What started off as a persistent cough coupled with weight loss, which was thought to be post-pregnancy weight loss became something Pooja Kawatra Gupta could not have imagined.

The doctors initially diagnosed it as Tuberculosis. But when her cough did not go away after a month, she decided to do an X-Ray. After various X-rays, PET scans and biopsy, she received news that no one would want to hear.

She was diagnosed with Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL); a type of cancer that start in the lymph nodes and lymphatic system.

And her son was just 9 months old.

When she first found out about it, doubt clouded her mind. But Pooja decided she was was not going to give in to cancer. Every day, she reminded herself to stay strong and that “tough times never last, but tough people do”.

“I could not stop crying. No one is ever ready to hear that they have cancer,” says the mother of two. The entire one year of her treatment was very challenging with mixed feelings. She went through a total of nine cycles of chemotherapy – six cycles of usual chemotherapy, three cycles of high dose chemotherapy and other treatments. Even though she went into remission a year after, her immunity was still quite low.

The most challenging part?

Staying positive, emotionally and physically.

It would not have been possible to overcome this ordeal without the support of her husband, Nikhil, and her family, who was there, every moment with her. Her eldest son, Aayan, who was 9 months old when she was diagnosed, will be turning 9 this year. Her second child Kaira, was not born. She has yet to discuss her past sickness with the two children. “For them, they only know that mumma is very strong and can do magic.” Her son is 9 and her daughter is 4.

Interivew with Pooja Kawatra Gupta, cancer survivor

Pooja and her family. Photo courtesy of Pooja Kawatra Gupta.

The cancer not only showed her the warmth and love of her husband and family, it also gave her the chance to truly discover herself.  “That one year changed many things in my life. How I view my family before the cancer, is not the same as how I view them now. When I look at my family today, I just want to embrace them forever. Every moment is worth appreciating and celebrating.”

Besides appreciating her loved ones more and celebrating every moment, she was surprised by her own strength and her positive attitude towards life despite the odds. She never knew she how strong and determined she could be until she was diagnosed.

“Your willpower and positive approach can do wonders in overcoming anything you face. If you decide to overcome an obstacle, no one can stop you.”

To those who are battling a disease, or those who have loved ones battling cancer, Pooja’s words of advice are to empathise and judge less.

After her recovery, Pooja volunteered with the Singapore Cancer Society. In February, she will also be participating in the Survivor’s Lap at Relay for Life 2017.

“If I can bring some positive vibes to all those who are fighting, it will be an honour.”

relay for life 2017 cancer society

Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society, Relay for Life 2017 is to Celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, Remember those lost to the disease and Fight Back against a disease that has taken so much.

The event will take place on 18 and 19 February 2017 at Bukit Gombak Stadium.

There are three key moments during the event:

Survivors Lap: All cancer survivors at the event take the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer while cheered on by the other participants who line the track.

Luminaria Ceremony: This takes place after dark where the stadium will be illuminated with LED balloons to remember people who have fought and lost the cancer journey and also to support those whose fight continues.

Fight Back Ceremony: The emotionally powerful ceremony inspires relay participants to take action. It symbolises the emotional commitment each of us can make in the fight against cancer – how we can take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatment and prevention.

Be part of this meaningful cause and lend your support!

Registration has started for three time slots: 5pm – 8pm (18 Feb 2017), 8pm – 6am (overnight) and 6am – 10am (19 Feb 2017).

Visit www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/relay for more info.

About Singapore Cancer Society

Established in 1964, Singapore Cancer Society is a self-funded voluntary welfare organisation which provides patient care services to needy cancer patients through its welfare, hospice home care, cancer treatment subsidy and rehabilitation support programmes. The Society also provides free cancer screening services and promotes cancer awareness and prevention through its public education and community outreach programmes.