The sun sank slowly beneath the horizon, staining the sky red, as the tires ate up the road. She had half-finished, troubled dreams as she dozed, much like the half truths she’d been told so far. But it wouldn’t be long before she knew the whole truth.

She’d pulled an all-nighter the night before, desperately mugging up for an exam she wasn’t sure she’d pass anyway, and it was right after that she’d got the phone call.

‘I might need to get a biopsy done tomorrow’, her mom had said, ‘I want you to come be with me’

She’d accidentally come across the message about the mammogram a couple of weeks ago, dismissed it as being for someone else. But when she’d casually asked her mom about it, she’d received an answer that shocked her.

‘Don’t worry. It’s only benign. ‘When she’d only gaped in surprise, her mom hastened to add; ‘Look, I can show you the results if you don’t believe me’

‘You mean…those were your results?’

And indeed they were, benign fibroid, 2.4 cm in diameter. Something so small, and yet something that could change everything forever.
She jerked awake as they drove through the gate, sudden panic clenching her belly tight. Her mom was waiting right inside, with a smile on her face. As she looked at that smile, the clenching spread to her chest. Her mom gently drew her aside from the others.

‘I want to tell you something before we go inside.’

But I already knew what she was going to say.

The dreaded c-word. Cancer. It was a death sentence once, now it seems like everyone knows someone who has had it. We hear stories in the media every day, brave ones about people fighting it, who have lived with it, cautionary ones about early detection. But somehow, somehow…the only one it never applies to is you.

The mammogram had been wrong. The biopsy had already proved it cancerous. She was here not for the biopsy, but for the operation itself.

She sat between her mom and dad, clutching both of their hands tight.
‘We will get through this, as a family.’
She watched her mom, who’d been deathly afraid of needles, go through injection after injection with nary a flicker across her face. She watched her mom, still with a smile on her face, order chicken biriyani the night before the operation. She watched mom, being wheeled on the stretcher, through the forbidding glass doors of the operation theatre.

And then all there was to do was wait. The strip lighting on the waiting room ceiling. The prayer books in the hands of their relatives. The hard chairs, the coming and going through the swinging doors, each time causing a leap in her chest.

A feeling of selflessness, like she was floating in a dream, like none of this shouldn’t be, couldn’t be real.

And then, the white coated messenger of doom, or the bearer of the gift of hope, came through the doors.

‘She’ll be fine. It wasn’t as big as we thought. And it definitely hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes’

She was allowed to visit her in the I.C.U. , and doped up as she was, having just come through a major operation, her first question was
‘You sure you don’t want to go back to school tomorrow?’

So she knew her mom was back. And the joy that bubbled up inside her was almost too much to bear.

It was far from over, of course. There were miles to go yet.

The horrid clicking noises as her mom did her arm exercises to ward off stiffness and intense pain, ones she’d have to do all her life. The trial of chemotherapy, the ruthless questing for suitable veins each time, having to watch her mom screw up her eyes in pain. Shaving off her hair (very carefully, because chemo patients are extra prone to infection), and then assuring her she looked like a hot gangster chick. Playing around with Mohawk wigs, walking through malls together with matching anti-infection mouth masks, gaily ignoring the curious looks. Watching really terrible movies, chosen so we were the only ones in the theatre. Other people were risk of infection, but all we needed to have fun was each other.

But there was also accompanying her on hospital visit after hospital visit, with seemingly no end in sight. Holding her when it all became too much, wiping away her tears. And wondering about recurrence, wondering if, after all this, it would come back.

But it won’t.

All we have is the gift of hope.

I am a B Tech. This is my true story. Hope it will serve to bring awareness about breast cancer.