C h e c k l i s t

Check to the end...

          ☑ Chemotherapy
          ☑ Surgery
          ☑ Radiation
          Maintenance Therapy
                     ☑  Herceptin
                     ☐  Anti-Hormonal Treatment

December 22, 2010

Dear 2010

Dear 2010,
You have been one of the most challenging years of my life. It all started on the 3rd day of your existence and went on for many months. In a bizarre way I know what I have done in every week of this year. Time has stood still at times. I know one thing for sure, that I have emerged out of this year stronger, stronger than ever.
I now appreciate the value of time. I was floating by not caring about how much time I had on this planet. Even if I live to a ripe old age of 90, I will still value time now like never before.
I appreciate my family and friends even more. I have clarity in my thought and vision and I know who my true friends are. Not everyone has the luxury of knowing that.
All in all 2010, I dont hate you. I will not say "good riddance" to you on the 31st of December. I have had some really good and enlightening moments in this year. I have searched within myself and found some answers and I have lived the days I felt good, to my fullest. More importantly my dear son turned 1 year old this year and is turning out to be everything I ever wanted and more. I have learnt to not to be bitter and bitter I am not about you, dear 2010. But at the sametime, I am very eager for a new beginning in 2011 and turning over a new leaf. Afterall I am all about beginnings now.
My best wishes for your speedy archival!

December 7, 2010

Do you know the worst day of your life?

I am wondering how many of you know or can pinpoint the worst day of your lives?
I have two. Both were results of phone calls. The kind of day where you know that everything is going to be uphill from that moment on. The kind of day where you know you cannot hit the bottom anymore. You are already in the abysmal bottom and for the rest of your life you are crawling back up.

November 17, 2010

Giving Thanks.

We have been hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for a few years now. Dinar and I love this holiday and love Fall (we got married in Fall). Now that Vikram, Zarina, and Zyra are in the same town, we all love celebrating it together with our close friends and family.
Last Thanksgiving was a lot of fun and our house was full of people we love. And the food we LOVE:)In the midst of all the celebrations, I had felt the lump in my breast while nursing Sahy. I remember thinking "shoot I am getting mastitis (tmi warning: infected plugged duct), AGAIN!." I decided to wait until after the holiday spirit had settled down to think about it again let alone get it checked.
I cannot believe it is that time of the year again and I have so many mixed feelings about this approaching holiday. Is this my 1st cancerversary? or January 13th is? January 13th is the day I got the phone call from my breast surgeon. I remember saying to him "Dr. Boobiepoker, tell me you have good news for me" and then I heard him clear his throat. The worst thing about that day was that I was at my desk with my back to Juliana (my officemate at that time). I felt so numb after that call. I had to get up and walk around in the hallways. And the next thing I know is that I go and tell Val (my coworker) that I have breast cancer and just stand by her cubicle, numb. So is that the day that I should consider my cancerversary? May be so, because I was still leading a normal life up until then. My hair was so long, I was almost back to my "good" weight after delivery, things were easing up with a new baby and I remember saying to myself "hmmm this is probably the best phase of my life. I love my 30s. I feel so comfy in my skin."
I dont know if I am a changed person today. May be I am. But I know there are several people in my life who changed their roles in my life. I know there are people that I never even thought would be there for me showed up and held my hand and told me it was going to be okay and "were there" for me. I would never be able to list the wonderful people in my life who have given me love, compassion, and cared for me this year. They are too many of you! And I am very lucky and honored to have all of you in my life. I could not do this without my army of friends and family, Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, Dr. Rachel Blitzblau, Dr. Randall Scheri, NP Joan Cahill, NP Erin Duff, Nurse Charlene Maxwell, Chemo Nurse Amy (who throws punches in the air every time she sees me :)) and a zillion other medical staff at Duke. I am also grateful for a great medical insurance. Thanks RTI International for offering amazing medical benefits. I am in many ways an exception and I know sisters who struggle with getting good familial and medical support. That is why I dont take what I have for granted. All I want to say today is "THANK YOU".
Love the holidays.Live to celebrate.Laugh plenty with your friends and family.
Happy Turkey Day!


November 8, 2010

What is Diwali?

A few years ago a coworker asked me if I was going to go home for Christmas. I politely replied no, but she started feeling extremely sorry for me and then it was time for me to break the news to her. I told her that I was not a Christian and did not celebrate Christmas traditionally, but did so in spirit. She seemed extremely confused and asked me if I celebrated Hannukah. I said no, I am not Jewish either. Then she asked me what about Kwaanza? At that time I had to look up what Kwaanza stood for. A relatively new holiday that was created by African Americans to celebrate their African Heritage. I replied "no", I am Hindu by birth and celebrate Hindu Holidays and we have lots and lots of them. I go on to say that Diwali comes very close to Christmas in terms of festivities and celebrations. To that she asks the next question. What is Diwali? I dont remember exactly but I must have given her the whole spiel that it is celebrating the victory of the good over the evil by lighting oil lamps, bursting fire crackers, eating good food, wearing new clothes, and performing some traditional rituals such as celebrating the hindu new year, brother sister relationship etc. etc.

To me this year it meant a lot more. Ever since I have moved to the US, I let it slide, partake in some potluck dinner with friends and forget about it. But this year I felt like making a little more effort to celebrate it and make it special for Sahy. We will have a Christmas tree for Sahy, always. But I also want him to know that Diwali is part of his heriatge and the special place it has in the hearts of all Indians, regardless of their religion. It is afterall the celebration of the victory of the good over the evil. That is a pretty secular sentiment.

So my friends, that is what Diwali means to me. I have fond memories of Diwali. My father and grandfather buying lots of presents for our extended family and immediate family, all the sweets, and bhaubeej that I celebrated with my big brother. I love this festival the best. Some day I will celebrate Diwali in Pune again. Eat lots of Anarse. I love Anarse that my Vahini Aaji (mummy's mum) made. My Aaji was one of the best cooks I knew. It is so endearing when Dinar says the same thing about his Aaji. All Aajis are excellent cooks. :) They made them talented back then.

I also wore some jewelry that my mother gave me in my wedding. I thought to myself "what am I saving this for?". It was stowed away since my wedding day and I had not worn any of the wedding jewelry in the past 6 years of my married life. Of course with my short crop there is only so much I can pull off. But I am learning that each day is a celebration. You dont need to wait for a big occassion or reason to be merry and joyous.

November 5, 2010

Happy Diwali

Bela, Sahil and I will be celebrating Diwali this weekend, and Bela's preparations are in full swing. I will be putting up lights; Bela is making traditional Diwali sweets.
As things are returning to normalcy, we want to make an effort to take back out lives, and I think a Diwali celebration with family and friends will go a long way. So here's wishing everyone a Happy Diwali!

October 27, 2010

Pink ribboned out in Pinktober!

So I am sure all of you know October is breast cancer awareness month. NFL players, actors, store clerks, and general public are sporting the pink ribbon.

I know some survivors who are totally put off by the show but I am pretty neutral and somewhat appreciative.

Here is my brush with being pink ribboned yet again...

Store clerk: Your total is $75.29 would you like to donate anything to the American Cancer Society? It is breast cancer awareness month.
Bela: No, thanks.
Store clerk: Not even a dollar?
Bela: No, thanks.
Bela thinking to herself: "I have given enough to Breast Cancer monetarily and non-monetarily and I am still not at the point to make donations. Not even a dollar!"
I want to give back at some point in the capacity of a philantrophist, volunteer, peer supporter, but today I just dont want to be reminded by the store clerk about Pinktober.

