Heena Saini: A Powerful Journey

A beautiful young lady…ever smiling…ever bubbly…ever ready to help…A BREAST CANCER VICTOR (not a mere survivor), ask her what The H.O.W. Forum and Corporate Diva means to her… she says:

H.O.W. Forum along with Corporate DIVA acts as an enabler for women to outshine their strength while reminding oneself that “YOU” come first & “Health” is priority for women which we tend to take for granted for the sake of our near & dear one’s well being.A powerful platform which works holistically for growth of tribe, which Dipika is constantly building by her incredible leadership & ever growing network. Corporate DIVA has provided me with immense opportunity to spread my wings of network with women of diverse work group & culture. It’s such a collaborative stage which allows one & all to come together thus nurturing life skills. Idea of the concept & methodical execution approach adds grace to the overall event flow & Hats off to Dipika Trehan & team to balance these forums along with her wonderful family in such a magical & flawless way. My best wishes are always with the HOW Forum & Corporate DIVA fraternity & will be more than willing to support them in every small or BIG way I can to multiply the energy The H.O.W. Forum is spreading around the world. “

Lets read to realise what all her smile hides within yet what keeps her going!

Heena Saini; Participant Corporate Diva Edition 4….Here’s her journey in her words…

Afternoon of Thursday, July 1st, 2010, my life turned upside down forever. Yes, it did & I have lived through that nightmare for over last 8.5 years.
Being a June-born, the word “Cancer” was merely my sun sign & certainly never thought of as the dreaded disease it shares the name with, I guess nobody thinks of it that way, isn’t it?!?
Yet destiny rolled “Cancer” like a huge boulder on the runway of my life when I was barely 28 years old and have no genetic family medical history of the disease.
“You have breast cancer”, said the doctor, as per biopsy report of the tennis ball size cyst which was removed from my left breast by local anesthesia via a quick surgery. They say, “Small things makes a BIG Difference” but didn’t specify if the difference will have a positive or negative impact perhaps here also a small cyst, which was taken for granted for almost 3 months even after being felt, has created a vacuum persistently in life post removal. A vacuum which is been filled time & now again with varied experiences due to the stigma attached to this widely spreading “C” word, however unfortunately still not seen with light of hope & faith by our frequently evolving societal norms.
Traumatized, I sat in front of doctor, as my dreams shattered. My wedding was scheduled just 5 months away and preparations were underway in full throttle. This sudden bolt from the blue changed everything in a blink of an eye. Life took a complete “U-Turn” and priorities suddenly changed. A series of tests started with 2nd, 3rd, 4th&5thopinion(s), as acceptance was not only a challenge for me but for my immediate family. Post which I had to step up to stop agony of medical tests, which were both physically & emotionally draining as every time before the report is handed over there is small hope which whispers from corner of heart that this might be over soon.
The acceptance finally came forth and I realized that there is no turning back to normal life in a hurry. I knew I had no choice but to embrace the change and move on. One of the doctors, during this phase of multiple opinions advised me to take “One Day at a time”, break this wellness voyage into smaller milestones & celebrate every small landmark. Trust me, it works& I followed it diligently!
Friday, 16th July 2010, the 1st Chemo kicked off, followed by 5 more rounds after every 21 days. Each round came with its own set of challenges & physical changes. To shoulder my treatment Catheter, i.e. a large tube under the collar bone, was installed for 5 months which has left a permanent scar, a reminder of my battle with the dreaded C. Chemo comes primarily with terrible body-ache for first 8-10 days, fatigue is at its worst as if I was being hammered constantly and to make matters worse, there’s constant nausea but the will power &persistent self-reminder to make sure that I shouldn’t throw up was undying. Those daily dosages of dermal injections for 1st 5 days post every chemo was dreadful, but I had no choice as it was for blood transfusion evasion & to make sure blood count shouldn’t drop. I WANTED TO LIVE,WAS THE ONLY GOAL I HAD BACK THEN!
Change of hairstyle after 1st Chemo to loss of all hair post 3rd session was one of the most difficult parts, which makes me numb till date. I was immensely fond of my hair. It took me over a month to come to terms with myself to face a “BALD ME” in the mirror. But looking back I think that was “Sexy” too 😉. Change of all nail color to complete black was acknowledged as a new trend. I used absolutely NO cosmetics, not even soap!There were no active taste buds left by the end of 2nd chemo&meal times turned nightmare-ish, for a foodie like me.
Chemo had tried to shut me down with every cycle, but it couldn’t touch the spark within, which helped to carry me through to the finish line of all cycles before the next major stepping stone of treatment could be touched. My cancer was of the kind which comes in Jewish breed & to one in million, which I have always boasted to my doctors that “I am truly precious & one in million” to be blessed with this.
Another life changing decision, 2nd milestone of treatment, when I was asked by my doctors to make a choice to either proceed with mastectomy & go for implant re-construction thereby keeping my feminine side intact. Followed by 30 cycles of radiation, which will avoid the re-occurrence as far as possible. Alternatively, preserve my breast followed by extra cycles of radiation & rigorous check-ups every 3 months with a constant fear of recurrence shadowing the mind. Not that I am off that fear now, but my mind is now programmed to face it courageously.
With a conscious mind and a resolve to add more life to my years, I made the decision to go ahead with mastectomy. Tuesday, 23rd November 2010, it took 11 hours of surgery as both mastectomy & re-construction happened together, followed by one night on ventilator & 3 days in ICU. Apparently, anesthesia and I are not good friends, even till date😉, which is why I was given 2.5 times dose of anesthesia during the surgery making my lungs swell up leading to breathlessness thus requiring ventilator support. Doctors were confident that I won’t gain consciousness till late morning next day, however the tigress soul I carry in me was up within 3 hours of being shifted to ICU. My hands were tied to the bed so that I don’t pull off the ventilator pipe I made all the possible commotion to have my brother beside me within next 30 minutes& next day morning made it clear to my surgeons to get rid of the discomfort of ventilator pipes& tied hands. It’s during those moment that I witnessed life slipping out of hand& death so close to eyes while I saw dropping count of my heartbeat on ICU monitor during removal of the ventilator tubes &oxygen mask being replaced. LIFE IS PRECIOUS WHICH WE FORGET TO LIVE WHILE WE HAVE IT!!WE DIE ONLY ONCE, WE LIVE EVERYDAY.
With tubes hanging from my back for almost 10 days, for the discharge to dry down &absolutely no strength left in body to even move my limbs, I was at the threshold of giving up on all the enthusiasms I had so far for living my life. I had wept every single day on my helplessness when I was carried by the nurses & brother from ICU bed & shifted to private ward, when I had to ask every time help from family even to sit upright on bed. Those tough moments still linger in my head, when I was not even able to take 2 simple steps from my bed. I was devasted on my condition as this was NOT ME, who faced Chemo with head held high & working throughout from even hospital room while the Chemo drip was ON, without taking a single day of leave& my doctors were proud of my resole and strength. However post-surgery I just couldn’t work for almost 3 weeks with nightmares & sleepless nights full of tears& fears about the life ahead, I wanted to give up on few days such was the devastation it had caused.
It took around 45 days to get back my mental strength, as it was not easy to suddenly not find your fuller breasts, while patiently waiting to see the implants take shape progressively. Those strenuous dressing rounds to hospital on regular basis, physiotherapy sessions for immense hand pain, as was unable to move them at all, thereby accepting the constant physical changes of heavy armpits & swollen hands was hard-hitting. Doctors informed me that I am not allowed to lift heavy weights ever again, as the lymph nodes in the armpit has been removed during mastectomy which has gifted me swelling for life due to inappropriate blood filtration. The pain in arms & swelling in palm with every change of weather is inevitable, which I am now tuned to living with.
Graceful acceptance of self was the only choice I had and with renewed confidence & tons of self-motivation I began the last leg of treatment, which is 30 cycles of radiation.

