Rinaa Peter, who lives in India, is a two-time breast cancer survivor. She was initially diagnosed in 2018 and in 2021 learned the cancer had recurred (returned). This is her story in her own words.
I was in the best physical shape of my life prior to diagnosis. I exercised five days a week and ate healthy. I had no family history of breast cancer. In 2018, I felt a hard lump on my left breast. I went to my doctor who said it was probably a cyst but scheduled me for an ultrasound and biopsy to be sure. The ultrasound was fine, but in the biopsy, they saw the tumor and were pretty certain it was cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 35. I had a lumpectomy and a month later began two rounds of chemotherapy.
Three years later, on Feb. 9, 2021, I learned the cancer had returned. I had breast surgery again and then six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 25 rounds of radiation and 11 rounds of targeted therapy. I’m now on hormone therapy for the next five years.
During these times, my faith in God and physical exercise were the greatest gifts. I prayed daily (sometimes hourly) for the strength I needed to get out of bed every day, to recover from multiple surgeries, to cope with the pain from the tissue expander fills, and to return to the cancer clinic for each round of chemo.
On the good days, I tried to just soak up the fact that I felt good and would go to a low-impact exercise class. Since this was so much a part of my routine before cancer, it was the only thing I continued to do that made me feel normal and helped me forget how sick I was.
I had new friends who I pulled in close who could handle the ugly, but I also had old friends who just couldn’t handle it. While this was difficult, I had to show them grace and accept them as they were. God puts different people in your life when you need them. I had to trust that he knew what was best for me.
I’ve been finished with chemo now for a year and while I’m feeling better and better, I’m not who I used to be. I’ve changed in good and bad ways. My tolerance for people and their nonsense is at an all-time low, however, my heart really hurts and my compassion has grown for people who hurt or are going through a difficult season. Take it all in stride and be sure to show not only others grace, but also yourself.
This is the best advice I can give to someone who is newly diagnosed with cancer:
- Take it one step at a time. Don’t think about the next step until it’s time.
- Trust your gut instincts and don’t be forced into something that doesn’t feel right for you.
- Advocate for yourself—no one else will take care of you like you can. Speak out. Find your voice and speak out if something isn’t right and remember: closed mouths don’t get fed.
- Don’t be scared to ask questions! That is the right thing to do. Instead of assuming, it is always wise to ask.
- Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctors. Have people around who support you and take someone to your appointments because you might be overwhelmed. Join a support group after diagnosis. That does not make you feel alone. I have met so many amazing women who support me and truly understand me.
- And lastly, to all the wonderful and confident women out there: Get your yearly mammograms – early detection is crucial. Please take my golden advice. Regardless of your family history, regardless of your medical history, just get it done.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.
Breast cancer screening and early detection play an important role in your health. Screening tests can help detect breast cancer at an early stage when the chances of survival are highest.