October 25, 2010

A state of mind called----

Happiness.Mostly things that make me unhappy are out of my control like having cancer. But I was never an extremely happy go lucky child or grown up. I was always a bit of a brooder and sulker. Being happy is also about making an effort to be happy. I stopped sulking about losing 9 months to cancer treatment some time back. My YSC *sister's* sudden passing kicked me in the rear yet again and I thought to myself that I really dont know how long I am going to live or be healthy (read NED), but I know that I can either be miserable waiting for the worst to happen or live in the moment and make the most of it. Zen. It is a learning process and I am an eager student.

My newest challenge are clothes. I never lost all the baby weight, gained some on chemo, have extremely short hair, and just a very different body now. So it is a brand new canvas that I am working with.

Today I am winterizing my wardrobe we used to call it flipping a few years back before we bought our house. Sweaters and jackets are being taken out of boxes in the guest closet and tanks and shorts being kept away. However, I have several items of clothing that I just cannot wear anymore. So should I throw it away or keep them for when I will get my bod back? I was never a sexy dresser. Always a bit grunge (cargo pants, cords, hoodies, scarves) and a bit conservative (no strappy deep V necks please), but I still have stuff that shows a bit more chest than I would like now.
Plus what do I do with my wig, hats, scarves, several PJs, and button down home clothes that I wore when I was sick??? Should I have "in case it comes back" box and store it in the garage? or toss it? Am I being too cheeky and overconfident by throwing my cancer accessories out? I am just superstitious about throwing out my precription meds too. Am I obsessing too much over small stuff?

A third of my wardrobe is functional. But the silver lining is that I like that third. I have a stack of pants that are my pre-pregger pants and those are staying in my wardrobe cuz this fat ass is going to lose some chub!



October 12, 2010

Life is a mixed bag

I just got back from a great trip to NY. Yes, I did.

A couple of weeks back, two of my fav peeps Sonal and Quita visited us in North Carolina. We had a great time together. We were reliving our summer of 1998 all over again, just with a bit more class and with 2 tots around. Vikram made some kickass leg of the lamb and crab curry and Dinar made awesome wholesome breakfasts.

I felt like my oldself after a long time when I would just hang out and chill and talk about hair and clothes with my cousins. We would laugh and gossip and just basically chill. So I decided to just go back to NY and hang out some more with my peeps. It was the first time I traveled with my munchkin alone and in a plane. My little boy is a wonder child. He ate well, slept well, and played well (hmm well he was a lil bully to other munchkins but I think he was just marking his territory). All in all a great trip.

I come back home and get devastating news. My YSC sister Jody passed away. I was not devastated because it made me aware yet again about my mortality, but because she was all of 33 years young. She had so much to see, so much life to live.  I remember meeting her way back in May when I met some YSC girls. I was in the middle of  my chemo and had my shiny bald head, puffy face and bloated arms and legs. Across the table from me, sat  red head Jody in a cute pixie do. She looked relaxed, was smiling a lot, ordered crab cake omelette, and some coffee.  I remember thinking that I wanted to be in her shoes one day.  She talked about getting foobs soon (fake boobs) and we all just talked about fun stuff that BC brings in your life. It was a good first meeting. I kept in touch with her but I got busy with my treatment and didn't meet her again. I will never forget what she was wearing that day, her smile, and her cute red hair. I love you Jody. I will see you someday again. For now get some rest. The last couple of weeks have been rough for you.

While in NY, my uncles and aunts took me to the temple and I prayed hard, so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Some prayers get answered, some do not. However, it does not falter my faith in the supreme power.  Today, I have decided to stop crying, pick myself up, jump in the shower, and go to a coffee shop and have a hot cappuccino and a brownie. I do this today for you Jody. I smile today for you dear.




September 27, 2010

Who makes the rules?

We tossed out Sahil's milk bottles on Friday and  just to say that it has made him upset is an understatement. Many friends were advising me to do it earlier, but we were not ready, partly because that was one less thing I wanted to deal with while going through treatment, and partly because I weaned him off breastfeeding rather abruptly after my diagnosis. If the bottle comforted him then why would I take it away from him so soon. When is too soon or too late or just the right time? Who makes the rules?

One thing I can say about my child is that he is extremely feisty and strong willed, just like mommy. But I dont think I can get away with throwing my arms up in the air, stiffening my body, and screaming in your face while kicking the sippy cup, at a stretch for 1 1/2 hours at 3 AM.

I am upset too. A lot of changes I have to make, I am altering my life plan (remember I said I was a planner). I was suppose to have my second child in 2011 or 2012. Why was I not a part of this decision making? Who made this ultimate decision for me?

To add to all the other changes that come with the treatment, I am turning into a paranoid. Organic this and natural that.What has pesticides? What if my food is too charred on the grill? Is the fish farm raised (plumped with hormones) or caught wild? etc. etc. After making sure I eat or come in contact with everything that is 98% natural or organic (have you read the labels? its never 100 percent), is there a gaurantee that I am safe from the beast coming back?

I am learning it is about a balance. I know I am not going to ingest food plumped up with hormones, antibiotics. It is okay if my personal stuff has shorter shelf life because of lack of pesticides and preservatives.

Also, I am learning to be kind on myself. Dinar threw a fabulous party to mark the end of active treatment for me and many of our friends were there to show their love and support. I caved in and had a skewer of chicken kabob, a day after the party. But I am letting it slide. It is okay because seriously who is making these rules?

In case of my toddler, I recognize that we need to bring structure into Sahil's life, we need to help him to go to the next stage in his life. We need to give him hugs and kisses even though he throws the sippy cup at us. We need to be gentle yet firm and say it is going to be okay. Dudu (aka milk) will taste the same in the sippy cup and it will help your teeth from decaying.

Today, though, I am telling myself, it is going to be okay, dont be scared, do what you can do to the best of your ability, and then learn to live your life and not just survive it.

Love.Live not just survive.Laugh

 I am stealing this from a bulletin board I frequent. Please read on:

John Hopkins Update - Good Article
An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply..

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses, but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or Sea Salt.
b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved. Bela: I have to be careful about soy products too as my cancer was feeding off estrogen in the body.
c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones, and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed, and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells, and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Florssence, Essiac, Anti-oxidants, Vitamins, Minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the bodies own killer cells, to destroy cancer cells.. Other supplements like Vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life. Bela: Yeah yeah yeah...
16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells. Bela: I like exercising.

1. No plastic containers in micro.
2. No water bottles in freezer.
3. No plastic wrap in microwave.
Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well. Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don't freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic. Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that contain fat.. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen, and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad, but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons..

Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.

Bela: I am putting together a snap shot of what cosmetics I am using now. Look out for that post, especially for all my girl friends and their daughters.

September 24, 2010

I am on my knees today

Cancer makes you humble and brings you down to your knees and makes you want to tread life with a lot of care. I feel like it will always make me wonder when I am very happy, if something bad is going to happen around the corner.

Once a cancer patient, always a victim. The doctors say that there is no way to tell on a cellular level if it has completly gone. My loss of innocence due to cancer has introduced me to new terminologies like "NED" which means no evidence of disease. So am I truly cancer-free as Dinar likes to put it? Who knows, but as of now I am in the NED state.

I started my anti-hormonal therapy and wow it surely does not put me in a happy state of mind. Gotto love breast cancer treatment! Woohoo!

So today I kneel down and ask the supreme power to spare us girls. Some day, may be, I will worry that my hair is too frizzy or nails to blah or where is my career going or on getting lines around my mouth and eyes like other girls do. Cancer, today I mourn the loss of my innocence, peace of mind, and happiness. Today, I have nothing to thank you for. Please spare me and my sisters of any further wrath. Yes you are a beast and we recognize that. Dont come our way and we wont come your way.

