Don’t Take Anything Granted in Life: Story of Kalpana Dimri Sharma

Kalpana Dimri Sharma, Masters in Physics, is a simple soul from hills of Uttarakhand, she is a cancer warrior who has defeated cancer twice. A Garhwali with vivid imagination and exploring creative writing through her blog Dil Se Kahaniya, where she expresses herself in Hindi short stories. 

Today, we will hear her story of resilience, courage, strength, and perseverance, and know some valuable lessons she learned while walking on the road of hardships.

Here is what Kalpana Said.

“This phase of my life is etched in my heart and is unforgettable. It all started in 2018, on 24 Sep, my husband who is in Indian Army was returning home after about 4 months and I along with my kids was waiting eagerly, we were staying at Ambala. He was on a short leave of 12 days, so our plans were quite hectic with visiting friends and family at Delhi and Ambala. We went to Delhi on 29 Sep 2018 as planned and were having fun, but whole time I was pre-occupied with an unknown fear, few months back I had noticed and felt some hard lump under my right arm.

Although, I didn’t pay much attention to it but it was there somewhere in my mind. Now the lump had become more conspicuous so I shared this with my husband. He took it seriously and took me to a Military Hospital at Ambala. Initially we went to a gynecologist who ruled out anything serious but asked to consult a surgeon also as a confirmation. I was relieved and wanted to go back but then we went to surgeon as my husband wanted to clarify all doubts. The surgeon post physical examination asked me to go through two tests i.e. Ultrasound and FNAC. FNAC, Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology was new to us. Results of each test brought more stress and I was referred to a bigger hospital at Chandimandir (near Chandigarh), where the Onco surgeon asked me to get Biopsy done.

I was surprised, as, although the biopsy result was still awaited but the doctor had prescribed a number of Pre- Anesthetic checks (checks done just prior to any surgery). May be the doctor was more experienced and knew that the lump was cancerous. The biopsy report came on 16 Oct, while reading the report the doctor asked, whether I am through with all my investigations, we answered in affirmation but we were more eagerly waiting for results. Finally, he made eye contact after a couple of minutes and asked “ when would you like to be operated?  we should be fast as cancer spreads rapidly”. We both were shocked and couldn’t respond for a few seconds. Our kids were left at home at Ambala, husband’s leave was over and here we were in the cabin of  Onco surgeon at Chandimandir discussing my surgery. We had zero experience of this as neither of us had any family history of cancer and here I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer stage 2.

My husband was still not out of shock but I started inquiring. The doctor shared his extensive treatment plan, first the surgery would be done then Chemotherapy followed by Radiotherapy and then medicines for next 10 years. There will be a gap of 21 days between every treatment i.e., surgery and chemo and then every subsequent chemo for eight cycles and then radiotherapy for 28 days. I still remember, I had tears in my eyes, when the doctor asked me to cut my long hairs now, else I will feel worse when I lose them all together later. Well, the doctor gave us some time to think, we returned back to our kids.

Then, my kids were too young, daughter 13 yrs. and son 10 yrs., I didn’t know what to do, how to do, I was worried for uncertain and painful future. Well, first my husband extended his leave for two months and then we decided that we will not delay and I will go through surgery on 18 Oct. My husband decided to quit his job so that he can be available to me full time but I countered him that we both can handle this together and manage with his leave. Either I was very strong or I was not aware of future that I told him that you just manage leave for treatment, rest I will be fine and look after myself. I knew he was posted in high altitudes and had responsibilities, being the wife of an army officer for last 14 years I know that for a soldier nation comes first.

Finally, I could convince him but on a condition that my mom will join me and we both agreed to it. I was operated on 18 Oct and returned home after three days with a drain pipe attached, kids were not aware , they kept on asking all sort of questions and we kept on trying to keep the environment as normal as possible. Whereas, the life was not at all same, in last 10-12 days it had changed completely.  One fine day, when we were contemplating how to tell kids, my daughter asked my husband “Dadda, Mumma ko cancer hai kya?”, she knew all this time. I got worried, such a young child, I called her, made her sit beside me and asked, is she afraid of this? She couldn’t express herself. I sensed it and called both kids and told them all in a simple language, told them about the treatment, chemotherapy and their side effects of losing all hairs.

