Survivor’s Story: In Conversation with Sandhya Gupta [Gall Bladder Cancer Survivor]
If you or somebody you love has developed or has the symptoms of developing gallbladder cancer, then this read is a must for you. Today, we are in conversation with Sandhya Gupta, a marketing professional with 9 years of experience, who has survived gall bladder cancer.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Mansi Kohli. How did you come to know about your condition and what were the emergency measures you or your family took?
Sandhya Gupta. I was running business operations for SWT Group at Port Moresby in PNG, headquartered at Cairns, Australia and while I was on my way back home for a month long vacation, I complained of acute pain in the chest region and was given intermediary suppressants. Once I landed in India I went for an ultrasound that confirmed Gall Bladder stone and hence Laparoscopy by Dr. P.K. Choubey at Max, Saket, was scheduled. During Laparoscopy, the doctor discovered malignant tissue around the Gall Bladder area and peripheral areas of liver, and suspected Cancer that was confirmed from Biopsy reports later. We contacted Mr. Subhash Gupta, a renowned Liver Transplant surgeon who told us to move fast as time was crucial and directed us to undergo surgery in the next 3-4 days. I was operated on 1st Feb, 2012 and the operation took almost 8 hours post which again the sample was taken and sent for Biopsy, that again came positive. We were then suggested to undergo Chemotherapy and were advised 6 cycles of Chemotherapy i.e. 12 seatings. There was a week’s gap in between two seatings and a fortnight’s gap in between two cycles of chemotherapy that roughly took around 5 months.
Mansi Kohli. How old were you when you were told you came in contact with this disease?
Sandhya Gupta. At the age of 33, I accidently discovered that my gall bladder and marginal area of liver was infected with cancer. Though one can never be ready for such things in life; invariably it comes as a shock and sinks in later. First thoughts usually are- Why me? However, it has been quite a journey for full six months of constant struggle to “Survive”; survive Chemotherapy. Very rightly mentioned by Lance Armstrong in his book ‘It’s Not about the Bike. My Journey Back to Life’ (details his struggle against cancer) that “The question was, which would the chemo kill first: the cancer, or me?"
Mansi Kohli. How did your family support and encourage you to fight this condition? What were your set of beliefs that helped you through this tough phase?
Sandhya Gupta. I belong to an extremely close knit family consisting of my parents and two younger brothers and a husband. My family has been my pillar of strength without whom it would have been impossible to fight this deadly disease. My parents and husband stayed besides me constantly, supporting, motivating and encouraging me to overcome the disease and remain positive.
My husband gifted me a book by Lance Armstrong that helped me understand the disease better as normally there is less awareness on cancer in our country. I would say six long months have been a strange journey of doubting everything back to regaining faith in life and God. I truly believe that there has been some very easy lessons learnt hard way like- one needs to effectively counter stress, that has almost become a necessary devil in the fast-paced deadline motivated cosmopolitan lifestyle. Our prioritisation has all gone wrong as health is completely ignored and often is placed at the last of our priority list which plays havoc later.
Mansi Kohli. How did you manage treatment alongside your regular life?
Sandhya Gupta. I was working abroad and returned to India just for annual vacations, during which it was accidently discovered that I was suffering from cancer. We were advised by the biggest liver transplant surgeon, Dr. Subhash Gupta (Apollo Hospital, New Delhi) that we had to move fast and the surgery was to happen within a week. Later, I was to undergo 6 cycles of Chemotherapy i.e. 12 seatings spread over 5 months roughly.
My life became one long IV drip, a sickening routine: if it wasn’t pain I was vomiting, and if it wasn’t vomiting, I was thinking what I had, and if I wasn’t thinking about what I had, I was wondering when it was going to be over. That’s Chemo for you. The sickness was in the details, in the nasty asides of the treatment. Cancer was a vague sense of unwellness, but Chemo was an endless series of specific horrors, until i began to think the cure was as bad as, or worse than the disease. The three different anti-cancer toxins were given through IV drips for almost 10 hours at a time. It would have a cumulative effect. Anti-emetics would be given to me along with the toxins, to prevent me from suffering severe nausea, but they couldn’t curb it entirely.
Chemo is so potent that you can’t take it every day. Instead it’s administered in cycles. I would take the 2 treatment sittings spread over fortnight with a week’s gap in between, and then have a fortnight off to allow my body to recover and produce new red blood cells. I would feel extremely hot during chemo session and every once in a while I’d give into retching, and vomit so hard that I thought I might pass out. I would often feel so weak that i couldn’t walk and would stare at walls and sleep.
Mansi Kohli. What reactions did you get from friends and extended family with regard to your condition? Did you face a lot of unawareness in their behaviour toward you?
Sandhya Gupta. I have been quite blessed in the sense that I had full-support from everyone. Initially, it did shock and shaken my near and dear ones but they concealed it right through my treatment till the last day of chemotherapy that stretched over 5 months wherein they all sighed relief including me. They were quite sensitive and attentive to my needs. There were times that I couldn’t sleep at night so they would give me company and try and do everything to comfort me. Especially my father would go off to sleep only after I had slept. Having undergone the pain myself, I can confirm that to overcome cancer one need a very strong family support, needs to be financially secure and of course a great will to overcome this disease.
Mansi Kohli. What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation as yours?
Sandhya Gupta. Having gone through the process myself, I would strongly advise someone in similar situation to have full willingness to overcome, a positive approach and complete faith in god. Though it is difficult to remain positive through-out, it is good to let go off all the emotions of pain and torture felt during the treatment. For example, I have always been a happy-go-lucky kind of a person so initially I found it difficult to display my weak moments to my loved ones. After a while I really got tired and suffocated and allowed myself to cry and release the emotions that I was experiencing. Trust me it helps a lot.
About Sandhya Gupta. Sandhya was born on 21st August 1978 in a middle-class family in New Delhi. Born as a leo, she is a go-getter with a never say die attitude. Her husband Shashank Sharma is a businessman and runs his own business consultancy firm in India. She has over 9 years experience of having worked in the field of Public Relations and Marketing. She takes keen interest in painting, music and reading books.
*Image courtesy: © Sandhya Gupta