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The Girl Who’s Always Smiling

by Roshani RaoJune 15, 2020View more posts from Roshani Rao

It is hard to pen down such a long journey even though the time span was just six months.

Here’s my attempt.

Hi, my name is Roshani Rao and I am 33 years old. I was diagnosed with stage 3c cervical cancer September 11,2019. What is up with that date and tragedy? I know this is a shocker – Cervical cancer? What? How? We have HPV vaccines to prevent this.

In spite of continued efforts to raise alarm to my Gynecologist for 2-3 years, I was always being warded off with new antibiotics, no Pap smear- till finally it reached a point where we had to do a biopsy.

What can I say? I trusted my gynecologist too much? Don’t we all trust our doctors because we don’t know better? But some unfortunate ones like me end up finding doctors who are quite reckless and driven by monetary gains.

I was alone when I got the news. I wasn’t shocked. In fact I pretty much expected this (all signs and symptoms pointed towards it). There is a large amount of stigma and embarrassment that comes with cervical cancer because it is caused by HPV virus which is sexually transmitted. It feels abashed when your have to share your diagnosis with family and friends (even though they don’t ever say anything) who would judge you to be a promiscuous being.

My treatment started on October 3rd. I had 30 days of radiation along with six chemotherapy sessions (once a week) and two sessions of brachytherapy. My treatment ended by mid December and I had my post treatment PET scan during the first week of March which came back as clear as my boiled water 🙂

I got treated by a few of the best doctors in Bangalore, India at Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital.

I would like to share my mindset during these six months.

I made tons of friends at the hospital (most of whom were nowhere close to my age). I would spend all my pre radiation time talking to everyone there. They would call me “the girl who’s always smiling.”

During treatment, I took up knitting. I used to cook almost everyday (expect the 3 days post chemo when I couldn’t get out of bed). I kept myself busy and engaged with DIY activities and I even continued my then tri-weekly affair of feeding the stray dogs in my neighborhood (with precautions of course), which has now turned into a full fledged everyday relationship.

Not one day did I tell or ask myself, “Why did this happen to me?” I realized I was faced with a challenge in life, and I could get through it with a smile or with a laugh- and I did lots of both.

A lot of my family, friends and doctors said my happy go lucky attitude contributed towards the treatment working and me recovering soon. I had the best of support from my family and friends and an abundance of inner strength, and in spite of that I had my off days. Ill moods cropping up from nowhere, tantrums, going down the rabbit hole, thoughts and emotions I have no way of explaining in words.

But I NEVER stayed down there.

Trust me I still have bad days, and post treatment can be even more stressful, leaving us feeling more alone, because that’s when people stop asking about you and how you are. That’s when the everyday or every week messages stop coming, most people think when you say no more tumor, you are back to “normal” or how you used to be before treatment. But that’s not the case; most of the side effects start post few months of the treatment.

In between all this, I abruptly started menopause at this age and boy oh boy- in plain words, THIS SUCKS. I feel ten times more of what Samantha from Sex and the City described her menopause to be. I just came back from my check up today and I’m being put on HRT. So that’s good news. Hopefully I bid goodbye to the hot flashes and night sweats soon.

I didn’t stop living my life. In fact I have gotten more active and proactive after my diagnosis. I started yoga. I’ve started working alongside Indian Welfare Organization to help feed and mediate transport and recovery of injured stray dogs. I’m also a few steps away from starting a support group for newly diagnosed, in treatment and survivors of any cancer, as there is still a lot of shame and uncomfortableness, especially with older Indian women, when it comes to openly speaking of their bodily symptoms and side effects. It also extends to caregivers, family and friends.

This whole experience taught me to be my own best friend. To understand my own needs because nobody can. To comfort myself and that there is nothing wrong in that. To listen to my body and to create my thoughts rather than have my thoughts control me.

I know my battle with this has been short and I pray that it never comes back. I hope sharing bits and pieces of my story can help someone or do some sort of good to anybody else out there.

Would like to end with this brilliant quote by Dory- Just keep Swimming 🙂

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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