Initially they were apprehensive and said no but then my husband explained that treatment is must for Mumma and it is part of treatment, so they understood. I consider myself as a mission-oriented lady, for me every task, every situation is a mission, this thought process gives me strength and keeps me focused. So, for me one more task was over, now my kids had also joined us and were prepared to fight the battle against cancer. My mom had also arrived, she herself is a power house, instead of getting de moralized, depressed , she also joined us in this fight and was standing strong with us, now we were five.

12 Nov 2018 was my first chemotherapy session and my life changed after that; nothing was same. After chemotherapy sessions, my immunity was extremely low, I was vulnerable to infections, so my bedroom, washroom were separated from others, anyone meeting me had to sanitize first, now kids couldn’t come running  and hug me after school, they had to change their uniforms, wash, sanitize and only then they could meet me. Every 21 days, I had to go through these Chemotherapy sessions and there were eight of them. My platelet count used to drop drastically after chemo and it was supposed to be brought within limits before next chemo.

Kalpana during her first chemotherapy in 12th November, 2018

As I said I am a mission-oriented lady, I took this as a task and started working on it. My aim was to get my blood count within limits before next chemo, so I used to have chicken soup, kiwi, juice of papaya leaves and lot of green leafy vegetables. Gradually people came to know and started calling and suggesting one or the other thing like eat this, avoid that, do meditation, take ayurvedic, get homeopathic. I know all of them were truly concerned but it was difficult for me so I decided to get away from everyone and focus on my treatment. After second chemo my scalp started to pain, so one fine day I just took scissors and cut my hairs to half, after third chemo I asked my husband to shave off my head. There were new side effects after every chemo, gradually I was getting weaker and gradually I got away from rest of the world, my world was my family and my treatment, my months didn’t have 30/31 days it had only 21 days , for me everything needed to be Hygienic and Healthy.

Meanwhile, during these times I came in contact with someone special, Mrs. Gill, she is a cancer survivor; she used to guide me before every chemo session and kept me ahead of the treatment. She told me about all side effects and assured me that they will go away with time once the treatment is over. I used to follow all her instructions, gradually she became my guiding beacon and she is till today. I learnt from her that we must share our experience from our times and assist others on the similar path to cross it; later on, I also tried to do something like that. Well, gradually life became a cycle of 21 days, chemo, 3-4 days bed rest, efforts to get back platelet count, speak to husband on telephone and then next chemo, sometimes, when frustrated I used to vent out on my mom, I also used to break, after all I am also a human but then after looking at my kids I used to be back as mother, so the next lesson was humans can break, mothers can’t.

Besides Mrs. Gill, Aarti and Seema were two people in my life, in their company I used to forget that I am suffering with stage 2 cancer and I am going through any treatment. They never used to discuss cancer with me, in fact we used to have fun, going around, sometimes eating out (with my hygienic home cooked food in tiffin). I used to feel very light with them.

Life changed with time, I gained weight, a lot of weight due to steroids, chemotherapy sessions were over and radiotherapy was my next battle, my next task. So, radiation sessions came with some new side effects but finally it was over in June 2019. On my last day of radiation, my doctor (from Fortis, again Chandigarh) told me that “you are cancer free now” , I got a warm welcome from kids at home. Finally, we had won the battle against cancer, we, the team was winner, now it was only a medicine, but the frequent visits to hospitals were over. But I was lost, in last 8 months, I became 70 kgs from 54 kgs, I had lost my long beautiful hairs, I was bald, till now I was focused towards my treatment, but now treatment was over, I had forgotten what was my routine before cancer, I was lost, I didn’t know where to start from.

My husband told me, one step at a time, gradually I started getting used to routine, after one year, we went out for a dinner, although my Eat Healthy, Stay Healthy was still on. The ABC (apple, beetroot, carrot) juice, boiled eggs, chicken soup, morning and evening walks were part of my daily routine. Walks became my favorite pass time; I could go on walk at any time.

All this made me realize what is important in life, here comes the next lesson, Don’t take anything granted in life, accept what happens, value time, find yourself, find your inner strength, whatever is slated as your task has to be completed by you and only you. If God gives you pain, problems, he also gives you strength to fight it, he makes you meet your true companions, you get to know true life.

