Bal was diagnosed in 2015 with Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. She was determined to not let her diagnosis define her and used her beliefs to help her through her treatment.
From a cancer-fighter to a catwalk model
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever ‘strut my stuff’ in front of an audience of over 800, not once, but twice in one day! In 2017 I was a model in The Show, a fashion catwalk event centred around people who have had breast cancer diagnoses, all thanks to the wonderful Breast Cancer Now team who made me look and feel like a million dollars! Since then, I continue to support Breast Cancer Now by wearing it pink in October.
Breast cancer stepped into my life like an uninvited guest to a party
I underwent a routine annual medical in August 2015, though nothing had been unusual and I hadn’t had any symptoms. Then there was the diagnosis. Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma, right mastectomy, 12 lymph nodes removed, 2 invasive surgeries, 8 aggressive chemotherapy and 15 radiotherapy sessions and 10 years of medication to keep the cancer under control.
When I heard these 3 words, ‘you have cancer’, my world crumbled around me. The shock, devastation, disbelief, butterflies in my stomach, the fear, finding it hard to breathe. My sixth sense proved my worst nightmare, was I going to die? Lots to do. A million thoughts spinning around in my head.
The 5 steps that helped me
I remembered the five beliefs of Sikhism, which helped me. Own your emotions - it’s ok not to be okay. Let your feelings surface and know that crying is not a sense of weakness, but of resilience.
Create a story. Writing helped me cope, because sometimes we brush thoughts under the carpet, hoping they will go away – but they don’t. The whole point, for me, is to face things head-on and make sense of them.
Connect. Sharing experiences with like-minded people is crucial because they ‘get it’. It’s an incredible comfort to know that there is a friendly ear somewhere willing to listen, without judgement. This gave me the strength to talk and accept support.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. We are not Superman or Wonder Woman. Be kind to yourself and learn the art of self-care and self-love. Let family and friends support and care for you as this gives them a purpose as well.
Have a goal. No matter how small or big my goal was, it helped me start life again. I went back to the gym slowly, signed up for a 5k race and plan to keep writing.
I don’t want to be defined by my diagnosis
I have always had a positive outlook in life and realistic expectations of myself. I’m not a quitter, this disease is not going to get the better of me, and it will not define me!
I know the reality that a breast cancer diagnosis isn’t pink and fluffy, but is a very dark and scary place to be in and it takes time with the right tools and support to see the light at the end of the tunnel and move forward.
I will wear it pink for the future
I will always be grateful to the Breast Cancer Now team, who played an important part in my life when I was going through such a traumatic ordeal. Personally, I want to show the Asian community and other underrepresented diverse communities that there is no need to be ashamed to or shy away from talking about a breast cancer diagnosis openly and honestly without fear or judgement. It should not be a taboo topic.
I have a sense of pride and fulfilment that I can make a difference to raise awareness and vital funds, so that Breast Cancer Now can go from strength to strength, and help fund their future research. I wear it pink for the future.