BY ANLISA RODRIGUES
Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we lose that sense of stability, of sanity even. One feels lost and despondent. But if you are a person of faith, just the minutest amount, from some impossible source will arrive a ray of hope from our loving God.
Ninoshka Fernandes is a true warrior, someone who battled cancer and lived to tell the story. She is a beacon to not only cancer patients but all women.
Born and brought up in the beautiful village of PIlerne-Bardez, North Goa, she is fond of saying, “Cancer is not a curse; it can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender or age, but one should not panic. It’s important to turn to God and have a positive mindset.”
It was an ordinary day in February in the year 2020 when she discovered a small lump below her underarm. This made Ninoshka quite anxious at that point in time, prompting her to quickly consult her family doctor.
Ninoshka says, “As months passed, this lump grew in size, and the pain was unbearable. I had got another scan done, and yet again the results were the same – fibroids.”
On July 25, 2020, she went through the first surgery of her life at the age of 26. The surgery lasted for about 2 hours. Afterwards, her dad was shown the lumps that were removed, and they were the size of a tennis ball.
“After the discharge, my parents and my sister were my constant support. They had always been there for me, but during these hard times, they held me rock strong, because I could barely do basic routine jobs like combing my hair or having a shower, getting off my bed, etc,” Ninoshka informs us.
However, the biopsy report did not indicate what kind of tumour it was. So, another biopsy test was done and with that, she got to know that it was called spindle cell sarcoma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer.
When treatment day arrived, for a time it felt really scary, but she didn’t lose hope.
“I was told that I would have to go through radiation and my treatment would be complete, so I was relieved after hearing that as I wouldn’t have as many side effects as I would from chemotherapy. But since I had sarcoma, the doctor suggested that I go through chemotherapy as well because we didn’t want this thing to crop up again,” says Ninoshka.
Dr George prepared her for almost an hour on what chemotherapy is and all the side effects she could expect. His words motivated her, “You have a fight before you. You either choose to fight it and be victorious or you can choose to shy away from it.”
The chemotherapy doses were extremely high. Each cycle lasted for 3 days. She was prescribed 6 cycles, and they were the usual various side effects like loss of hair, nausea, dizziness, swelling of the body, etc.
These were short-term side effects, of course. There were also long-term side effects which were more dangerous like damage to the heart, etc.
On September 23, 2020, Ninoshka’s chemo port was inserted. Although her chemotherapy was planned for September 25, 2020, it was delayed since she tested COVID positive, resulting in her being isolated for 14 days.
“My first chemo was planned for November 2, 2020, which lasted for 3 days. On the first day itself, I reacted so badly to it that I couldn’t eat anything. This serious phase made me realise that life is so uncertain, and I was grateful for every moment, good or bad, because every moment has something positive in it,” says Ninoshka.
Her cousins came over to visit her after her second chemotherapy round at her home. Ninoshka was resting when one of her cousins entered her room. Her cousin took the hood off her head and showed Ninoshka her shaved bald head to convey that Ninoshka was not alone in her journey.
After 6 months, Ninoshka was asked to have a regular check-up done, and this was a crucial one. She says, “By God’s grace and healing all my reports were completely clean, and I resumed my regular activities.”
“I’m ever so grateful and forever will be to my ever-loving parents, my sister, my cousins, my uncle, who is also my godfather, and my fiancé for being strong themselves and helping me fight this battle with strong support,” says Ninoshka.
Ninoshka is currently handling a project called CanSurvive, which is an initiative by Caritas Goa.
CanSurvive is Goa’s biggest cancer support network initiated by the Archdiocese of Goa and managed by Caritas Goa to help people with cancer prevention and cancer management. It was launched on June 30, 2019. There is a network of volunteers and oncologists who help in this work.
“I am glad that through this survival story, I can pass a positive message to everyone that nothing is impossible with God. One must possess strong willpower, positively accepting any situation,” says Ninoshka.
Ninoshka is a testament to the statement that tough times do not last but tough people do. Even a tough opponent like cancer can be soundly defeated by positivity and trust in God.