A spoonful of gratitude, a pinch of prayer, and ounces of learnings

An account of a Cancer Survivor’s life after treatment

The year gone past has successfully reinforced my long-standing belief — that change is the only constant in life.

So, what changed for me last year?

Many things I’d say: For me, it turned my assumption that my life was headed downhill the moment I was diagnosed with Cancer, upside down. My life post-treatment has been a wondrous journey of discovery — that there is much to be thankful for and to look forward to.

In 2019, while undergoing treatment, I had doubts about my own ability to live a ‘normal’ life with limited mobility in my left arm and shoulder post-surgery and reconstruction. I had trouble focusing on things, had a short attention span, and very little patience. Sometimes I would hope that I could just turn back the clock to my pre-Cancer days and the entire period of diagnosis and treatment would just vanish like a bad dream. But that was not to be. So I learned to live with it in 2020.

That’s probably the most important part of my recovery - learning to reconcile myself to my reality. This helped me take things in my stride and pick up the pieces to start with a fresh perspective. I no longer ask myself “Why me?” I say “Well, it is what it is, let’s learn to live with it.”

Actually, I think of my life these days as Life before Cancer and Life After Cancer.

I hate to admit this, but I wasn’t so tough mentally when I first started undergoing treatment. But just like any other ordinary person like me, I found hidden strength when my back was pushed against the wall and I plunged to newer lows each day. It's intriguing now for me to note, how one day I was asking “Why me?” and now I just laugh at it and say, “Well, everything happens for a reason, and I am glad that the experience taught me to appreciate the things I have, to have more gratitude and live a happier, fuller life”. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that being sad and weak wasn’t for me after all. That I was better than that, a fighter who had to battle on. The battle scars would always remain, to be worn as medallions of my victory. The past year made it possible. The moment I triumphed over the battle inside my head, I started feeling a lot more positive (I hope positive still sounds like a good word in a post-COVID-19 world).

I also (sort of) resumed working full time and that was a revelation too. I had poor memory and would find it difficult to focus on things, the smallest of the problems used to make me anxious at the start. I was full of self-doubt and kept double guessing if I was doing things right. A dear friend and mentor reached out for help in setting up business operations for his new venture and I plunged headlong into it. It was a bumpy ride but the excitement of helping build a startup from scratch set my creative juices flowing and I completely got caught up in juggling the daily ops and financial aspects of the firm. Most of the year went past in chasing this dream which wasn’t mine but the sheer pace and energy of the work left little time for me to pause and take notice.

However, towards the end of the year, I realized that my heart wasn’t in it and I had to take a few steps back. But the experience of working full time, albeit remotely, made me realize I wasn’t a spent force yet. I could still train my mind to focus on things, that I could leverage technology and adapt to changes too. Though I did find myself fretting or being anxious about the smallest of things, this problem actually helped me deal with the finer details of the operations that I was handling.

Life After Cancer has taught me to be more forgiving and less judgemental of myself. The nagging self-doubt has given way to a quiet assurance that things can’t get any worse than what they were and now, they can only get better. Life After Cancer has also made me a better parent (even if I say so myself!). My mind worked overtime to devise new ways to overcome my feisty toddler’s defiance of everything I said or did. The little human (who claims to be “Very Big”) has an ego the size of a football field and harsh criticism or attempts at imposing discipline or authority were met with stiff resistance. I tried to humour her ego and it worked, but only partially.

In all honestly, toddlers are just our smaller selves and love being loved and showered with attention. Mine is a cuddle bug and always hungry for love, I realized. So I turned every act of defiance into a moment to share some cuddles and she melted into a giant blob of whipping cream.

That brings me to the other learning of the past year — baking with healthy ingredients. What had started as a pastime during my chemotherapy, when I would obsessively watch Instagram baking videos and bookmark them, turned into a full-blown passion. I started collecting recipes and experimenting with them, documenting every success (and failure) on Facebook and Instagram.

In the middle of all this, I felt honored to be invited to be a panelist for two Webinars on how the early detection and diagnosis of Breast Cancer is key to its successful treatment. I also did a podcast about my battle with Cancer and I feel happy that at least I could touch a few lives just like mine.


I wonder about the kind of life I was leading before Cancer. I can’t remember learning so much in the past years or feeling so alive and happy and grateful in my Life Before Cancer. If you are a Cancer patient or know someone who is battling Cancer, know this — the battle with yourself and your mind is the toughest. Once you decide to get better, only then your treatment is going to be effective and heal your mind and body.

If life throws lemons at you, make a lemon cake and remember to add the lemon zest too, because it's the smallest of things, which are secret ingredients to a great bake. Just like the simple joys and pleasures which make our life worth living.



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Swati Suramya

Swati Suramya


Breast Cancer patient, fighter, survivor, author and mother. Writing about my personal journey during my battle with cancer and other subjects.