I am Shweta Chawre, a childhood-cancer survivor. During the summer of 2008, right after I completed my SSC, I noticed that my right knee was hurting. The pain continued for a week. I assumed it to be pain due to the strain I exerted in sports. Even after several days of pills and ointments, the pain only worsened. I couldn’t walk properly. We approached an orthopaedic doctor and he sent me for a biopsy. The Biopsy reports indicated that I had a big tumor just below the knee. On September 12th 2008, at the age of 15, my world came crashing down when I was diagnosed with stage 2 Osteosarcoma (an aggressive type of bone cancer).
Blurry Dreams & a tint of hope
I was always an active and healthy teen brimming with energy. I was an active basketball player, sprinter and an artist. I never stayed put at one place. My ambition was to become an animator since the age of 11. This drove me to develop stories, characters and TV shows. Little did I know that the diagnosis would bring uncertainty in my life. It’s hard to hear anything when the doctor says “You have cancer” or in my parents’ case “Your child has cancer”. It sent a thunder down on me and my family. We realised that there are tough times ahead and we decided not give up. We mustered up all the energy and courage to win over cancer.
Three days later, I began an aggressive 3-month chemotherapy treatment. I was constantly sick. The swift runner was always bed-ridden. My immune system was so weakened by the treatment that I was at a high risk of developing other diseases. I became bald and a lost a lot of weight. I weighed only 29 Kilos! On 3rd December 2008, I had a surgery where the doctors removed the whole tumor along with a major part of my tibia bone. My knee was also replaced with titanium implant. The doctors performed a plastic surgery where they removed a patch of skin from my left leg and grafted in on the right leg. The excruciating pain I went through left me delirious and weak. It was a lot to bear. I went through a lot during those days. The dressing, the blood, exhaustion, anger, frustration, I remember each and every minute of it. I also remember one incident when I used to observe people walking and would wonder, "I am never going to walk like this". Looking at girls my age styling their hair, wearing beautiful clothes and hanging out with their friends left me depressed.
Going the Distance
After the surgery I went through 6 more cycles of chemotherapy, 9 months of physiotherapy and a lot of pain. My treatment at last got over on September 2009. I knew I had tasted freedom. I was able to walk independently soon after. Short distances at first and then going the distance!
The entire time, my family & close friends gave me tremendous amount of emotional support and helped me through the treatment. I was able to cope up with it through hope, courage & drawing cartoons. I am thankful to the staff & doctors for treating me with dignity. I completed my studies in April 2011, cleared my HSC with first class. On July 2014, I completed my B.A. in Animation & Visual effects. I went a step ahead and volunteered in childhood cancer support groups. I had a new spark of confidence & positivity as all the members of the group were childhood cancer winners.
I never felt alone and I continued to go for the follow up once a year.
It’s been ten years ever since I was diagnosed with cancer. I am now a long term survivor. Added to that, I got engaged to my best friend Satish Pathak. I feel extremely fortunate & blessed to have found him. Just like me, Satish is equally strong, supportive and caring. I still cannot comprehend the fact that it is ten years. Is this a dream? Well, no!
I have literally walked through hell with a smile, holding my Aai and Baba's hand all the time. Together, we have grown stronger.
Leading a new life
I am one of the very few who has turned her childhood passion to a career. I am now happy working as an Animator. I decided not to let any physical disability stop me from doing what I love. My love for animation is so much that I travel 4 hours every day to work. With the help of Satish, I started a YouTube food recipe channel called “Food Me Now”. I work as an independent illustrator as well and draw cartoons, caricatures, graphic designs, logo designs etc., I have also represented India at SIOP (Society of International Paediatric Oncology) in Toronto, Canada. That was my maiden flight and my first ever visit to the airport!
My story is not unique. Many cancer survivors face similar challenges as I did, probably even worse. However, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a good support system and on time treatment. Many survivors unfortunately have to discover and research a lot of new and scary issues on their own. They are not as lucky as I am. Cancer can do two things to you: make you stronger or make you insane. I believe I've felt both. But if God did this for a purpose, it's going to be pointless if I don't figure out a way to make the experience useful. Every bad thing in your life is redirecting you towards a good thing, and everything happens for a reason. Trust me, I have lived it!