Heena didn’t let cancer get the best of her

1st July 2010 – Heena Saini has the date firmly etched on her mind. With the big day just five months away, the 28-year-old bride-to-be had skipped festivities, and made a trip to the hospital with a lump in her left breast she had been avoiding for months. It turned out to be an insidious cyst. It took a few days for the biopsy results to arrive. On July 1, Heena was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer – a rare type of cancer that affects `one in a million’. “So I am, indeed, one in a million,” Heena would later tell her doctor with a chuckle.
In a couple of days, Heena was to go to Delhi to buy her wedding dress. She cancelled the trip, and instead went to another doctor for a second opinion. Then a third, and a fourth. Finally, she accepted her fate and started to read about the condition. She soon chopped off her waist-length hair and started chemotherapy – or ‘wellness voyage’, as she calls it – at a Bengaluru hospital.
Heena, who has a bachelor’s in science from Bangalore University, was working as a business analyst at Oracle at the time. With a flexible schedule, she continued working from home – or hospital – throughout the treatment. “It’s what kept me going,” she says. “I remember walking across the hospital reception every Friday, with a laptop bag over my shoulder.” She also finished her MBA through a weekend programme during the treatment.
After undergoing six cycles of chemotherapy, Heena had a mastectomy surgery followed by breast reconstruction. “It was one of the most painful parts of the journey – one that almost made me give up,” she recalls. Heena had to find new ways to define her femininity. No one can prepare you for the physical changes, she says. It took her weeks to look at her bald self in the mirror. As she touched her head with her swollen arm and eyed her new breast, she broke down at the lack of familiarity.
But Heena did not waver. Her younger brother became her caretaker. She soon completed the radiation and on 25th February, 2011, was declared cancer-free.
Today, it’s been close to ten years since she defeated the malady. She had let go of her wedding plans back then, and to this day, believes that self-love is the greatest love. Despite the curveballs, Heena never let her career take a back seat. She was promoted right after the treatment, and every two years over the last decade. She’s currently a program manager for information security at Cisco. She’s also part of several cancer support networks. “Talking about your journey is the first step towards destigmatising the disease,” she says.


https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/heena-didnt-let-cancer-get-the-best-of-her/articleshow/88155639.cms

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