“You educate yourself, you work hard, you go through life like a mission, get married, have children, and think that your life has been hard. Until, one day, a realization that life can be harder hits you like a bolt. So, what do you do when you hear of a diagnosis called Cancer?” exclaimed Seema.
These were the first thoughts that hit Seema Khanwalkar, when she discovered she had cancer. She felt like she was falling into a blank space. She felt numb. It took awhile for the realization to set in, for the enormity of the disease to dawn. She also states that once you accept it and face it with strength and determination, everyone around you as well begins to deal with it. At first she did question herself “Why me?” since she was a fitness enthusiast and lived an active lifestyle. It took her time to move past this and carry on with her daily life as those around her, though with the best intentions, tried to reason as to why her. Some credited it to God testing her and some to bad karma. She realised the need to distance herself from these people and focus on her husband, two daughters and a few close friends who then became her small yet effective support group.
While her husband took care of the medical, financial and logistical details, she had to clear the confusion that set in their young impressionable minds. Seema's family was all set to go through the journey with her, except Seema herself. She wasn't prepared for the unknown. She needed to know exactly what was going to happen to her. Her doctor, Dr. Talati provided that knowledge to her. He explained the different stages of the treatment and how her body will respond to it. Dr. Talati also provided the calm, reassuring presence that Seema needed. His kind eyes and calm demeanor helped reduce the enormity of the disease. He encouraged Seema to continue teaching and work on projects. He gave her a 'good days' chart post chemo and it became her mission to work towards those good days. Seema found the ten days between chemo cycles to be intense and action-packed. She continued to teach, help in the house, cook, knit, plan for the next chemo cycle and then went to the chemo to sleep for about 5 hours feeling accomplished, much to the amusement of the medical team.
Seema found a spiritual connection with her inner self during the course of her treatment. This impacted her life for the better in many ways. It taught her to be with herself, enjoying the company of her thoughts and not run away from them. She accepted herself for whom she was, her unique perspectives became stronger as she embraced them. For Seema, with awareness came a calm and she learnt to see pain and suffering around her with different perspectives.
After recovering from her treatment, Seema joined hands with her friend to work on a self- initiated project of designing chemo scarves for cancer patients. She was clear that she wanted to do this for herself and not for other people, even though the beneficiaries would be many. She found a way to fulfill herself and find happiness, spurring her to think of more innovative ways to reach out to millions of cancer patients who possibly go through similar feelings of hopelessness that she once faced.
She has made it a long term goal to harness energies to rehabilitate patients especially from the disadvantaged background. Seema is currently in talks with Sanjeevani for a potential tie-up and exploring possibilities of working with cancer patients in the future.