I went to the hospital every single day by myself as more than treatment I was looking forward to start living a normal life again. By then I even had sprouts of hair visible on the head & eyebrows growing back turning me back to Heena from Monalisa 😉. While all this was going on, I could work remotely, and I am greatly indebted to my organization for keeping their faith and sticking with me in this time of crisis. Not only did I work unceasingly without letting my mentors down, I also completed my MBA exams & attained the degree with the support of my brother, who sat with me while I wrote the exams, during chemo phase.
Friday, 25th Feb 2011, my team of doctors gave me an all clear report of final Pet scan & treatment concluded with the advises on do’s & don’ts in terms of lifestyle, diet, periodic check-ups &hopeful thoughts with longing to LIVE LIFE to the fullest. A new “HEENA” was born after 9 months of ordeal, meeting life with a positive approach where small things matter now, where each & every moment in life is felt deeply & lived. I could achieve this WIN due to determined & unshakable support of my parents & brother, few special people including near & dear friends were always around to push me & have my back, whenever I was down. Without taking their names (as they know who they are), I am gratified & obliged to each one of them till the last breath of my life.
This aliment comes with its share of encumbrance not only for the patient even for the family & friends. We fear this so much that we don’t want to discuss this, we don’t want to have open communications about it. We go so quiet that patient wonder that what made the support system of people go silent about, while the family & friends struggle with their own emotions of coming in terms with this discovery in the life of their dear one…!
Stigma of Cancer in our society brings the repercussions with heaps of experience, which unquestionably ensure one’s wounds are turned to wisdom. It’s post treatment when the reality strikes:
– Went through despair during treatment as many “Forever” people either completely left or disappeared till the treatment finished.

