Dubai: Getting diagnosed with cancer is not a death sentence, but an opportunity to become a better version of yourself, says an Indian expat woman in Dubai while sharing her inspiring story of battling thyroid cancer for a second time.
Nadiera Senali Veedu, is a 36-year-old supply chain specialist at an oil and gas company in Dubai, who lives with her mother, husband and six-year-old daughter in Dubai.
It was when she was about five months pregnant with her daughter Aira that Nadiera first felt a lump in her throat, she told Gulf News.
“My gynaecologist referred me to an endocrinologist and he advised me to take a biopsy which confirmed that the node was cancerous,” she recollected.
She then sent the files to a family doctor in India, who said it was better to fly home immediately for further check-ups and surgery.
“As I did not want to take any risk for my baby, I stayed back in Dubai, being in touch with my doctors here. I was advised to go for a surgery a month after my delivery. Then I was carefully monitored throughout my pregnancy. So, weekly visits to doctors became normal for me at that time.”
Nadiera had panicked when she was first told that it was cancer. “We didn’t expect it at all. But soon I realised that, for me and and my family’s sake, I had to be mentally strong throughout. Also, I wanted my daughter to be a strong and healthy baby. So, I chose to be calm and strong as my emotions would directly affect my baby’s mental health. I did everything I could to forget that I had cancer, except on the days when I had to visit the doctor.”
Pre-term or mature baby?
During the eighth month of her pregnancy, Nadiera said her doctor advised her to deliver her baby in advance, then put her in an incubator for two months so that they could start the new mother’s treatment as soon as possible.
But Nadiera did not agree to it. “As I did not want to compromise on my baby’s brain growth, I requested the doctor to allow me to continue carrying her inside me. Doctors were monitoring the growth of the node continuously. Luckily, nothing untoward happened and I delivered a mature baby.”
More challenges ahead
The challenge after the delivery was planning the treatment, flying back to India and getting prepared for it, recalled Nadiera.
Asked how she readied herself for all that, she said: “People change when the situation demands. There was no choice other than going ahead with the treatment. And since there was no other way, why not be happy and strong while at it?”
She said: “Who doesn’t want to live long? My motivation was my hope about the future days and happy times I’d have with my loved ones once I’d come victorious over my battle with cancer.”
Surgeries and therapy
Forty-five days after Aira was born, Nadiera had her first surgery done in 2015. “It was a hemithyroidectomy. I had my second surgery about three months later—total thyroidectomy. A week after, I started radioactive iodine therapy, which is when you take in a high dose of iodine in order to kill the cancer cells.”
Pain of isolation
Nadiera said getting isolated from her baby and other family members was the hardest part for her.
“The therapy was like going into a solitary prison. You have to be isolated from your family for two weeks, have no human contact, and even the clothes you wear have to be destroyed. Then, it’s just a matter of waiting,” she explained, adding that people now know more about isolation, thanks to COVID-19.
During the therapy, Nadiera’s radiation levels were monitored continuously.
“Once the levels were at a minimum, I was allowed to go home. But I had to stay at least 10 metres away from my daughter at all times. I could hear my baby crying but I was not allowed to go to her. Whenever I wanted to see her, my mom would show her to me from a distance and I could see her expressions change when she saw me.”
Happy days again
However, happy days were awaiting Nadiera within a few months. “As per my doctor’s advice, we flew to India to take radioactive iodine to diagnose if the cancer cells were fully cured. The scan following it showed that the cancer cells were fully destroyed. Coming out of the hospital, everything felt even more beautiful and brighter. The sun, the people, the roads, everything I saw was more beautiful than ever.”
Something major had changed in Nadiera’s life by then. “I chose to be strong, always. I moved to having a “just do it” attitude and started not giving too much thought about being judged.”
Her follow-up treatment procedures continued with a routine of blood checkups every three months and a major check-up every year.
Life was close to normal except for the hospital visits and medicines. “My doctor had advised a radioactive iodine diagnosis to be done in five years. So, in March 2021, I stopped taking my medications for two months to prepare for the diagnosis.”
Second battle begins
However, Nadiera had no clue she would be facing her next battle soon.
“I was extremely tired those days. I was even taken to the ER [Emergency Room] once from my office as I collapsed. The scan following the radioiodine diagnosis showed a recurrent disease.”
It was time for radioiodine ablation therapy again in Dubai. “The dosage was even higher as it was a recurrence. First time it was 80. This time 120. I was hospitalised for a few days and I was in isolation for two weeks again just like how it was during the first treatment.”
Though she has been trying to stay motivated and strong during her second battle also, Nadiera said mild depression, mood swings, fatigue and severe hair loss still affect her.
Keeping herself motivated
“I try to spend maximum time with my loved ones. I indulge in my hobbies --painting and gardening. I also try to have my “me time” and keep myself focused on chasing my dreams.”
Nadiera knows that she has to remain the strongest in front of her family members who are pillars of support for her. “I don’t give them a feeling that I am a cancer patient. And they all strongly believe that I am going to beat it again.”
Having lost her father when she was only 14, Nadiera said her mother has been a source of inspiration for her.
“I always have a drive to rise above my circumstances. That’s how I rose up from a dysfunctional middle class family. My strong mum taught me, whenever life hits you, you are getting a chance to become a better version of yourself. So, I take it in the right sense, and make full use of every situation I come across.”
A message that she wants to convey to others is to “never give up on your dreams and ambitions no matter what your present circumstances are.”
Walking the talk, Nadiera is chasing her current dream of climbing the Mount Kilimanjaro next year to raise funds for cancer patients.
“I go to the gym regularly. Currently, I am on a break due to the treatment. From next week, I am going to start cardio and later go for hiking trips. I want to start hiking the peaks in the UAE and increase my endurance level in the next two months. My aim is to go for the seven days’ expedition in Mount Kilimanjaro with some of her friends by March or April next year.”