September 21, 2010

One more check box

In some ways, I think today is the day Bela has been waiting for during the past few months. It was her last radiation session today, and the last day for her active treatment. She will still visit Duke more than she would like to, but I am sure it is a welcome change for her not to be there everyday as she has been for the past six weeks.

Yesterday, we got some important answers regarding the treatment. According to her doctors, Bela is ‘cancer-free’. As with all things related to cancer, I think the tag means different things to different people. Are we back to the day before the diagnosis? Are we ready to resume a normal life forward? What is a normal life now? I don’t have answers to these questions, but just like we got some answers yesterday, I think we will figure these answers out in the days to come.

September 16, 2010

Being narcissist and shallow...

I have met a lot of new people since I started treatment and I always wonder if they will ever know what I looked like before all this began. All my life I wanted to be as tall as my mom, have a gorgeous face and complexion like my brother's, hair like my BFFs Namrata, Shree and Shilpa, nails, posture and grace like Zarina's, and the list goes on...  Today I look at my old pictures, some as old as January 1, 2010 and I see a beautiful Bela. Perfect. I would not want to change anything. I want my old self back.
12 years back with my sweetheart
Couple of years back with my sweetie

Pregnant with Sahil in Chicago, Summer 2008
Very pregnant with Sahil and at a very happy time in my life

I went for a Kundalini yoga class today and when I was meditating I felt beautiful. I felt an inner warmth and calmness and that was beautiful. But when I opened my eyes, I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I saw deep dark circles around my sunken eyes. I saw the dark burnt patch from radiation on my chest. I saw the flatness of my chest on the right side. I could not get pass the physical damage to my body and face. It made me go back and see my old pictures and show them to Sahil and tell him it is really his mummy. He looked at me  puzzled and I smiled through my tears and assured him that it really was me.

And now....Summer 2010

September 10, 2010

Shell Shocked

I recently read an article on soldiers being shell shocked and how the term was coined. "It was said that at the Battle of the Marne, east of Paris, soldiers on the front line had been discovered standing at their posts in all the dutiful military postures---but not alive" (Smithsonian Magazine, Sep 2010). "The illusion was so complete that often the living would speak to the dead before they realized the true state of affairs". "Asphyxia" caused by the powerful new explosive shells was the cause for the phenomenon according to The Times History of the War, published in 1916.

I do not have the audacity to say that I have experienced anything like what soldiers do in the line of fire. It is simply unfathomable to see other fellow humans being killed and life being wasted for political gains. In fact if anything I have witnessed efforts to save hundreds of lives, some too frail, but all too precious.

However, in my own selfish microcosm where everything revolves around my life, I feel shell shocked, I feel the PTSD setting in. I feel perhaps 1/10th of what the soldiers feel, but I do feel like my world, my microcosm, went for a high speed spin for the past 9 months and is all of a sudden coming to a jerky halt. And I quite frankly dont know what the eff just happened? I can see the aftermath, I can see that I have to define my new normal---emotionally, physically, and mentally, I know that I have changed forever and noone will understand me, other than some of my sisters who have gone through the same. I just feel people are being nice when they try to be encouraging but they have NO IDEA, absolutely NO IDEA about what just happened. I have learnt one thing that everyone means well and want to help, humans are compassionate in general, but I have learnt that I cannot go for advice to people because they dont have any good advice for me. "Stay positive, go to the gym, do yoga, surround yourself with positive people, yada yada yada".

 People shy away from talking about their mental health publicly, but if some day, some person going through cancer treatment reads this post, I want that person to know that my personal hell also included repairing my mind in addition to my body.

Well I have decided to take things in my hand to get better mentally. My little sunshine is going to help me. I have decided to send Sahil to daycare only 2 days a week and spend one on one quality time with my lil hurricane. I am planning on going for stroller walks with him, painting with him, reading books, and teaching him calculus (com on he is 17 months old born to Indian Asian parents, he ought to know calculus by now!).

Sahy Mahy, my child, I look forward to fun times with you! And thank you son for everything! For your mumma's sake always live with the best intentions, love deeply, and laugh plenty and loudly.


P.S. Medical Update: I have just one more week of radiation left. After that Herceptin infusions every three weeks for several months and anti-endocrine therapy for several years, and some reconstructive surgery a few years later.

August 23, 2010

Have a good weekend!

I can count on my fingers my good days in 2010. Days when I did not worry about my cancer.  My first good day was the day my mom arrived. It was also the day I met Dr. Awesome for the first time, and Dinar and I were smiling after 2 long weeks as we were full of hope. I also remember that Sahil's birthday weekend was fun-filled and relaxed and then there were a few handpicked days here and there that were good.

But by far, last weekend has been my most relaxing weekend of the year. We went to the beach with Zyra and her parents. Children loved the beach and the water and so did we. Children loved to just roll in the wet sand and so did we. Children loved the feel of the sand slipping from under their feet with every wave and so did we. Sahil pointed at the sun and said "ba" and I said to him "This is the biggest ba in our universe Sahy and this is one of the big swimming pools on our planet. So enjoy nature and the simple pleasures it has to offer to us. You dont need your toy truck and I dont need my i-phone, may be my video camera and my still camera."

We also enjoyed the ocean's abundance at the local eateries. But the highlight of the trip was Vikram walking into a parking meter and breaking his Oakleys. You have to call him and ask what happened. I wish I could rewind the moment and capture it on my camera. These are the times that make life worth living. I was about to roll on the road laughing when that happened. Good times.

Love sand sun sky. Live to eat raw oysters. Laugh at your big brother.


August 19, 2010

As I enter the 34th year of my life...

I am happy to be breathing and writing this post today. I am so grateful that I will be having a quiet (or may be not so quiet with 2 toddlers and some wine for non-toddlers) dinner with my family. I love you guys. 

I love you mummy. And congrats to you as well!

I am keeping it short. Here is to another 33 + years to me! I would love to get wrinkly and frail and old with Dinar and watch Sahil grow into a handsome young man like his dad. Today, thats all I ask for my birthday. I hope you are listening to me sitting on your throne up there.

Live 33 more years. Love 33 more years. Laugh 33 more years.


August 10, 2010

Lay heavy....

Today was my first radiation treatment (XRT). I had an hour long simulation  where they marked me up with sharpie and beebee stickers. I was already marked last week during CT scans and had bulls eye marks in 5 different places and lines in a few other. The beebee stickers help the markings from getting washed out after shower. Now I have lines, solid and dotted, bulls eye marks, someone wrote XIM in one place and all other sorts of blue, purple, and black sharpie marks to flaunt! So next time you see me, you will know that it is not Sahil who is having a field day scribbling on my neck and chest!

It is a strange feeling to know that your body is someone's work space. It is like their desk, where they do their work. And a team of physicists, radiation oncologists and technicians (they are called tomoterists or something twisted like that but lets just call them "tomotwisters" going forward) were all around me and trying to align these machines and beams. I kept hearing it is at 95.7 and then that one is at ninety one point something.... I felt the need to help them as there seemed to be a problem but I was told to not move and behave inanimate and turn my neck to the left while laying on the metal board with my hands by my ears.  And yes, one tomotwister told me to lay heavy as he wanted to move me. So I started moving to the right as he seemed to want me a bit to the right and he said "miss please just lay heavy!".... What the heck is laying heavy?? And thats what I did--- laid heavy while he pulled the sheet under me a bit to the right..After 2 hours of being still, being marked, and laying heavy, my neck started to hurt so bad that all I could see was the ocean and me running towards the water...