  • Lesson # 1: One is blessed if you have same “forever(s)” in all stages of your life. In times of crisis you will always discover your true support and often it comes from most unexpected quarters

– While encountering the inquisitive people’s eyes, when I was back to work with only slight bud of hair, as only few knew why I was away from work for 10 months, heard of varied judgements being passed.
– Taboo that this “C” word carries, some of the extended family & friends, who knew but never approached or spoke while the treatment was ON, stood astounded to see me alive, as if more than me they were confident that I will perish soon.

  • Lesson # 2 – No matter what, we are always being judged. Feed your mind that you are always better than such shallow people

– Came to the pass when holding on was as much of a choice as walking away. I chose the latter, after giving due consideration to saving a 4-year long relationship. With the differences all too visible, it was better to let go. I realized that maybe we have always been on the same page just on separate lines.

  •  Lesson # 3 – When they make you feel like you are nothing, be more kind to yourself. For you are all that you have – 2nd LIFE by GRACE OF GOD. Master the art of self-love before you can be anyone’s new beginning, so that you will never have to seek validation ever again& someone will positively say “She is Mine”! 🙂

– Being mocked for heavy arms & heard of snide comments like “You have elephant’s leg like arms” or “You are fit to be a wrestler with those heavy arms in this ethnic wear” as people never knew the reason behind these forever heavy arms of mine.
– It has been always a challenge since then to shop dresses a size bigger than my body fit due to bigger arms & then get them altered. I had to stop wearing bangles, which I was so fond of, as hands are always swollen.

  • Lesson # 4 – “Body Shaming” is very sensitive subject & can rotten one’s psychology if not handled on time or in right way. Scars given by cancer treatment on the body was healthier than these! Heena, grow up delicate & start being sensitive towards others. Your sensitivity will be the shield against this world that can get too harsh every now & then.

– Post walking alone on stride of life for good number of years, while In search of togetherness with special someone, on matrimonial/dating sites, found species who had all the indignity to ask that “You don’t possess key asset of female body how do you think you can ever survive a marriage or any relationship in your life”. There were few who dared enough to advised me to seek partners via handicap section. That’s when the reality assaults that our society is mentally handicap.

  • Lesson # 5 – Being a good human to yourself is more important than being a good woman to any man, as real Queens don’t rule castles of small minds they rule heart of immense maturity.

– While my excursion of beautiful Life is ON, there are always assorted speed breakers now & then which comes in form of unpleasant remarks from peers/colleagues of “She is single, doesn’t have any family obligations whether it’s day or night, so can be overstrained with work.” Or “You are not a parent or can’t be one ever so refrain from family related suggestions for work events”.

  • Lesson # 6 –Remember that moon never complain about the darkness around, YOU shine ON. Stop being the victim of such condescend odds and ends, coz you oversee your own actions. Let’s not complain & compare anymore. Just focus on to LIVE MORE & LOVE MORE.

– Except for my parents & very few close friends, almost rest all extended family members & few so called near & dear one’s too totally believe & even tried to impose indirectly that I should not have any partner at all. As marriage/any affiliation will spoil the life of other person or even stated that I will spoil the future generation. Wow! People here don’t want to care for who is alive but are worried about future offspring.
– Latest I heard few days back “So what you got cancer & you survived it, it’s common these days & can be cured” & while I don’t ever use my cancer tale as misfortune card I surely pity such grassroots mind & only wish that may god grace them with healthy thoughts.

  • Lesson # 7 – Heena, always remember that you are woman of substance who is seasoned by salts of life, not the onethat can be put in salt cellars & use at ease. The scars on your body are meant to bloom with the seeds you further sow & not meant to be salt laden at the top for others to itch. Let the scars bloom, let them keep throwing dirt & you continue to raise flowers in the form of true well-wishers & friends, who are met enroute these experiences & backed you to keep the energy of confidence & cheerfulness. Rest is sanctified by grace of God along with blessing & unwavering support of your parents always!

Keep your self-esteem high each & every moment. Keep FAITH & HOPE tall. Cancer can be beaten and often is, but cancer also wins. Lives are forever changed, whether it’s a triumph or loss!
Much Sunshine & Laughter to one & all!
– Heena 😊

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