Mumbai resident Hansa Raghwani, a makeup artist by profession, found herself on a long journey to recovery after she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Here’s her story of never giving up, no matter the challenges that came her way.
Hansa Ranghwani, a 43-year-old makeup artist from Mumbai, was going about her daily life, taking orders from clients, planning new looks for the upcoming wedding season, and doing what she did best. But that was when she says the uneasiness began.
While the Ambarnath resident wasn’t showing any serious physical symptoms at the time, except for frequent visits to the bathroom and some amount of weight gain in her abdomen area, she knew something was amiss.
A consult with the general physician led her to do sonography where she learnt she had a growth in her uterus that had grown to a considerable size. “However, the sonography wasn’t able to say more than that, and my doctors suggested I have an MRI,” says Hansa recalling the ordeal.
The MRI revealed Hansa had stage four cancer, which had metastasised to several organs. Owing to the severity of the disease and its advanced progression, she was told it would be best not to go ahead with surgery, and instead stick to chemotherapy.
“On 22 March, 2022, I received this news and my world shook. I had often heard of people getting cancer, and now, when I was one of them, it was tough to process the news,” she shares.
Overcoming a slew of obstacles
A month later, Hansa was draped into a hospital gown and had her first chemotherapy session. However, the session yielded very little success.
“It was September and the doctors told me that cancer had spread to my ovaries, and I would need emergency surgery as the tumour had enlarged. They told us that I had four days to make my decision as we couldn’t wait any further. With the support of my family, I decided to have the surgery.”
Recalling the range of emotions she went through in those four days, the biggest one being fear, Hansa says her state had gone from bad to worse. Her stomach would hurt intensely and she wasn’t even able to stand.
“The tumour was so large by now that I couldn’t do anything except lie on the bed,” she adds.
On 22 October, the surgery took place and six of Hansa’s organs were removed — ovaries, uterus, colon, gall bladder, appendix, a portion of the liver, and the omentum along with the entire peritoneal surface. The surgery lasted eight hours and was performed by surgical oncologist Dr Sanket Mehta of Wockhardt Hospital.
While to anyone hearing this, it would seem a miracle that someone would lead a normal life following such a surgery, Hansa says she owes it to her team of doctors who were “wonderful”.
Getting back up
“There was pain, and a lot of challenges came my way following the surgery. I was in the ICU and wasn’t able to even stand for 10 days. The doctors would encourage me to walk, but I wasn’t even able to take a step or drink a sip of water. I felt like I would never be happy again,” she recalls.
But through the months that followed, Hansa’s iron grit helped her surpass these emotions and overcome them. She slowly began making movements, walking a little, and trying to get back to her normal way of living. During the course of 15 days that she was in the hospital following the surgery, she says there was a lot of weakness, which gradually passed.
“One and a half months following the surgery I began taking makeup orders once again. There was a little pain when I would stand for long hours at a stretch, but nothing major aside from that. Today I lead a very normal life,” says Hansa.
She informs that the chemotherapy sessions continue to ensure that she remains cancer free. These happen for 46 hours every 15 days. But even as she narrates the ordeal, Hansa prides herself on pulling through what she thought to be “the worst phase of her life”.
“When I got the news that it was cancer, I never thought I would be able to survive it, let alone lead a normal life again. My only thoughts those days were “kuch accha nahi hoga” (nothing good will ever happen). I even told my family that I did not want the treatment because I thought it would anyways be useless. But they pushed me to have the treatment, and I am grateful to them,” she says.
Sharing her learnings from this tough battle, Hansa says, “Try not to be scared. I was very scared and it is normal to be. But now as I look back, I realise how much I have gained by going in for the prescribed course of treatment.”
She also emphasises having a support system to get one through the worst.
“I remember my husband and kids (a 21-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter) would stay with me through the day and engage me in so many activities or simply just fool around to divert my attention from the pain. The fact that they believed I would be fine again gave me the strength to fight this. The biggest weapon against the disease is to know that you will survive it. Believe that.”
As we wrap up the call, Hansa tells me she is excited at the number of projects that she is getting for makeup this coming season.
“I can’t believe I’m back to my normal life. All I feel is blessed.”
Edited by Pranita Bhat