One of the tomotwister sighted my plight and kept reassuring me that it was almost over...He had said that only 4 more minutes were left 10 minutes back!! Well he didnt know that I can count time in my head , count upto 60 for a minute you tomotwister and you will know what a minute feels like...

I have been assured that it is not going to take that long going forward and I want to believe this tomotwister. One other tomotwister told me that " we are the nice people and we dont hurt you, unlike the ones above us (they reside in the sub-basement level of the building for obvious reasons)". I agree with that mostly, but laying still is painful too especially when your mind is anything but still . So much for mindful meditation...

So I have 6 weeks of XRT with my team of tomotwisters and I am hoping that it will be a breeze compared to earlier chemo treatments.

BTW, I had my 8th Herceptin infusion yesterday and a bone density scan. So far so good.

Chemoed. Surgeried. Radiated. So that I can Love Live Laugh.

August 5, 2010

Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera..

 I miss home, I miss India, I miss the smell of my country, the aroma of wet soil after the first rain following a hot scorching summer, I miss my people. So here is the song that evokes all these feelings:

Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera

Yeh jo des hai tera
swades hai tera
tujhe hai pukara
yeh woh bandhan hai
jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

yeh jo des hai tera
swades hai tera
tujhe hai pukara
yeh woh bandhan hai
jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

mitti ki hai jo khushbhoo
tu kaise bhoolayega
tu chaahe kahin jaaye
tu laut ke aayega
nayi nayi raahon mein
dabbi dabbi aahon mein
khoye khoye dil se tere
koi yeh kahega

yeh jo des hai tera
swades hai tera
tujhe hai pukara
yeh woh bandhan hai
jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

tujhse zindagi hai yeh kahe rahi
sabh to paa liya abh hai kya kami
yunh to saare sukh hai barse
par door tu hai apne ghar se
aa laut chal tu abh deewanae
jahan koi to tujhe apna maane
awaaz de tujhe bulaane wahi des

yeh jo des hai tera
swades hai tera
tujhe hai pukara
yeh woh bandhan hai
jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

yeh pal hai wahi
jis mein hai chuupi
koi ek saadi, saari zindagi
tu na pooch raaste mein kaahe
aaye hain is tarha do raahein
tu hi to hai raah jo sujhaye
tu hi to hai abh to jo yeh bataye
chaahe to kis disha mein jaaye wahi des

yeh jo des hai tera
swades hai tera
tujhe hai pukara
yeh woh bandhan hai
jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

Lyrics by Javed Akhtar, music by AR Rehman (AR Rahman), from the film Swades

August 3, 2010

Run Bela Run!!!

I have started going for walks lately and I try and run some during these walks. At least I know my legs want to run, unlike after my delivery when I would try to run but my legs would not run, they were kind of locked. I felt so helpless! I think it was my body's way of telling me to take it easy and not push it too hard after all the hard work it had put into making a human being.

I went to the gym yesterday and I was walking on the treadmill and then one of my favorite songs started playing from my ipod playlist.It is a hindi patriotic song that makes me homesick every time I listen to it. It made me realize that I dont want to die in my adopted country, but in my birth counrty. And I am going back to my homeland only after I retire, and I want to live in a beach front home somewhere in rural Konkan and eat catch of the day every single day :)

This song also took over me and my hands went to the dashboard to increase the speed on the treadmill and my legs started running, all this in many ways was involuntary. I started running fast and there were tears streaming down my cheeks. Tears of victory, tears of defeat, tears of many other emotions all together. I remember saying to "cancer" (yes I personify the biatch in my head many times), you chose the wrong girl. You bite me and I will bite you right back, until every last bite is left on me. You have taken my dignity, my vanity, my modesty, my peace of mind, but you cannot take my mental strength from me.

A few lines from a poem written by my baba

"Keval maaza sahyakada"

"Bhavya Himalaya tumacha amucha keval maza sahyakada
Gaurishankar ubhya jagacha, manat pujeen raigada
Tumchya amuchya gangajamuna, keval maazi bhivarthadi"

 [Bapat Vasant, Shingha Funkeele Runni, 1982]

Love deeply. Live fully. Laugh often.


July 29, 2010

Lets get physical...

A little lesson learnt from cancer treatment is that in many ways it is like surviving a punch in the face to only get kicked in the rear. Recover from the toxin blast so that you can be cut up. Heal those wounds so that you can be pulled n tuggged. All this so that you can be burnt some...and so it goes...

So I am at the pulling and tugging phase right now. I have something called as the axillary web syndrome. Basically there is a web like fascia (stringy scar tissue) that has formed in place of the lymph nodes that were taken out. My physiotherapist told me that it needs to be stretched and in doing so sometimes it pops (eeeeeeoooowww!). She saw me cringe and I told her point blank that I was scared and I might never come back to see her again! Well I went back 3 more times after that is another story! To this Dinar says to my PT that "she is a rip the band aid off kinda girl. Just do it and dont tell her."

The problem is that it is not just one pop that is going to break the web. It is a slow process of pressure, pain, pull and twist, and yes again I have been told to breathe deeply. hmmmmmm.....inhale......hmmmmm....exhaleeeee....ouch ouch ouch Jesssssssa stoppppp! And then two more PTs came in to try something new to pop the damn thing. One of them asked me if she could try a new technique and when asked if it would hurt she said "unfortunately, yes". To that I said "may I punch you after that?". I dont know why I was being a badass that day. I had to add that I was joking when I saw her at a loss of words.

Well the stretching and popping is still in process and hopefully I should get my range of motion back soon after all this pain!

Physical therapy also involves taking care of the incision scar and prophylactic lymphedema prevention and care. All in all, this is what is going to get me back to normal.

Also, speaking of getting physical (dont let your minds race, please read on), I walked 2 miles yesterday with Sasha, Tush and some of my silent warriors from the walk for the cure team. Man and I must say that I am sore today! My body is so weak and soft and nothing like it was 2 years back when I used to run, but my mind is strong and will push my body to get strong once again.

And yes my dear Dinar, I want to put a bandaid on your chest today and see if you are a rip the bandaid off kinda guy ;)


July 22, 2010

My Rock My Hero My Mom

My mother is one tough cookie and our own Florence Nightangle...But she really did not need this in her life. After what she has gone through, I hate the fact that she had to see her child get sick. Now that I am a mom, I cannot even fathom the level of anguish and despair that she must have felt when she first heard the news.

In the past 6 months she has taken care of all of us and has been the glue that held all of her children and grandchildren together. She leaves to go back to India on Sunday and I am feeling so lost. I really dont know what I will do without her by my side. But you know, some day soon, I have to grow up all over again and step back into the real world.

Some of the stuff that my mom and I have gone through in the past 6 months is too private and between just mom and daughter, but we have connected at a different level through my re-birth. I was always close to her, but the rawness of something like cancer, brings you even closer to people you love.

I regret telling her one day that I felt like giving up and did not want to go through this and I wanted to be with my papa. No living parent should ever have to hear this from her child. And I am really sorry for saying this. I want to live more than anything else and I want to live for my rock and my loves.

My mom says that you never stop being a parent even when your child is an adult and has a child of her own. But I just felt that at this point, I should be caring and being there for my mom and that this was just not the way nature intends it to be.

I will miss you mommy, but I know you are one phone call away, one long plane trip away. And yes, please get the mammogram done as soon as you reach Pune. No more excuses.

