Mum’s Gotta Live

My Battle with Breast Cancer

An indifferent sonographer is probing mammary-land. My only concern – that silly, putting-an-entire nudist colony robe I am wearing. Then, I hear – Okay – it looks like cancer only.

Phlegmatic, indolent announcement. Loud. Care-a-damn loud.

What? WHAT? What did she say? Landmines explode in my ears.

I stare. I start shivering. I don’t know why. But I am shaking like an overloaded washing machine. I could have cried. Maybe, yelled. Or, shrieked.

Held her by her shoulders and done a filmy, ‘kyon, kyon, kyon, keh do ki yeh jhoot hai?’

But I am shivering. Violently. Cancer.


I struggle uttering this word. Fear has a new meaning. It’s a blood-hound aiming for my jugular.

I have never felt so scared in my life. Cancer is inside me.

Thriving without my permission. That’s not supposed to happen. Others get cancer.

Like Mrs Srivastava’s bahu’s bhabhi. Or, that nice magazine editor I met once. Other people.

Today, I begin a long, difficult battle with breast cancer.

Mankind (operative word – “man”) has been fascinated with breasts from the time Eve plucked the apple and Adam watched her plucking it. One bite and he realized that he was focussing eight inches above the sweet spot(s).

Man, ever since, readjusted his vision and mankind, its mission.

Breasts became an object of intense attention – good breasts, bad breasts, large melon-y breasts, tiny lemon-y ones, breasts that popped out like frog-eyes, breasts that caved in like Bangalore roads during monsoons, breasts trapped in spandex, breasts left loose. Men could
never get enough of them.

Breast got a lot of press. When Bollywood wannabes unbuttoned their way to the silver screen. Or, in nip-slips on fashion show ramps captured by photographers with reflexes quicker than Dhoni’s behind the stumps. The twins also made it to educational inserts on ‘How to take care of your breasts’ read almost entirely by those who had none.

Legendary warrior women in the Amazon league rebelled by cutting off one breast to be able to draw a bow. They used the remaining breast to feed their female children. Joan of Arc clamped hers in a breastplate. In recent times too, women have been protesting against the brazen exploitation of breasts, some by burning bras. Others by starting hashtag campaigns
like #freethenipple which, I am sure #frozemanyeyeballs.

That did not deter women from flaunting the domes to sell anything from lingerie to spark plugs. The hoardings clearly shouted out their preferences, and it was no Victoria’s secret.

Not to mention the mannequins crafted with most of the manufacturing effort devoted to the chest region: a scopophiliac’s sheer delight.

Topless continued to remain a bottomless controversy while, unknown to many, a new, and rather annoying ‘search result’ started popping up in the internet breast-quest. It was breast cancer.

Lumps. Rashes. Breast-self examination. Mammogram. Biopsy. Mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Survival. Palliation. Cure. Or, death.

Breasts with cancer were beating the hell out of the rest of the breasts. The incidence rates were increasing alarmingly. The reasons were several and unclear. Women were dying.

A million women were getting diagnosed annually, and that number was said to increase by 20 Percent before we reached 2020. Along with this grew the frenzy to research the disease and find cures. Good progress was made.

From the 4,200 years old Egyptian lady with extensive metastatic breast cancer to the ancient Greek experimenting with treatments like topical application of cabbage, a salted mixture of honey and egg white, or ripe fig to William Halsted performing the first mastectomy in 1882, we have come a long way.

The battle is still on. But, more and more women are breasting the tape. This book celebrates all those who’ve battled breast cancer.