My survivorship-Fight with breast cancer

He who has health has HOPE, and he who has HOPE has everything.

My name is Hashmat Effendi, I am a humanitarian and for last 22 years reaching out to those suffering and aching children, who are struggling to live a normal life with the pain of their deformity. The tragedy is that their treatment is available but it is simply beyond their reach.  Through House of Charity we are bridging that gap by bringing medical and surgical treatment to children suffering with severe burns and congenital deformities around the globe.

Working with Burn victims for 22 years I have seen how fast life can change. I have watched and experienced seeing children playing happily in their courtyard and the next moment they accidentally get burn by hot soup, candle, match and many other simple things.

But I never thought that my life will change forever instantly by these 3 words …..“Yes IT’S CANCER”.

I very well remember I was on my usual medical mission trip to Lahore, Pakistan, very healthy as always when doing my monthly BSE I noticed a small lump. I panicked and went to Shaukat Khanam Hospital in Lahore. After mammogram and Biopsy they told me I have cancer.  I cam back to USA because my children insisted and the doctors in Shaukat Khanam told me that family support is essential during treatment. Upon return I went through ultrasound, CT scan, PET scan, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery I received the diagnosis of triple negative grade 3 breast cancer. Fastest growing cancer and has a higher percentage of reoccurring in other parts of my body.

It is impossible to explain how I felt; the fear gripped me tightly and began to squeeze me in its hands. I had no family history of cancer, I was healthy with no other health issues so   I tried to convince myself it wasn’t real, but it was real.  My family, friends and health professionals assured me that I will be fine, there is a cure and …… BUT it didn’t help I slowly started to realize that I have cancer and I don’t know what will happen – ONLY GOD knows.  It felt like it is a death sentence.

A breast cancer diagnosis completely turned my world upside down 16 chemo infusions, 37 radiation sessions, 5 emergency room admissions, lumpectomy, vocal cord paralysis and then correction surgery, fatigue, mobility difficulties, pain, depression, fear long list that lasted three years. Cancer took so much from me mentally, physically and spiritually that there’s nothing left. It scared me when I use to look into the mirror and couldn’t recognize that bald headed woman looking back at me.

Yesterday, I was a normal person had everything going for me and today I’m working hard to live. What a roller coaster ride!  After 14 months of breast cancer marathon my health care team told me that my treatment is coming to an end.

Coming to an end, suddenly I realized that I don’t want my treatment to end. It scared me to leave the protective cocoon of doctors and nurses who supported me through treatment. My body and soul are still scarred and shaken up and on top of it the fear of recurrence was becoming stronger day by day. I don’t want to leave I am not ready for normal life after treatment as a cancer survivor.

I started struggling with sadness, depression and loneliness.  I felt as if I discussed my feeling with others they will not understand what I am going through because they haven’t had cancer.  I have always been strong, positive and a care giver kind of a person. But cancer has brought me to my knees. I forgot to SMILE

I very well remember in those struggling days I met Taylor after my radiation. She gave me the good news that I was accepted into Lifestyle change research study. The study is for 5 years and will teach me how to adjust into new life. I was not sure what this study will bring to me but to escape from entering into a new life I accepted to be part of the research study.  And then with each passing days in the study with the committed and dedicated team members I discovered that my life has started to change.

I am gradually adjusting to my new life as a breast cancer survivor. I have learned everything – from my relationships with my family and friends to healthy eating habits -to exercise – how should I fight lingering fatigue – how to relax and avoid stress – What should I eat to help prevent a breast cancer recurrence-

I call this transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival my new normal motivational wonder. Where I have completely revamped my life and help others to do the same for cancer prevention. I wish I knew this even before I had cancer.

Now I realized that the impact of cancer does not suddenly stop when treatment is over. It is not that – a magic wand has been waved and we are all cured. But Life style change study is that magic wand that has changed my life for better after cancer treatment.