Neeti Leekha Chhabra was 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been married for 6 years and has a son who'll turn four this August.
An MBA by education and an Assistant Professor to post graduate students by profession,
Neeti's discovery of a lump on the surface of her breast was a chance encounter.
After a round of clinical examination and basic ultrasound, the report read begin.
Yet, since it was a pea-sized lump, she was advised FNAC*.
On June 11, 2012 she was called to collect the report with her husband and since that day, life has not been the same for her.
Shruti Sharma Anand was also 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
A product manager with a leading private sector bank in New Delhi,
she and her husband were planning to have a child. Shruti's first pregnancy turned out to be ectopic,
a rare complication of pregnancy, and had to be terminated. She then decided to go for an IVF but that attempt too proved unsuccessful.
That's when she noticed a lump in her breast and an ultrasound confirmed stage II of the cancer.
Neeti and Shruti are just two of the many 'young' breast cancer survivors in India between the 25 to 40 age group, who've not only braved the disease but have also come out of it feeling positive.
It is not easy. At an age when all your focus is on the future - a better job, children and holidays,
an unexpected face-off with death is an unnecessary, not to mention, life-threatening impediment.
"The news was a complete shock for us and all our future planning went down the drains.
Our immediate concern was my survival," recalls Shruti.
Breast cancer takes away from a young woman more than just a breast.
It takes away, temporarily, her right to 'live life' fully, without any compromises and conditions.
And fighting cancer is not a one-day task. After the mastectomy (surgical removal of breasts),
one must undergo several grilling sessions of Adjuvant Chemotherapy (AC) for as long as 6 to 10 months,
sometimes followed by hormonal treatment that continues for years.
There are times when the physical pain overlaps with the emotional stress, which leads to further crises such as sexuality,
relationship with partner, having children and a career at stake. And then, there is the constant reminder of living with only one breast.
Of course, there is the option of breast reconstruction but in India, only five in a hundred cases actually go for it.
Some give it a miss considering the exorbitant costs and complications involved,
while some choose their physical limitation over the possibility of recurrence of the cancer.
Shruti, who is soon planning to get a full implant, points out the flaws in the way insurance companies work in India,
"No insurance plan in our country covers the cost of breast reconstruction because it falls under the plastic surgery category.
They don't realise that this is not a process of beautification like a breast augmentation or reduction;
this is restoration of a woman's body part and is as important as any other amputated part."