Cancer Is Like a Race, and I’m Determined to Win


Cancer — and its treatments — can feel like a grueling race, but I’m using frequent follow-ups and an excellent care team to stay ahead of the game.

When cancer strikes, the same body that you trusted has produced cells that are ready to kill you. The horrors of chemo, surgery, hospitaliza­tion and everything that is thrown at you with the aim of making you better, breaks you physically and men­tally.

Then, you finally beat the disease and are given a “no evidence of disease” stamp. You are clearly told that the word “cure” is a taboo and is never uttered. The closest you can get to being cured is not showing evidence of disease in your body. The same body that you trusted would be fine because you ate healthy and always strived hard to keep fit.

My story with cancer has always been a race. Who will be the winner? Will it be me or the cancer? Every day for the past 18 years has been a race. Do I find cancer as soon as it rears its ugly head or will it creep in and find me first. Lot of MRIs and scopes are done every year just to ensure I am one step ahead in the race.

My first incident with cancer happened when I was 30 years old. Facing a disease was not new to me, as I had already had a kidney transplant due to chronic renal failure when I was 23 years old. At 30, it was transitional cell carcinoma of upper urinary tract, in the ureter of one of my native kidneys. At 37, it was bladder cancer. At 39, it was angiosarcoma of the liver. Facing an aggressive, rare cancer is even harder, as angiosarcoma has taught me.

In all the battles I have faced with these cancers, which included the gloriousness of chemo, massive surgeries and numerous scans, I am ahead in the race so far as I found them at an early stage due to diligent follow-ups and a wonderful set of doctors.

It would be so amazing if you were cured, and you couldn’t get it again. Some people go through their entire lives without knowing the meaning of cancer and worry­ing only about simple chronic conditions. You wish and ache to be that person. The odds of being struck by cancer again seem higher. The fear never goes away. Every “no evidence of disease” brings you momentary happiness. It is a race against death.

Should this bring down your morale? Should that stop you from living? Many cancer survivors suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it is up to all of us to overcome the stress and not let the disease define who we are, which might be easier said than done. I don’t want the disease to be my identity. I don’t want to be known as only a cancer survivor. I am a daughter, a wife, a friend, an aunt, a sister, a successful career woman and above all, a woman of my own making. The most important lesson I have learned over the decade is not to let any disease define my life but to live life to the fullest extent, with the disease as a blip in a corner, albeit trav­eling with me.

My faith and courage, they shall not wane

My race against death, I must sustain

Though I’m tired and weary, I keep pushing on

My race against death, I’m determined to win

This post was written and submitted by Shoba Rao. The article reflects the views of Shoba Rao and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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