Very few cancer survivors speak about their challenges. This story is of a mum battling the health condition, and looking forward to a positive life, as she wants to share it, talk about it, and even raise funds for her recovery.
We often hear stories of cancer fighters, and their hardships and challenges—even a lot of positive stories too, after they have recovered. A few of us see it first-hand when it happens within families or with friends, and it isn’t easy.
Monika Bakshi Singh is a highly optimistic mum who has begun a platform for individuals to share their cancer stories. Her battle with cancer is an unexpected development, when a test revealed something that would overturn her life completely, “It was October 2015, and I was leading a normal life—going to work, taking care of my baby boy, catching up with friends, and doing regular dance cardio and surya namaskars. Everything was so normal.”
However, a routine medical examination revealed she had Acute Myeloid Leukemia – Type 2.
“As part of my routine medical screening, I did a complete blood count (CBC). This test is done to measure the amount of blood cells in a body. The results shook me hard. I had platelets as low as 40,000. A normal count is above 1,50,000. When I visited the oncologist, I insisted on a bone marrow test, that came positive with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – Type 2. After three months of treatment, I went into remission, which means I had recovered,” she remembers. “My life was as normal as anyone else. I was on cloud nine, when the devil struck again in August 2016 as relapsed AML.”
Monika talks about having a young toddler at home who is trying hard to grapple with the situation, “My boy is still 2.5 years old. He doesn’t understand much of what is going on, but is an accommodative child. He left breast feeding a day before my first chemo cycle, and strangely never asked for it again. Right now, when I am in hospital for chemotherapy, he is taken care of by my very supportive mother and maternal aunt.”
“I feel no one can teach a child how to be independent. It has to be demonstrated through actions,” she continues. “As children, along with my sisters Sonika and Minakshi, we were guided and motivated by a courageous and independent mother, Amita Bakshi. In each adversity we faced as a family, she was like a leader, designating duties of household chores and outside matters very easily to the three of us.”
Monika is a strong believer in the impact of positivity and optimistic thought.
She believes in maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook in front of her son, “At the tender age of 2.5, my baby boy is observing and imbibing every positive thought, word, or action coming from me. Even now, at his tender age, he holds my hand tight when he sees the guy from the diagnostic centre coming to collect blood samples. I can hear his soft voice clearly, ‘Mumma, don’t be scared.’ When I started losing hair as a side-effect of chemo, I got bald in front him, and he was so accepting.”
Monika further shares with Mums and Stories, “I have an identical twin sister. She can move the world to keep me happy, energized, and upbeat. My younger sister has become my friend after we spent hours together in the hospital. We three sisters share a very special bond that has strengthened after encountering cancer. My mom and her sister are the primary caregivers to my baby. Despite all the painful emotions after of my diagnosis, they never broke down before me. They have managed my home and baby meticulously. I have to say that my in-laws have also stood by me in every way possible.”
Monika smiles as she talks about her husband, “To be honest, this diagnosis brought Rahul [my husband] and me closer like never before. He has been my caretaker in hospital at night, and a punching bag too! In rough times, we both realized how much we love each other and how we want to grow old together. All my friends and acquaintances have bowled me over by the amount of compassion, generosity, and prayers they have been showering on me.”
Unable to find positive stories on cancer, Monika began her own story platform for cancer fighters.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, like any other educated patient, I tried looking for hope and encouragement on the Internet. Ironically, what I found were dismal death statistics. There are countless stories of marvellous victories over cancer that nobody seemed to be talking about,” she remembers. “But I found no source that could bring those stories to the media, and remind people that ‘cancer is conquerable’.”
Her experience inspired Monika to start a blog specifically for cancer fighters, “When I found no motivation for myself, I vowed to create it. That is when I decided to start my own website (Stronger Than Cancer) that brings forth stories of victories over various cancers. Working on my website gives me a great feeling, knowing that I am not letting any cancer warrior fight his/her battle with a broken heart. I have a team of dedicated editors who work very hard to create a first-hand experience through the responses that our warriors provide.”
Talking about what she misses the most since the diagnosis and treatment, Monika admits, “I am a die-hard foodie. I miss certain types of food I cannot eat anymore,” she says with a laugh. “Otherwise, I believe I miss a normal life. A normal life that looked boring to me once now looks so beautiful. ‘Normal is beautiful.’ This is the learning cancer has given me. It has taught me to love myself and respect my body. It has also taught me that resentment, grievances, or hatred of any kind should be out of your system. They are lethal.”
Monika will soon undergo a life-saving bone marrow transplant. She signs off, “I want to continue living a long and healthy life as a cancer survival champion. I hope to pass on the baton of hope down the generations.” Mums and Stories wishes Monika a speedy recovery, and hopes to do a happy story about her complete recovery soon.