As I have mentioned in recent posts, in addition to relationships, I have a keen interest in South Asians taking the path less travelled, and – as part of a community that gives so much importance to “what people think” and, for the most part, putting on an “I only have good times” front in spite of really hard times that one might be facing – I want to thank Sona Mehta for taking the path less travelled and sharing her very personal story with all of us.
I sincerely hope that all my readers – female or male (men, please correct me if I am wrong, but most of you feel very strongly about breasts and have women in your life who have them and who you care deeply about, right?) – read this post not only because Sona was gracious enough to share her story but because although no one ever anticipates getting cancer or being faced with something like this at any age, what Sona went through is real life, which more often than not – & especially when it comes to the quest of finding one’s life partner – I believe a lot of people do not think about.
Breast cancer awareness will definitely be a part of this post, but what this post is really about is faith, what really matters in life, and a remarkable love, and I hope this post makes a few people have or at least consider having a new perspective about 2 very important things: 1) Female health and not making talking about our lady parts so taboo in desi culture (To understand the stats on breast cancer imagine this… 8 of your closest female family members/friends in one room and 1 of them will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime) & 2) Even though we all wish for happy, trouble-free days until we are “old and grey” with our “perfect” life partner, we never consider what we would do if we had to face the unthinkable as Sona Mehta did in April of this year when after having been married just a little over a year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25.
Before I share Sona’s story per her journal, I wanted to let you know how I know Sona, but the thing is that I do not really know Sona. Well… I feel like I do now, but I hardly did until 3 weeks ago… Sona is the younger sister of a girlfriend who I went to undergrad with; I think I met Sona once or twice when she visited BU, and then as it goes for 90% of the people who adorn our Facebook pages, many years later we became FB friends.
If I remember correctly (& this is embarrassing but hopefully not too much because we all e-stalk, no?)… her sister had posted a picture of her daughter & you might know that I am slightly obsessed with babies, so I went from that picture on to perusing some more pics, saw Sona tagged in one of them & then clicked on her profile (yes, it thoroughly disturbs me how much of my life – & I assure you all of yours’ – are spent e-stalking). I saw pictures of Sona with her hair cut super short… one of her with a scarf wrapped around her head… and then several posts from friends wishing her well and posting about a Breast Cancer awareness walk.
As was the case with reaching out to Sacha Dhawan, I was nervous about reaching out to Sona… even if her profile page made it seem as such, it was completely inappropriate to reach out to her and not only ask if she had breast cancer but if she did, even though she hadn’t seen me in almost a decade, would she be willing to share her incredibly personal story, but again, I went with my gut. I knew Sona’s sister to always be kind, so figured that Sona would be the same and from what I saw on her page, Sona was not hiding anything; her page was a testament to her fighting breast cancer and being a champion for the cause, so I decided to send her an FB message.
On October 4th, I wrote to Sona with lots of cushioning, disclaimers, “sorries” and over-explaining, and she replied the very next day (on my birthday) with this message: “Of course I remember you. How are you? And Happy Birthday!! Thanks for the message… I do not think it’s weird. I actually really appreciate the support. I am currently at Sloan in the waiting room, ready for my LAST chemo treatment!! One of the happiest days of my life. I would love to talk more soon. They just called me in. I will send you an email tomorrow.”
After receiving her first message & from all our correspondence since then, I can now say that I do know Sona – she is kind, brave, gracious, fierce, has a heart of gold, and is an amazing wife, daughter, sister, aunt & friend.
Cancer is something that has touched almost everyone’s lives (most of us know someone who has lost their lives to it, was able to fight it into submission or someone who is in the fight against it today) but even if you do not know someone who has been affected, Sona’s story is so important because her experience – although it happened earlier than most could ever imagine – is a reality of life… one that I hope everyone keeps in light of the “finding your life partner” focus of my blog. Having said that, I want to remind my readers that the intention of my posts is never to depress people by “making them think about things they do not want to think about” (I cannot tell you how many times I have been told this & usually in an accusatory tone), but to hopefully positively affect people or at least broaden their perspectives by having them think about things they may not have thought about before.
Sona, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story and to anyone who has questions or comments, please feel free to comment here, at the end of the next post which will be an in-depth interview with Sona or on my FB page.
** SONA’S JOURNEY ** (from Sona’s journal)
Diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer at age 25. Expected CURE by January of 2012 soon after my 26th birthday and 2 year wedding anniversary.
April 20, 2011
The scariest day of my life, the day I found out I actually had breast cancer. The unthinkable took a lot for me to fully fathom. I had never been sick in my life and now the only thoughts that resonated in my mind ended up taking me to the darkest of places.
With the support of my husband, Neal, family and closest friends, I was able to finally overcome the initial fear and get into “fight” mode. Neal and I made the very difficult decision to move from Dallas back to New York, our hometown, in order to be surrounded by our loved ones and to be treated at Sloan Kettering. Thankfully, we were able to move quickly and by May 12th 2011, only 3 weeks post diagnosis, I was already sitting in the, now all too familiar, chemo suite at Sloan for my first of 16 chemo treatments. My chemo would be followed by surgery and some radiation. The chemo was initially very tough. Not only were the side effects very difficult to overcome, but my fear of hospitals, IV’s, needles etc.. didn’t help.
Fast forward to today, September 17, 2011, currently 3 weeks from completing my chemotherapy and doing remarkably well with an extremely positive prognosis. I have overcome my fear of all things “hospital” and these things have actually become a comforting sight of sorts. A few months ago, Tuesday was just the day before the worst day of the week. And today, we almost cannot wait for Wednesday to roll around (chemo day). I cannot call myself a survivor yet, but with the help of my amazing husband, and my doctors, family and friends, I KNOW that I will overcome this and cement my place in the amazing sisterhood of survivors.
Today is October 13th, and I have completed my chemotherapy as of one week ago. I am starting to get my energy back. I think in a few days I will start feeling great.
I have scheduled my lumpectomy for October 31st. After I recover from surgery, I will begin radiation a few weeks later. I am looking forward to moving through each phase of my treatment.