women suffering from cancer. Here I found a lot of friends. Here is love, friends and everything, so we know life more than others, we estimate the importance of life more than others.
The checking into our center is free, but after 40. There are doctors and psychologists working together. We, the members of clubs, meet every two weeks and go to dances, excursions, theaters, cinemas, we know the birthdays of each other and celebrate it. In our club, there are 300 people; together we are a force of power. 5 years ago there was no such kind of opportunities in Georgia but now everything is free, and from February the reseptins will be given free. They are very expensive, people sold their homes to pay for it. Around 5000 GEl costs one this preparate, but you need 5-18.
I think there is a minimum that can be to life. It is not because of stress, the reason is unknown. Every year, a woman should be checked, at least after 30. The woman should love herself.
You should not suffer, you should fight and be strong.
I lived in Kaliningrad, my husband died, I have two children. Several years before I knew my diseases, I was treated for mastopathy, because the medicine is so weak there, they had to take an analysis and send it to Saint Petersburg. When my breast was already in blue color, another doctor was angry and told that with one foot I am in another world already. My son was 5, and my daughter already was studying at school. When the doctor told it to me, I felt how the ground was falling away from my feet. I looked at my child and understood that I should not cry.
At the same day, I took the documents of my daughter from school and came to my motherland. Here I was immediately operated. I had 6 chemotherapies and 25 radiations. Of course, I could not stay in bed for long time, because I had small children, and nobody around me. After chemotherapy I could not sleep, I always thought what would happen if I died, what would my children would do without me, because I did not have anybody here. In the Caucasus when you are ill, all your relatives come to you and are with you. I came to a doctor I told him, that I am alone, don’t wait for someone to come. Then he answered, that I will live long and happy life.
Then I was invited to a TV show, where I got an apartment. 6 years passed since I had an operation.
Cancer is not a verdict. There are worse diseases than cancer. If you do everything the doctor says, everything will be ok. When you love life, everything will be ok!