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I Want To Empower Women Through Knowledge Gained From My Experience: Jayashree Mahesh More On Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, often touted as one of the most treatable cancers, paradoxically remains a silent predator, claiming the lives of countless women worldwide. The staggering disparity in survival rates between countries, such as the 20% shortfall in India compared to the US, underscores the urgent need for heightened awareness and proactive measures against this formidable foe. According to national data, breast cancer accounted for 27.7% of all newly reported diseases in India in the year 2018 and is projected to increase more.

Breast cancer is the most reported cancer amongst Indian women, and the urgency of early detection cannot be overstated, with routine screening serving as a crucial lifeline in the battle against this relentless adversary. Even then, there is a need for better awareness about the disease.

Amidst the grim statistics lies a glimmer of hope in the form of survivors who are willing to pass on their knowledge, survivors like Jayashree Mahesh More. Jayashree’s courageous journey from diagnosis to recovery serves as a beacon of inspiration. Motivated by a fervent desire to raise awareness and empower women in their fight against breast cancer, Jayashree bravely steps forward to share her story through a phone call with the CancerMitr team. 

“I have been looking for the perfect time and platform to share my story,” she said in the call, “this is very intense, and women should learn more about the disease to have the advantage over it. I want to inspire women to come forward for their health.”

Meet Jayashree Mahesh More, a teacher who lives with her husband and two daughters. With over two decades of enriching experience in the field of education, Jayashree’s story is not just about professional accomplishments but also about winning challenges that life brought her with unwavering positivity.  Driven by an innate passion for education, Jayashree began her academic journey with B.Ed and M.Ed degrees, followed by a PhD from Mumbai University. Her entry into government service in 2004 marked the beginning of a career dedicated to shaping young minds and fostering a culture of learning. Her life itself is shaped by positive thinking and healthy habits.

“I don’t have a lot of food from outside and never encouraged the same to my family,” she said.

Read: It Was A Phase That Tested My Will And My Wits: CancerMitr’s Niyati Mehta On Surviving A Pancreatic Tumour 

As Jayashree narrated her story, she made it clear that cancer is no stranger to her life. In 1996, Jayashree’s life was irrevocably altered when her mother was diagnosed with the disease. “I was in 10th standard when she was diagnosed,” she said. For the past 28 years, her mother has waged a valiant battle against cancer. 

Her mother underwent surgery for the disease and was in remission until 2015, when cancer showed up in the other breast, for which she underwent chemotherapy and surgery to treat the disease. Despite battling cancer twice, she remains an epitome of positivity, underscoring the significance of education and awareness in combating the disease.

Jayashree with her mother

Jayashree, inspired by her mother's unwavering spirit, carries forward the legacy of advocacy, ensuring informed choices and proactive measures against breast cancer, a cause close to her heart.

Jayashree’s journey has been marked by significant health challenges, each met with unwavering resolve and a steadfast determination to overcome. In 2006, she welcomed her first child into the world, only to face the harrowing ordeal of an ectopic pregnancy six years later, necessitating the removal of her right ovary and a heartbreaking medical termination. Reflecting on this trying time, Jayashree shares, “I was paying close attention to my health after my risky pregnancy and took care of my daughter. But, somewhere in my mind, I knew that I wanted her to have a younger sibling, someone to keep her company. My husband was also supportive of me,” encapsulating the profound emotional journey she traversed.

She knew of the limitations she had as someone with just one functioning ovary. After consulting with doctors about the risks and possibilities, Jayashree eventually had her second child in 2014 and gave birth to her through a c-section. 

“I was overjoyed when my second baby arrived,” she recounted, her voice tinged with nostalgia. “Little did I realize, amidst the euphoria, that I was facing unforeseen challenges.”

She followed her usual routines, which involved her job and taking care of her children and household. For the next couple of years, she started facing health issues in 2016, like excessive bleeding during menstruation, which was later diagnosed as excessive thickness in the uterus. She also had a bulky cyst leading to bleeding clots and endured this condition for two years. 

“I was also enduring a lot of mental stress and issues in my personal life during this period. I mean, no matter how much you try, there are moments when circumstances take a huge toll on you,” she said. 

Amidst all this, she was also undergoing screening for cancer due to her previous experience with her mother’s condition.

"A routine mammogram unravelled a tiny growth nestled within her breast, scarcely larger than a mere moong or green gram bean."

2018 emerged as a pivotal chapter marked by a crucial discovery. A routine mammogram unravelled a tiny growth nestled within her breast, scarcely larger than a mere moong or green gram bean. Confronting her physician with palpable concern, she was told that the anomaly was just milk clodded in the ducts—a remnant of a recent pregnancy.

Yet, plagued by persistent doubt, she sought a second opinion, only to be met with an echo of the same diagnosis. However, fate had other plans. Just as uncertainty loomed largest, the unforeseen spectre of COVID-19 swept across the globe, shrouding routine medical care in uncertainty and closure.