Live healthy.Love always.Laugh loudly.


July 19, 2010

No more chemotherapy

The meeting with Dr. Awesome went really well today. No more chemotherapy for Bela. She is getting Herceptin now, of which she will get 11 more cycles. But it was a really good moment when the doctor said - 'We are talking survivorship steps now, no more active treatment for you'.
There are still a few steps to go - radiation, anti-hormonal therapy and lots of monitoring...but its good to know that Bela has made the turn...

July 15, 2010

But doctor will I play tennis again?

Ever since my diagnosis I keep asking my NP or Dr. Awesome or Dr. Surgeon Nice if I will play tennis again?
It makes it a funny story because I really suck at the game. I always have, even though I used to take tennis lessons as a kid. So why the question? I dont know, it just comes out.
As recently as my one week post-op visit I asked my surgeon and my surgical NP if I could play tennis again. And my surgeon said "of course in fact it would be good for your arm". I think it also stems from the fact that I have limited range of motion in my right arm and have a great deal of numbness on the right side, some of it permanent. This is from the surgery.
So during my second visit with the surgical NP, she asked me if I was a "pro-tennis" player. I was embarrassed and laughed and my mom told her that it is more of my dream to play tennis, and to play it well. Well it is also my dream to learn golf and to walk a half marathon in the next year and a full in the next 2 years.
My NP (Ms. Rockstar who works with Dr. Awesome) had once said to me that cancer ass-kickers take up stuff that they have always wanted to do and never got around to doing before they get into this mess. And I believe that.
One of my friends told me that life will seem sweeter when I get on the other side. And as twisted as this might sound, I can see that. I have learnt to not postpone happiness, not to keep it on hold, to not hold back compliments and positive words, to not to try to please everyone all the time (such a huge weight taken off my shoulders as I was a complete people pleaser), and to devote time to my own body and mind.

So yes, I will play tennis, swim, play golf, and run, some day soon.

July 11, 2010

Sahil Enjoying the Swimming Pool

July 10, 2010

Two steps forward and one step back....

Do you know the feeling when your husband or your roommate offer to do the dishes and then leave one or two coffee mugs in the sink after cleaning the bulk of the mess?? Drives me up the wall! I love perfect finished product when it comes to everything. Sometimes in order to get that perfection, I get too caught up and spend way too much time on that activity! But that's just me. Keep it a mess or do it right!

So on that note I got my pathology back yesterday. It is 95% good. No "C" in breast tissue, No "C" in 11 of 11 axillary nodes that were removed, No "C" in 2 of 3 sentinel nodes removed, but 1 mm of "disease" in 1 sentinel node. So you see what I mean about that one used coffee mug in the sink.

I was extremely overwhelmed at my visit yesterday. The wait was long, I was lugging around 2 drains, I struggled to get dressed to get there, and more so my husband has been working 14 hour days. To add to it they made me wait in an exam room that looked like a mini-OR. So I thought I was really in trouble! So when the nurse practitioner walked in the exam room I was in tears and I told her the room made me nervous and I was scared that it was going to hurt me mighty when the drains come out!! I can be such a baby at times! But you know what, no matter how many times I have been pricked and poked, it never gets old.That anxious feeling is always there, especially when a nurse says "on a count of three take a deep breath in"! I am taking a deep breath, dear nurse, but my heart beat is off the charts!

So they moved me to a nicer looking room and the NP was very gentle while getting the drain out. They have left the second drain in for a few more days....Now you see the second coffee mug in the sink! stinks!

When my dear surgeon walked in he patted my back and gave me a big smile as he had heard the drama that I had created.  He told me that I was almost there, and in his opinion, the pathology report was very good. Also in his opinion the pathology does not warrant more chemo, but the ultimate decision lies with Dr. Awesome. So there I am hanging by a thread until I meet Dr. Awesome in 10 days!

You know what, I do feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is just flickering a lot right now....


July 6, 2010

On the road to recovery....

I am off the narcotics and am a lil less woozy. One of the discharge instructions to me were to not sign any important or legal papers in this week. Great tip as we are refinancing our mortgage to take advantage of lower rates!

I decided to go off the oxycodene roller coaster and started taking ibu 800 and seem to have my bearings back and the world seems a lil more normal to me. No wonder people get hooked onto these narcotics! When I was taking them, I would be knocked out and had the most amazing dreams. My family intact (grandparents, dad, mom, bro, and our family dog) and it was always around the dining table. In one of my dreams I was eating Baker's Basket's Black Forest cake (you get this only in Pune)! That is the best cake in the world! And of course I was no older than 15 or 16 yrs. in my dreams.

I think each day after the surgery has been a better day than the earlier one. I would think that is good progress. There is some new discovery about my body and a new normal to get used to,and literally also, finding an EKG sticker left behind on my back or some bulls eye markings with a sharpie somewhere else...

 Also I am waiting for the drains to come off so that I don't have to gaurd myself with a pillow when Sahy is around. The surgeon said they would come off on Friday most probably. That is the day when I will get my pathology report as well...Yikes! That makes me nervous!

These are baby steps to recovery, but I can totally see myself lifting weights and running again someday! On January 13, 2010 that seemed impossible or too distant. I was filled with "would I ever do .....again?" questions then.

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes, keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, the wonderful flowers, the wonderful fruit bouquets, cookies, and food. & thanks for visiting me.

Love. Live.Laugh.


June 29, 2010

Surgery rescheduled for July 1

Bela had her surgery today morning. The surgery started at 8am and was done around 11am. Everything went well as planned, and the surgeon said that he did not visibly see the tumor; which was as expected since we saw that during the ultrasound after Bela's last chemo.
Bela is sleepy and recovering as I type... and has a smile on her face :)

June 27, 2010

My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world

Have you guys read the russian folk tale "My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world"? We had that moment at home today...Dinar shows Sahil one of those Victoria's Secret coupon booklets and asks him who the model is and my child points to me and says "mumma"! And not just once, but every single time he was asked.

Well only a child can look past the bald head, uber round puffy face(thanks to the chemo) of his mom and think his mom is the one in the VS catalogue! My babushka totally looking through the eyes of love...

I thought it was uber cute and so reminded me of this russian tale!

Love. Live. Laugh.

Sahy's hot VS model like mommy! :)

June 24, 2010

Biggest fight of my life... so far....

I am so overwhelmed with emotions today. It just struck me today that this is the biggest fight of my life and a fight to live. It struck me that all the crappy chemo, surgery, rads, and other chemicals being infused in me is so that I live, live a full life. This is about living and not dying.

Well people are not comfortable talking about death, but believe me it has been on my mind often since my diagnosis. A few months back I kept thinking well most people live their lives not knowing how they are going to make the grand exit, but I know it. Well that is not completely true as I could be hit by lightning tomorrow or die of a heart attack at 80.

But as I said this fight is to live. To live a life after being blasted with toxins, mutilated, exposed to radiation (as my uncle said I am better off going to Chernobyl), and as if that was not enough to ingest even more chemicals to alter what my organs would normally do. If you can survive all this, you deserve to live.

Next Thursday is my surgery. I choose not to discuss why and what kind of surgery I have decided to have. All I can say is that I will do every possible thing that I can to live and be there for my son. So that I can see him as a well rounded grown up man with a kind heart, compassionate, and loving and so that he will never know that ma-ma was sick, ever. Nothing else matters more than this single aim in my life.

I am bringing out my boxing gloves....I need to box in addition to kicking C's ass.



June 16, 2010

YAY!!! YAY!!!! YAY!!!