Kalpana with her soldier

Now I don’t get troubled with small issues because now I know what can be a real problem. Since July 2019, life was getting back to track, I was getting physically active now, regular walks, attending school events of kids, watching movie with kids, now kids could come back to me directly from school, what else I could ask for, it was such a great happiness,  but my husband was not with me, he was still in high altitude.

July 2020, finally my soldier had returned from Himalayas and we were moving to Delhi on posting on our request. We went for a routine follow up to the hospital (Ambala) and I once again saw similar lines of tension on doctor’s face. The doctor again advised USG, FNAC, Mammogram, Biopsy, we were shocked (mind you, these were corona times). As we were supposed to move on posting to Delhi, my husband took me to R&R hospital of Army at Delhi, where in all investigations were re-done. Finally, it was confirmed in the biopsy and PET CT report that now I was suffering with Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage 4), means the cancer from breasts had spread to liver and bones also. Our world fell like pack of cards, Oct 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, July 2019 I was cancer free and Sep 2020 I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Initially we were broken, it was natural, but then we gathered ourselves.

Fortunately, we had good doctors, being a metastatic cancer, surgery was ruled out and I was put on targeted therapy, combination of hormonal therapy and oral chemo. I was visiting hospitals again after every 21 days, I had to maintain my platelet counts again but this time my husband was with me, my kids had grown up and I was more experienced. I was fortunate that with every half yearly PET CT Scan, the reports confirmed improvement in my condition. In last PET CT Scan of Aug 2022, it has shown that remission of cancer has taken place (because for stage 4 Cancer they don’t say that it is cured) but my treatment remains same, as the cancer is not there but it has not gone, so the guard can’t be reduced.

Kalpana, a mission-oriented lady who doesn’t know to stop

As I was going through treatment since 2018, gradually I was looking inwards, I became more observant. During walks (my favorites) I got close to nature, started loving it, I started loving myself, and then one day eventually a writer was born inside me. I started writing short stories in Hindi, my little daughter, who is grown up now, 17 years, introduced me to social media and launched my stories on social media platforms.

Maybe I became a writer because of Cancer, else I would have never found a writer inside me. I must mention Deepika Sharma here who introduced me to online magazines, where I could launch my stories. Till now I have written a dozen of stories, four of them have been published in three different e-magazines. Now, I have a blog Dil Se Kahaniya where I share my stories and life experiences.

One day, when my son who is in 9th standard now, after returning from school shared “today, we were taught about PET CT scan, Mom you also used to go through PET CT scan, you were suffering from cancer, but it never appeared that you were going through such a dangerous disease, you behaved so normal”. This is my biggest achievement, that today for my kids, cancer is not a big deal.

For me, cancer is not a disease, it’s not a chapter of my life, it’s an important part of my life, I have to live with it and I am living with it.

– Kalpana Dimri Sharma

Every day, I learn something new. Cancer has changed me, changed my perception towards life, I am a better person now, I am more positive now, now I don’t have any complaints with life, life is beautiful with cancer. For me, Cancer is not the end of my life, in fact cancer is a new beginning of my life.”

(Edited by The Peace Stories)

(This World Cancer Day, we are sending prayers and peace to the cancer survivors and cancer fighters. You are adorable, you are brave, you are beautiful. You deserve to be loved. Sending you hope, love, and peace. More and more power to you.)

About The Peace Stories

We are building a space for calm and bliss. A space for counting our blessings. A space for just breathing and being. I welcome you all to come along with me to build our very own community of peace. The Peace Stories: Together we smile, together we heal.

Read all the peace stories here.

10 responses to “Don’t Take Anything Granted in Life: Story of Kalpana Dimri Sharma”

  1. Bhabi I knew ur struggle with Cancer from day 1 … u r a true warrior, lots of love n hats off the u and Anil also….God bless u both forever, my champs!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very emotional, heartfelt and motivational story of your life. There is a soldier in you too and infact every member of the family who has fought this battle together. I wish you a good health and long healthy life ahead. Keep writing…..

    Liked by 1 person

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