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Sarita Rampersad

“I decided to share my story because people need to know that you could be living your life perfectly fine and in two days everything can change.

I found a lump under my arm in mid-September 2020 and within two weeks I was diagnosed with aggressive stage three HER2 positive/hormone negative breast cancer that spread to my lymph nodes. Before my diagnosis, I felt perfectly healthy. I generally tend to ignore things until they go away but when I found the lump, I knew it was not normal, so I asked my friend to make an appointment for me to see her general practitioner.

The doctor informed me that what I was experiencing might be an allergic reaction, however, to be sure, they recommended that I do an ultrasound and mammogram. I had a gut feeling when I left the office so I made the appointment to do the tests the next day and that’s when I found out that I had cancer.

I appreciate irony as much as the next person and acknowledging a lump and being diagnosed with breast cancer at 48, almost exactly 15 and 18 years after my parents died (not cancer) during breast cancer awareness month, is about as ironic as it gets.

The scans showed scattered calcifications and problems with my lymph nodes. To rule out the spread to anywhere else, the doctors had me do a full-body CT scan. At that point, I thought I was going to die. I felt like a ticking time bomb. Hearing the word spread and knowing that it was not as localized as I thought, made me prepare for the worst-case scenario. I imagined hearing the doctor say that they could not do anything for me.

Through those scenarios, I discovered a whole new love for living that I previously took for granted. I thought about my seven-year-old niece and not being around to see her grow up. I told myself that this (cancer) is not going to kill me, and I refused to die. A switch flipped in my brain and that is how it has been ever since.

It is not an escape mechanism or denial, I have just decided to focus on battling it through nutrition, following the doctors’ advice, and trusting the science.

My treatment process has been manageable and all of the nurses and doctors are great. I have done two rounds of chemotherapy thus far. To prepare for that, I decided to cut off my hair so I would not be traumatised by the hair loss and I have also changed my diet completely. I have a friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer five years ago and given three months to live. Chemotherapy and treatment worked for her and she’s doing well to this day.

In my family, there is a history of cancer. My mother’s sister survived hormone-positive cancer 10 years ago and on my father’s side, two of my aunts had it. One of them has passed and the other is still alive. I intend to get genetic testing and counselling for my niece’s sake because I want her to have all the information she will need.

My friends and family have been incredible. I realised within this journey, that “Cancer is expensive.” I had to raise funds for a specific drug and they stepped up and organised a ‘GoFundMe’ and set up a bank account without me knowing because they didn’t want me to be stressed. I’m also part of various support groups and it’s incredible to have that support. The groups are a hub for people to show and ask for guidance. I try to share as well because I benefited a lot.

The Cancer Cheat Sheet

Underlying all of this is my personal choice to trust science but give it a little help. Everything I am sharing I’ve cleared with my oncologist and other doctors. My main goal is to kill cancer cells. Get your nutrients from ‘god foods’ as Dr Sabga says. As another doctor told me when I pleaded a case for the occasional roti and non-organic food – healthy people are at least 20 feet from the edge of the cliff. You are about three. You want to move away from, not closer to it.

I am not saying what worked for me will work for you, but these are researched tips and tricks that for some unfathomable reason, are not contained in one comprehensive, ‘kick cancer in the behind’ bible. I had to search and consult and scour for some of these gems, and I truly hope that they might ease your way a bit.”

Her message to other warriors …

Even though it feels lonely, it does not have to be. The resources exist. You can meet people like you and get the support you need. Don’t give up. Do what you can to make yourself stronger and fight it.

My mentality is, if I get knocked down eight times, I’ll get up nine. I’m preparing myself for it to get a lot worse but I intend to stay standing at the end of it.

– Submitted by Sarita Rampersad