I just got back from Duke. My post-chemo breast ultrasound shows no sonographical abnormalities in the breast, aka tumor has melted away. All that is remaining is the surgical clip at the site of the tumor.

I thought I will give y'all the good news.

Keep kickin...Keep livin....Keep lovin....Keep laughin...:)

Keep it real.


June 15, 2010

Race for the Cure 2010

One sister made a promise to another sister and "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" was founded. Their annual race was in Raleigh last Saturday, June 12th, five days after my last chemotherapy. My friend, Tushar had put together a team of warriors some whom I knew, some I met on that day, some invisible ones. Team kickcancerspunylittlebutt  raised almost $1,800 for the cause.  This money raised is used by the Susan G. Komen to pay for screening and treatment of uninsured and under-insured women and men with breast cancer. It also funds cutting edge research in this area.

Tushar, thanks so much for taking this up and doing such a great job! All the runners thanks for running, some were hungover, some were sleep deprived because of cranky kids, some ran two 5 Ks, and some got a buzz cut :). But it was a hot day and not the best day to run a race and they all ran while I sat in the shade watching people. A big thanks to all the donors for supporting this cause.

Being at the race, was very emotional for me for variety of reasons. First I never thought I would be wearing a pink survivor's t-shirt at such an event, ever. Second, seeing so many people wake up early in the morning, park at one place, and ride in a bus to get to the venue so that they can make a stride towards curing this disease and the sheer magnitude of the event is awe inspiring. I believe there were about 25,000 people at the event, some in wheel chairs, babies in strollers, youngsters, old and spirited, all types of people you can imagine. I was also very touched with all the people who ran for me or supported the cause. I really cannot tell you how much it means to me that you guys care for my recovery and cure. Many of these fine people do not know me but know my story and are there for me through their comments on my blog, sometimes emails, occasional message through a friend and so on. People care, empathize and that's what makes us humans so special. We really want to stop suffering and pain, and we want the greater good, collectively. There is so much cynicism and skepticism in the world, but during such times it all evaporates.

I took part in the survivor parade and it was very emotional for me. I walked with all women who were survivors for under 1 year, and were joined with other survivors with the longest survivor being one for 50 years! And everyone in my group said to each other that we want to be in that woman's shoes 50 years from now! The sisterhood is amazing, women hugging each other, telling each other it will be okay.

They talked about co-survivors and they being such a big part of this journey. And although, I dont particularly like the co-survivor, survivor words, I totally agree that I could not do this without my own army of warriors, especially my mother Pratima, my sister Zarina, my brother Vikram, and last and the most my dear husband Dinar. I love you, always.

Love. Live. Laugh.

June 10, 2010

Cant wait....

 This list is completely self centered and selfish, but nevertheless honest.
I cant wait to
1. Have my hair back
2. Have some normalcy in life and a routine that does not revolve around treatment
3. Go to Paris. I have wanted to go there for the past 5 years at least, but it never worked out.
4. Take up exercising and have killer abs for once in my life. It stems from my body failing me so early in life and me wanting to show my body that I wont let it give up on me!
5. Go veggie and organic. I may still eat eggs and fish.
6. Lead a paraben, sulphate, and phthalate free life....That means revamping my bathroom cabinet and personal products.
7. Lead a hormone free life, especially in dairy and eggs. For my family cook hormone free poultry.
8. Take many vacations and make memories. Take lots of pictures of my loves.
9. Drink lots of water, fresh veggie juices and fruit juices.
10. Toss out plastic ware with number 5,6,and 7 at the bottom. Not good and lots of links to cancer. Use more glass and stainless steel utensils.
11. Buy great juicer, blender and food processor and make more wholesome food from scratch. Minimize processed food. We started the food revolution at home a few months back and it seems to be working well so far.
12. Toss out non-stick teflon pans. I dont need that stuff getting into my food. Get a cast iron skillet.
13. Feel good, wholesome, peaceful, and young and sexy again. This will be a long process considering I feel I have aged good 25-30 years in the past few months. But yoga, meditation and exercise will help me repair myself.
14. I do like my cosmos and mojitos occasionally, but have been pregnant, breast feeding, or in cancer treatment for past many months and have not missed em so much. So except for every once in a while, no alcohol for me. Too many links to recurrences.

I realize I am being all about myself in this post. I know these changes come at a cost and I am willing to make them very gradually. Some of these wants seem extreme but this is a wish list. If anything it will require a lot of cooperation and patience and understanding from my hubby.

On medical update side, June 16th is my breast ultrasound. This will tell us how well the cancer has responded to chemo. June 28th is my maintenance herceptin infusion and some pre-op appointments,  June 29th is my surgery. I will let Dinar elaborate more on the treatment plan later.

Love. Live. Laugh.

June 6, 2010

2010 sucks!

I have lost first 6 months of this year to this disease! It was not just a bumpy start to the year but I felt like I was shaken so hard that I am still rattling inside to this day. I so don't want to go to Duke tomorrow! Eff chemo! Tell me how is this fair? Is life fair????????????? This sucks!!!!!

Will I ever be able to sleep without thinking if I am going to be around for Sahil? Will I ever stop feeling insecure about everything that is going to happen 5 years from today? Do I really need to make the decision on type of surgery? What if it comes back? What if it comes back somewhere other than my breast? What if I dont make it then? Come on God! I just want to live. Please for once cut me some slack!

Yeah I will think positively, just not tonight.

May 27, 2010

An ode to my baldylocks

Growing up I had crazy thick long wavy hair. They were so thick that my neck and back would hurt. Well if you have been brought up in India, you would know what I mean when I say that the school uniform makes you look like just a cookie from a big batch of cookies, exactly same.  To play the devil's advocate, the sheer number of children packed in one class (70 children : 1 teacher ratio), and the stark disparity in income levels of families warrants such socialist dress/hair code regime in schools in India.

So just to give you a visual, when I was in 7th grade, I had waistlength hair (the length was not controlled by the school, thank god)  like every 12 year old wants. I had to wear it in two plaits with white ribbons at the end and a white cloth hairband on the top to make sure I dont have any bangs on my forehead. Could they make a girl look more "not pretty" than this?

I had come a long way from this look in the last 15 some years.  More recently, I had decided on growing my hair long and donating them to locks of love (again). Irony irony.

Regarding my latest baldylocks look (visual included), on most days, I don't mind it at all. I am often at home au naturelle. My baby loves my bald head as much as he loves all my hats and scarves. And yes I just dont feel like wearing the wig anymore. It is a nice one but not comfortable at all.

There are days when we are going to someone's place or out in the world that I struggle the most. First, people who dont know me often give me a sympathetic "oh you have cancer" look and there are days when I feel that I am just not blending in the crowd. Not a fun feeling. But then I assure myself that this is temporary. Do you think a risk averse, careful, non-rebel, conforming to the masses gal like me would have shaved her head and showed up to her job one day?. Then why not enjoy something I would never do. It is like getting that tattoo that I have wanted for the past 10 years but never coughed up enough courage to get one.

I say to myself that I will never ever complain again about my frizzy, unruly, out of control hair that I was always trying to discipline and control. But then never say never, especially when everyone is telling me that the new hair that will come back is going to be thicker and curlier than ever! Aha, cant wait to tame them :)

May 26, 2010

You are not a survivor!

I just chatted (gen-x kind over the internet) with my friend Dede who said something to me that will stick with me forever. She said and I quote "Keep up your good spirits. You are a trooper. You will come out of this "tunnel" and live life to it's fullest. In the meantime, DO NOT let anyone define you as a cancer survivor. That is not who you are, you are Bela, mother, wife, daughter and friend. THAT is who you are!"