During the pandemic, she faced the relentless onslaught of the virus itself, enduring its grip not once but twice.

It wasn’t until the dawn of 2022 that she finally found herself able to undergo routine screening. As April unfolded, heralding the arrival of school holidays, she seized the opportunity to confront her fears head-on with a mammography. And in that moment of truth, the veil of uncertainty was lifted; a lump was seen in her breast, the presence looming large like a dark shadow cast upon her world. A later biopsy confirmed the worst-stage II cancer, ER-PR positive. 

On the day that should have been a celebration of her husband’s life, Jayashree’s world crumbled beneath the weight of a devastating revelation—she had cancer. Anguish and resentment simmered within her as she recalled the dismissive attitude of the doctors who had waved away her concerns back in 2018, oblivious to the time bomb ticking silently within her breast.

Haunted by the agonizing memories of her mother’s own battle with cancer, Jayashree was acutely aware of the familial risk. Her frustration boiled over as she lamented, ‘I won’t name names, but how could they have so callously disregarded my fears? If only they had acted sooner, perhaps I could have nipped this disease in the bud.’

Less than a month later, she started her treatment. Partial removal of her afflicted breast, followed by six cycles of chemotherapy and another 21 cycles of radiation therapy, each session a test of her endurance and fortitude.

As she fought for her life, her thoughts turned to her eldest daughter, on the cusp of her own academic milestones. Determined not to let her struggle overshadow her daughter’s aspirations, Jayashree bore her burden in silence, even as she faced the surgeon’s knife on the day of her daughter’s exams. 

“My daughter did ask me, ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ I wanted her to put all her focus on her studies,” she said.

Refusing to succumb to despair, Jayashree weathered the storm with quiet resilience, finding solace in the simplest of comforts.

WhatsApp Image 2024-02-27 at 12.52.01
Refusing to succumb to despair, Jayashree weathered the storm with quiet resilience, finding solace in the simplest of comforts.
Jayashree underwent partial breast surgery, six cycles of chemotherapy, and 21 radiation therapy.

Jayashree underwent partial breast surgery, six cycles of chemotherapy, and 21 radiation therapy.

She also recalled the side effects she endured during chemotherapy —pain, feverish heat, and hair loss. She tailored her diet to mitigate the side effects, opting for liquid and semi-liquid sustenance while shunning anything that exacerbated her discomfort.

Amidst the radiation treatment, Jayashree found herself battling dry skin, fiery redness, and restless nights. She also sought additional therapies like the familiar comforts of her yoga mat and the tranquil sanctuary of meditation. Purposefully, she opted to see the brighter and more positive side of the world and media, dedicating her time to motivational and happiness-inducing content. She spends more time conversing positive and uplifting stuff with her family and friends, 

She regards the unconditional support from her near and dear ones as the most precious aspect of her journey. From the unwavering camaraderie of her colleagues to the gentle encouragement of her husband, mother, and daughters – their presence became the bedrock upon which she stood firm amidst the storm.

“It helps, it really does,” she affirmed, as the echoes of encouragement reverberated within her soul.

Jayashree continued yoga and meditation to mitigate some of the side effects.

Moreover, Jayashree’s resilience found an unexpected ally in the form of her own knowledge and expertise. The Guidance & Counselling course she had undertaken, initially intended as a tool for nurturing her children’s growth, blossomed into a lifeline during her darkest hour. “I learned it to pass on to the kids, but it became a useful course for me,” she reflected, acknowledging the unexpected dividends of her own self-investment.

Through unwavering determination and a steadfast commitment to her own well-being, Jaishree emerged from the crucible of her trials stronger and more grateful for the precious gift of life.

“My treatment didn’t end there. I started having heavy flow during periods again due to uterine thickness. Since it is an ER-positive cancer, the doctors suggested that I get my remaining ovary and uterus removed. I have two children, and my life is set. It is just a matter of me taking care of myself,” she said.

After getting a piece of medical advice, she opted for the radical step of undergoing an oophorectomy and hysterectomy, a final move to quell the insidious threat of both heavy periods and ER-positive cancer. She is currently undergoing hormonal therapy along with calcium supplements to deal with side effects. 

Amidst the trials and tribulations, Jayashree remained steadfast in her resolve and implored others not to cower in the face of cancer. “Do not fear the unknown,” she proclaimed, her voice a clarion call to arms. “Wherever I underwent screening, mentally, I was prepared to face the disease head-on and fight.”

In her final exhortation, Jayashree underscored the importance of awareness in the battle against cancer. That people should know the initial signs and undergo screening accordingly. She also cited how caregivers can be pillars of support and motivation during dire circumstances, prompting the will to keep going in the cancer patient’s heart. 

 Her message to all women is simple yet profound; “Yes, we can do it!”

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