25 Jan, 2022
The course of Dr. Keerti Tewari’s life has changed more than once over the years. Although a trained doctor, she never practiced medicine and decided to join the Civil Services. The former bengaluru resident, who has called Delhi her home since September 2013, was to face a far bigger challenge in 2007. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer on May 14, 2007. You know how there are some dates that will always stay with you. This is one of those.”
Her first reaction was one of complete terror. “I thought I was going to die.”
It then followed loads of self-pity. She asked herself, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” There was also that all-too-familiar sense of being in denial when she desperately hoped that the report wasn’t hers and that they had mistakenly given her someone else’s.
“I was afraid that I would never see my daughter Asavari grow up. She was only nine at the time. She was sitting next to me when I told her about my diagnosis. I hugged her and started crying. Seeing me cry, she started crying too. Then, she asked me why I was crying and I told her that I had a serious illness and that I did not know if I would survive.”
“She said, ‘But I thought you had a lump in your breast.’ When I told her it was breast cancer, she pulled away and asked me to stop crying. She told me that Australian pop-star Kylie Minogue had breast cancer years ago, and that she had seen her perform at a concert recently. She said if Kylie could recover, so could I. She never let me cry after that. If she saw me crying, she would say, ‘Crying doesn’t cure cancer.’ She was my biggest support.”
She also revived interest in painting to keep her mind diverted during this time. “I used to paint when I was in school and college. But over the years, as with most of us, I got caught up with my job and with family life, and had stopped painting. I picked it up again. Just the flow of the brush would help ease my anxiety, my pain.” She also read a lot during her treatment. Basically a fiction fan, she also read a lot of self-help books and listened to a lot of music to ease the stress.
With one of the most traumatic times of her life behind her, Keerti joined hands with three other survivors in Bengaluru to start the Pink Hope Cancer Support Group to help others cope with their treatment mentally and emotionally. “This was in 2009, and the group is still going strong and growing. We do a lot of counseling. Now that I am in Delhi, I do the counseling over the phone. While it started as a support group for breast cancer survivors, today the group has expanded and we have a lot of other cancer survivors helping out.”
She always tells people that the small things help you through the hard times. “Take it one day at a time and live from moment to moment. And never give up.”
Stressing the importance of early detection and treatment, Keerti says, “The most important thing to focus on in cancer is ‘can’…that you can do it and can overcome it. We have to remember that. I felt the most important thing, at least during my treatment, was my attitude.”