I just felt a weight lifted off me when I realized someone else thinks that the word survivor is burdensome and is not how you can define me. I am so complex, stubborn, individualistic, hot tempered at times (euphemism would be "passionate about everything"), loving most of the times (so I think), and opinionated to say the least. So can you define me just as a cancer survivor moving forward? I don't think so. And thanks Dede for putting what I was thinking of all along in black and white.

I have made a few great friends after my diagnosis. These women are a part of my elite club and sisterhood. Another friend I have made is Soniya, whom I met on young survivor's coalition. She and I have a lot of  things in common besides belonging to this elite club of our's. I feel something good comes out of every situation you are in. I am so glad to have met these women. I love their positive upbeat energy! I inspire to be in their confident shoes soon!

May 19, 2010

1st Practice Run for the Komen Race

Hello Everyone

First I would like to thank each and everyone of you for your support through your donations, kind words and sharing your personal experiences with us. Team “Kick Cancer’s Puny Little Butt” has reached its half point mark for its fund raising goals. We have another $450 to go in order to meet our fund raising goals so please go ahead and spread the word to your family and friends.

Having said that…ITS TIME FOR OUR PRACTISE RUNS!!!...actually run/walk. I am setting one up for 6pm on Thursday May 20th. We have perfect running weather with no rain, and temperature hovering in the 70s. Sorry about the extremely short notice. The location will be North Cary Park. Here are the details

Bela's Blog: http://kickcancerspunylittleass.blogspot.com/

Team Page: http://tinyurl.com/3x8dnyo

Date: May 20th, 2010

Time: 6pm

Venue: North Cary Park, 1100 Norwell Blvd, Cary, NC 27513. We shall meet right in front of the rest rooms. For all you climbing fanatics, this is also the location of the Cary Boulders, so if you wish you can bring your climbing shoes with you.

Google Maps: http://tinyurl.com/3ac27w6

We shall walk down from North Cary Park to start our run on the Black Creek Greenway. This trail is flat and follows the Black Creek to Lake Crabtree. We shall run to the Lake Crabtree Dam (the view is splendid). The one way distance is 1.3 mi and we will be alternating between walk and runs. I am expecting our run to take about an hr. This will be a “nobody left behind run”. I am a self-proclaimed fat boy with affinity to all things edible and I can assure that I’ll be trailing behind the pack.

Here is a mapping of our route: http://tinyurl.com/39mjfpb

Please shoot me an email at tushar dot mahale *@* gmail dot com if you have any questions or if you need my cell number.

Hope to see you all & Once again thanks for your support.


May 16, 2010

Bring it on....

Just one more chemo left (hopefully)!
The last Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin (TCH) chemo is on June 7th.

The tentative treatment plan is:

1. June 4: Consult with the surgeon and radiation oncologist.
2. June 7: Last chemo (pray, ever).
3. After June 28: Green light from Dr. Awesome for surgery depending on surgeon/OR availability.
4. Herceptin (targeted drug for HER2/NEU + cancer) infusions every 3 weeks for at least 11 more times (and may be some more). That means at least until the first quarter of 2011.
5. After recovery from surgery, radiation every day for 6 weeks. Also, depending on pathology they will decide if 4 more rounds of chemo with Adriamycin (infamous red devil) and Cytoxan will be required or not. Pray that it wont be needed. I don't want to lose the hair that I will grow in those 6-8 weeks to fall. I can get it only once in my lifetime. I don't want to lose a lifeline. And I absolutely don't want to deal with the downs of chemo, AGAIN! But also I know the docs are watching my back to beat it once n for all.
6. Tamoxifen (targeted drug for ER+ / PR+ cancer) for next 5 years (bye bye ovaries).
7. Lupron shots (targeted drug for ER+ cancer), if needed, every 3 weeks for 2 years. This means definitely hello menopause [85% chance that it will be temporary])!.

Dr. Awesome said Yoga, Mindful Meditation, and Pranayam are going to be as instrumental in beating this darn thing and keeping it at bay as all of the treatment above. So yes that means a lifestyle and diet changes. I will be meeting with a nutritionist after my chemo, but basically low fat and more plant based diet is recommended. I would love to make these changes as I have always been a hippie wannabe. A wannabe because I still lust material possessions, modern amenities and love what capitalism can offer. But life is all about balance, more so now than ever.

Love. Live. Laugh.


Two Poems that mean a lot to me:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Hope is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

May 12, 2010

Susan Komen Race T-Shirt & Bibs

Your T-shirt & Bib's for this year's Susan G Komen Race for the Cure would be available for pick up at the following locations

Monday, June 7, Southpoint Mall-6-9pm
Tuesday, June 8, REI North Hills-6-9pm
Wednesday, June 9, Cary Town Center-6-9pm
Thursday, June 10, Triangle Town Center-6-9pm
Friday, June 11, Meredith College noon-7pm
Saturday, June 12, Meredith College 6am-9am

There are limited number of shirts available so please make sure that you pick them up before the race.


May 10, 2010

I am a statistic

One in eight women in the US will be told by their doctor that they have breast cancer at some point in their life. In 2009, more than 250,000 new cases of breast cancer were expected to be detected and 75% of these cases would have been for invasive cancers. To be more specific, this year about 10,000 women under 40 years of age will be diagnosed with breast cancer making it the leading cause of death in women between 15 and 54 years of age. I made all these cuts! Yes, I am a statistic and I am one of the few elite 10,000 young women in the US who received the "you have breast cancer" phone call from their doctor this year. These statistics are like using google map: you can narrow the search down to your house using the satellite images. The numbers cited here are just incidence rates of the disease, but then there are a slew of other statistics such as 5 year/ 10 year survival rates, rates of recurrence etc. Well I choose not to read and retain those numbers. I don’t want to live in fear and I don’t want knowledge to burden my spirit. May be I am being an ostrich and burying my head on being threatened, so be it. I am not in this elite club to prove anyone how strong and macho I am, because I am not, and I don’t want to be.
That being said, guys only 2 more chemos left. I am so tired of the ups and downs associated with the treatment and I really want it to be done with. This is turning out to be like end of semester exams. Just 2 more left and I am not psyched about them at all. I can’t wait to get it done with so that I can enjoy my vacation whole heartedly and yes grow me some hair!

Someone told me that the hardest part was accepting the diagnosis and then the chemo. I believe that. It is not because you get sick, but because of the repetitive nature of the treatment. Every 3 weeks for 7 times blasting your body with toxins is tiring. Believe it or not, I am actually having a great week health wise, but this time around I can’t stop obsessing about May 17th and June 7th!! What happened to just focusing on the positive and staying in the present? Beating cancer is as much of a mental challenge as physical, and my mind is racing to a place that is still some distance away.

Well this cloud will pass.

Let me talk about my silver lining now. Sahy took his first steps last Saturday night in front of a room full of friends cheering him on! What a cute show-off :) ! He is indeed my one in 4 million (babies born in the US in 2009) statistic! Muah!

P.S.: I am going to see an onco-shrink today. Dr. Awesome wanted me to talk to someone other than friends and family to cope with the fears associated with cancer diagnosis at an early age. I wonder if she will make me lie down on a couch like Betty Draper in Mad Men. Wicked cool !

