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Mother, guide, gamer...Farida Rizwan wears numerous caps with panache. Still, she owns a queen size crown and that is of a survivor. She is the fourth individual from her family to be determined to have malignancy. Her dad was tormented in 1992, her sister in 1994, and her diagnosis occurred in 1996. 10 years later her mom capitulated to breast cancer.
Let’s see how she overcame her tragic life.
"I was diagnosed in 1996. My son was four, and my daughter just 11 months", she explains. "The worst part of cancer was the timing. My dad had recovered from Hodgkin Lymphoma in 1992. My sister was in the terminal stage of breast cancer. I struggling to cope work my daughter's diagnosis since she was identified with multiple disabilities."
It was only accidentally that Farida discovered a lump in her breast while breastfeeding her daughter. "Though I panicked, I calmed down soon rubbishing it as hardened milk," Farida reminisces. "A week later, I could feel the lump more clearly while having a bath, and it needed attention. I could sense it was not a natural part of my body."
When Farida went for a biopsy, the diagnosis revealed that she had a 3rd stage Infiltrating ductal carcinoma. "I think my initial response was a shock, which was immediately replaced by my desperation to stay alive for my children", she reveals.
"My question to my doctor was not the typical will I die or something but "what should I do to survive this?" I told him that I was willing to compromise the quality of life for quantity," Farida says, revealing her vitality and the determination with which she was prepared to fight the disease.
But things were not in her favour. Farida had been running a canteen at the Bangalore Children's Hospital and Research Centre but lost her job when she was diagnosed. Things weren't any better on the home front either. "My family members were already broken, and could not take another onslaught of cancer. Two months later, we lost my sister to cancer, and it was utter chaos after that", she says.
"My husband was neither supportive--especially as a shoulder I could lean on, or as a father to my children--nor with the financial easing of burden," she adds. So how did this mother of two young children manage a serious illness and provide for her kids? By facing her struggles head-on, of course.
She went through a total radical mastectomy, and 12 doses of chemotherapy. During her treatment, Farida kept trying to work to stay financially afloat. "I travelled around Bangalore in crowded BTS buses, with my bald head, carrying my daughter and soft toys to sell them", she says. Her biggest buyers at that point of time were Helping Hands, a Bangalore-based NGO.
"I fought breast cancer with everything I had," Farida says. "I almost lost my life to chemo treatment, but was saved by timely blood transfusion." Throughout this toughest phase of her life, Farida's motivation were her two children. "I could not imagine them as helpless orphans whose mother had died of cancer," she explains.
"Neither could I imagine the pain my parents and family would feel on losing me after my sister. Somewhere deep down I also wanted to achieve something before dying", Farida adds. It took time and a lot of effort, but Farida finally defeated cancer. Her struggle with the disease changed her forever.
"I divide my life into two eras: BC and AD, that is, Before Cancer and After Diagnosis," Farida says, with her natural sense of humour shining through. "Earlier I lived life trying to fit into the roles I played. But then cancer changed me. I did not play any roles but slowly became my natural self...Whew! It was a huge relief. I valued my time with my children, and turned out to be an excellent parent."
"Back then, I did not know that I had 22 years more to live," she adds. "Before cancer, my life was like money won in the lottery. But after diagnosis, it was like hard-earned money. I started loving and respecting myself more."
It wasn't just her attitude towards her life and role that this struggle changed. "From being a PUC dropout, I took up studies again and did a masters degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy. I became financially independent, and have now started my dream project, My Giggle Garden, a pre-school and daycare centre."
Looking back, Farida feels that her struggle was worth it. As her children are slowly settling in life, she is taking time to focus on her targets. "My dream is to have a beautiful place for toddlers, where learning will be fun. I would love to spend the rest of my life doing what I love--teach and counsel to make childhood happy, as it should be."
Seeing Farida's life and struggles have motivated us for life. If you have enough determination and courage then nothing is impossible, even overcoming the 3rd stage of breast cancer.
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