May 6, 2010

Susan G. Komen Run: Join Team "Kick Cancer's Punny Little Butt"

Dear Friends

I never realized realized how close this disease was to me till Bela got diagnosed with it. As you all know Super B wears a number of hats; a proud parent of a cute 1 year old, a researcher in health care, an artists and an individual with an unwavering moral compass. She also happens to be the one who got me motivated about running (and yes I ve been slcaking out on it). It would be fitting to raise our glasses to Bela kicking cancer's punny little butt by getting together and participating in the Susan G Komen's race for the cure. Mark your calendar's for Saturday, June 12th, 2010 at Meredith College

I hope to see you all, including Bela, at the race. Also get your friends & family memebers; the ones you like and the ones you avoid (think of it as punishment for a good cause). Do forward this posting to people you think would like to participate.

We shall be ramping up our preperation for the run as the race day approaches. I shall be posting more updates on Bela's Blog and the team page. The things to look forward to would include

1] Practise runs at Lake Johnson, Lake Crabtree, Meredith College etc

2] Preperation for the post race party

Here are some links

Bela's Blog

Race Registration:
Click on Join a Team and use the team name "kickcancerspunylittlebutt" or "Kick Caner's Puny Litte Butt" ...We shall be doing the 5K fun run/walk (co-ed)

Team Page

Race Day Schedule

Remember, one person can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. Susan G. Komen for the Cure was founded by one sister making a promise to another sister. You can be a part of this worthwhile effort! Our promise of a world without breast cancer does not just rest in the hands of Susan G Komen for the Cure. It is up to you, our community of survivors and co-survivors, to stand united with us until the promise is fulfilled and the cures are found.

Once again, hope to see you all at the race and hats of to my Guru-Diva for her strong battle against cancer.


Please fee free to reach me at
tushar *dot* mahale at gmail *dot* com

Race for the Cure

The Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Raleigh is June 12th. Tushar has set up a team for Bela this year called "Kick Cancer's Punny Little Butt". If you are planning to run this year, please join the team and we can all run together. The info for registration is here:

Team Home Page

Registration Page

April 27, 2010

Half Way There...

Bela had her mid-point ultrasound just before the 4th chemo yesterday. I think both she and I were a little nervous driving up there in anticipation of what we were about to find.
So the reports say that the tumor and lymph nodes have shrunk by more than 50% over the original measurements before the start of chemo. During the consult with the doctor, she said that it was good progress in that with 50% of the chemotherapy treatment done, the tumor had reduced by more than 50%. That was the first time I heard the term ' stupid cancer', which essentially meant cancer cells that don't outsmart the chemo drugs.
All in all, it was a small milestone and it certainly makes us anticipate the results at the end of the chemotherapy.

April 24, 2010

Is that me in the mirror?

Is that me in the mirror?
When I close my eyes
I see my face as I have known forever
But when I look in the mirror, I see a reflection I have seen never
My face is round and lashes are long
But now my reflection proves me wrong
My brows adorn my face thick and dark
My reflection shows a thin line of brows, the difference so stark
My hair long, wavy, brown
Now just my bald head, makes me frown
I wonder if that is really me in the mirror?
Some days the eyes look really sunken and some days bright
Some days I see hope in them and some days fright
I look at my reflection and force a smile
Oh yes that is me, that has been me all the while....

April 14, 2010

Riding on a high wave today!

I am scarily upbeat today and I can't even blame it on the steroids I took last week! May be because today is the day I drank coffee for the first time after my treatment last Monday and it did taste a little bit like coffee and smelt like one for sure!

So do you guys think I can walk the 1 mile survivor walk for Susan Komen Race, 5 days after my "LAST" chemo on June 7th?

Seriously I am worried for being in such a "yay life is great!" frame of mind :) I think part of it is because I read a book that I loved. It is a memoir by Kelly Corrigan called "The middle place". I felt we were both the same people. Her absolute unconditional love for her dad and her experiences with BC and attitude about it is uncannily similar to mine. Have I told you my biggest fan was my dad and his me? He was strong through his illnesses. I never saw him wimper, cry, flinch through the pain and suffering. And I am told his last meal was a special stuffed sweet bread (puran poli) that he loved. Wow what a grand way to say good bye to life! My Hero. My Love. My Papa. This book brought back all my emotions about my pa to the surface and made me think that even after 9 years, I will think of him in the same way as I always have.

Here is the link to Kelly Corrigan's website : http://www.circusofcancer.org/

I might as well go for a ralk/wrun today to channelize this upbeatness.

Love. Live.Laugh.


April 6, 2010

You are my sunshine...my little ray of hope and love...

I am so grateful for being a mom before this life altering event (really was urging to say another word but stopped myself!). A lot of my elders are reading this and someday my baby will, or may be he never will as all this will be a distant memory!

But yes I am so glad to have had this opportunity to be a mom. I did not know how much I loved kids until my niece was born. I saw her first when she was 6 weeks old, and when I held her for the first time, I had changed forever. I felt a connection to her immediately.  I was part of her gene pool, she was my brother's child, my papa's grandchild, she would call my mom Aaji. She was mine. And yes at least half of all that goodness in her is from her lovely mommy and her lovely family.

Summer of 2008, Zyra and her parents moved to Cary from Boston and lived with us for a few months. I knew after being with 'Zyroo Myroo' and spending so much time with her that I would be an okay mom...A better mom to a child than I had been to my plant in Boston. Okay, most of my friends know my plant story and my desperation to save it (read thaw it back to life) :).

But this post is not about what kind of mom I am or will be. It is about how grateful I am for having Sahil and for the opportunity to be a mom. I always took it for granted that I will have 3 kids when the time was right and probably waited too long. Never the thought that, I probably could not, ever crossed my mind. I was invincible, right? I was only in my early 30s and living in the modern era where it was safe to have kids way into your 30s..Plus did I say that I thought I was invincible?

Sahil has taught me a lot. He has taught me to be patient and to love someone unconditionally. Above all he has taught me to loosen up, to make silly faces and belly laughs and giggle at being poked, scratched, bitten, licked, and thrown things at! Simple things. He has made me want to slow down and take it all in. It is not about that party, or girl's night out or that pair of jeans anymore...It is so much more now.

I totally believe that your childhood can make you or screw you up or a little bit of both. You always hang onto the first 15-20 years of your life for the rest of your life. Have you heard your parents and grandparents and lately you talk about how we did something when we were little and all the good stuff? So now you know the responsibilty a new parent feels about not completing scewing up this little sponge in your hands. He is watching us and taking it all in all the time. He is looking up at us for love, comfort and above all direction. He has taught me a lot in this year and everyday I strive to be a person he will love and be proud of when he grows up. We will skip the teen years when it will be so "uncool" to be friends with your parents. I will tell and remind myself that I "totally" understand that :).

It has been a great year in many ways! I remember the first three months where everything is new, challenging, and you realize that the sleep deprivation is not a myth, but as cliched it is, it is totally worth it. And someday, may be I will get to experience this all over again--- the first year of a child's life. But then if I cannot, then I wont be heartbroken, because I am soooo grateful to for my little sunshine. He is truly my ray of hope.

Hmm...Yes we need to also say something about the elephant in the room. Yesterday was my chemo. I did not have my Monday morning blues after a great weekend with great friends and family. My friend, my sister, Sukhu, came with me to the treatment and we both talked, chilled, napped in the chemo lounge. She so wanted to fuss over me---it was plain cute. By the way, she did not let me carry my own purse, forget the backpack! If you have not met her, you are missing something. She is one of a kind and a must meet and Amogh her hubby is not too shabby either :) .

Our wonderful friends Sukhada and Amogh who came all the way from Florida for the party!

Now off to an off week...But I will be back!

Love. Live. Laugh

Sahil's Mommy

Sharing some of Sahy's B'day Pictures at his "big party" and his "daycare party"...